His office’s spokesman, Chris Sosa, said in a statement that the details of his death are still to be determined. According to reports, Peralta likely died from septicemia, or bacteria in his bloodstream.
Days before his death, he suffered what appeared to be a minor illness, but it eventually led to organ failure.
“The senator's family asks for privacy as they grieve,” Sosa said. “We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support and love we've received amid this heartbreaking loss.”
Peralta was first elected to the Assembly in 2002. He made history by becoming the first Dominican-American elected to the State Senate in 2010.
He represented the diverse neighborhoods of Jackson Heights, Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Woodside and Astoria.
In September, Peralta was defeated in the Democratic Primary by Jessica Ramos. He was criticized for joining the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) the previous year.
Ramos tweeted that when she met him in 2003, she saw “a world of promise for our community.”
“Though years later we'd disagree on tackling the issues, I know in his heart he loved his community,” she wrote. “He was a true public servant.”
Peralta is survived by his wife, Evelyn, and his two children.
Elected officials across the borough paid tribute to Peralta and his contributions to the community.
“Jose was a distinct politician, a man who always did what he felt was right, even if it was politically unpopular,” Congressman Joseph Crowley said in a statement. “That requires a level of courage and bravery we should all seek to emulate.”
Councilman Francisco Moya, who represents many of the same Queens neighborhoods, said Peralta had a “gentle demeanor,” but was a fierce fighter for his constituents.
“Jose was a kind man and a friend,” he said. “His passing is a reminder to us all of how fragile life is and to give our loved ones an extra hug this Thanksgiving.”
By Sunday, a GoFundMe page set up to help pay for funeral costs exceeded its goal of $25,000. Even Governor Andrew Cuomo donated $10,000 to the campaign.
Hundreds paid respects to Peralta at the wake on Monday at Joseph Farenga & Sons Funeral Home in Astoria, including former colleagues in government.
Outside the funeral home, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr. called Peralta a “great guy” and a “tough worker.”
“He loved this city, loved Queens,” Vallone said. “Even though he might’ve lost an election, he gained something much better. He gained God himself.”
Former Councilman Eric Gioia, who was elected to public office just one year before Peralta, also attended the wake. He recalled standing with the former assemblyman when he was first elected in 2002.
The last time he spoke to Peralta was around Christmas last year, when they both took their kids to take a photo with Santa Claus.
“He’s a reminder to all of us that we’re all on borrowed time,” Gioia said. “You go home and hug your kids. Life is too short.”
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, who represents Mount Vernon and Yonkers, served in Albany with Peralta before he ascended to the State Senate. Though Pretlow said they weren’t very close, they were still friends.
“He kind of kept to himself, but he was just a good man,” he said. “I’m going to miss him.”
Pretlow added that he was shocked and dismayed that someone so young, with a young family, was taken so soon.
“Even though he didn’t win re-election, he was still active in the community, and would’ve remained active in the community,” he said. “Now we’re not going to see what he would have done in his new position. It’s just heartbreaking.”
Hyacinth Gordon used to live across the street from Peralta’s office in Jackson Heights. She remembered that the state senator was a big supporter of her local church.
She told his family at the wake that he’s in heaven now.
“He was such a good person, a good servant, that God took him,” she said. “He has done enough here on earth.
“There’s not another human being like him,” Gordon added. “I can tell you this wholeheartedly.”