JACKSON HEIGHTS — Sen. Jose Peralta faced hundreds of constituents at a packed town hall meeting over his choice to join the senate's Independent Democratic Committee — as some called him a "traitor" and threatened to vote him out of office over the change.
"If you can just hear me out, I want to talk to you about what went into [my decision]," Peralta told the standing-room-only crowd at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center on 77th Street Friday night — where more than 100 people who couldn't get inside turned the street into an impromptu protest zone.
"I understand you're upset, I understand you're pissed off. But at the same time, understand this — in two weeks, this man [Trump] has basically taken us backwards for years," Peralta told the crowd.
Inside the JH Jewish Center for wild town hall meeting with Sen. Jose Peralta https://t.co/x7mjcJrjwq— katie honan (@katie_honan) February 3, 2017
Peralta, who was joined by fellow IDC members Diane Savino and new addition Jesse Hamilton, told those assembled that his choice to join conference of eight Democratic senators first formed in 2010 would actually be the best way to confront the policies of President Donald Trump.
Peralta said the reason he is part of the IDC "is to be part of a team to stop these ridiculous executive orders, and negative and ridiculous things that are going to come down, trickle down from the federal government."
Some residents vocalized their support for Peralta, who has been in public office since he was elected to the State Assembly in 2002. But in his overwhelmingly Democratic district, though, there was skepticism. One woman told Peralta that his decision "stunk to high Heaven."
"I think there's a very real feeling in this community, in this room and outside — we didn't send you to Albany to occasionally caucus with the Democrats and caucus with the Republicans when that was helpful," another resident, Ron, told the senator. "We sent you to be part of a team, and we need you on that team."
When asked if he would support bills important to the community, including the DREAM Act, Peralta said he would remain committed to the people who voted for him.
"Any bill that goes against the community I'll be against," he vowed.
But the crowd, despite being urged by the senator to "keep an open mind," didn't seem convinced.
Pastor Lisa Jenkins, of East Elmhurst, asked Peralta if he had any remorse for not letting people know about his move ahead of time.
"You've done this on the down-low, and I think that's what's really messing with us right now," Jenkins said.
Others vowed to work to get Peralta out of office.
I'm here to tell you as a millennial, we are civically engaged and we will run against you," Elmhurst resident Leeanne MG-Bowley told him.
"I am ready to run against you."