By Rebecca Henely
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) used the more than than $680,000 he was allotted in discretionary funding this year to assist a variety of charitable organizations in his district, but he said he thought he would have had more if not for an old feud over the renaming of the Ed Koch-Queensborough Bridge.
“It is another 15 percent cut on top of a 46 percent cut last year,” Vallone said, referring to the money allotted to him this year compared to years past. Discretionary funding is doled out through a committee of Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and 24 of her appointees.
The councilman had been one of the first to argue against adding the name of the 105th mayor of New York City to the Queensborough Bridge, which was approved by the Council in March 2011. The same year that this happened, Vallone’s funds to be distributed to nonprofits plummeted from about $1.4 million in fiscal year 2011 to about $840,000 in FY 2012. Vallone was allowed to distribute $683,321 in grants by himself, although some of his funds were wrapped up in grants that he funded with other Council members.
Quinn, a strong advocate for the bridge’s renaming, said the reduction had nothing to do with Vallone’s position on the bridge but came from a need to spread the money around to other parts of the city.
“If you believe that explanation, I have another bridge for you to rename,” Vallone said.
The councilman still received the third largest amount of any borough member, and one of his biggest recipients was the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens Inc., which received two grants, one for $90,000 and one for $50,000. The grants will be used to offer multiple academic, computer lab and arts programs.
“My family has always been a huge supporter of the Boys & Girls Club,” Vallone said. “One of the people who founded it was my grandfather in 1932.”
Vallone’s second major recipient was the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition. The business group received $74,500 in multiple grants that will pay for small things, like helping seniors fill out important applications for heat and rent assistance to marketing for Astoria businesses to funding the annual Independence Day fireworks and Waterfront Concert Series along the East River.
The third major recipient was the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee Inc., which got $53,750 in multiple grants. The grants will help pay the costs of running the organization’s senior center, provide activities and pay for trips for seniors and fund some after-school and tutoring programs for children.
Vallone’s discretionary funds went to many other Greek cultural organizations, but he also set aside some for Italian and Asian groups. He gave funds to multiple recreational sports teams.
“It teaches kids teamwork, especially while professional sports no longer do,” Vallone said, “and it gets them out of the house and away from the video games and it helps keep them healthy.”
The councilman said he would have wanted the final budget to increase the number of NYPD officers on the street, although it avoided some ugly cuts. He said the programs he distributed funds to in previous years may have to do less.
“They will all survive or find a way to do it, but some will have to cut back on some programs,” he said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.