Queens keeping close eye on Halloran capital cash

Queens keeping close eye on Halloran capital cash
Photo by Phil Corso
By Phil Corso

It has been two months since City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) was arrested on federal corruption charges and barred from touching government funds, but groups who were promised some of that money said they were still optimistic they will see green.

The councilman was one of eight to participate in the participatory budgeting process over the past year, enabling more than 1,100 residents in his district to pick budget items that eventually went up for a vote. The seven winning projects were promised a piece of $1 million in capital funding, but speculation arose just days after the vote when Halloran was arrested in early April.

After Halloran was arrested and stripped of all his committee assignments, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said she would instead be working with the Queens delegation to distribute the embattled councilman’s discretionary funding.

But she would not promise that all the winning projects would receive the funding they spent the better part of the year campaigning for.

The Participatory Budgeting Project, a nonprofit group leading participatory budgeting projects around the country, also joined with the Urban Justice Center urging Quinn to ensure the votes would count despite Halloran’s legal troubles.

Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) heads the Queens delegation and told TimesLedger Newspapers he had full intentions of honoring the participatory budgeting vote.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure the process is maintained,” Comrie said. “We want to work with the community. It is important that we make sure all the projects are kept whole as much as possible.”

Andy Rocco, head of the College Point Civic Association, said his community came out big winners by the end of Halloran’s budgeting vote with several area projects promised funding. Winning projects to emerge from that part of the northeast Queens district included a $250,000 structural restoration of the Poppenhusen Institute in the neighborhood, a $100,000 rehabilitation of MacNeil Park in College Point and $35,000 in police cameras.

Since Halloran’s arrest, Rocco said he has been keeping a close watch on the Queens delegation and has met with Comrie at civic meetings to help ensure the money is allocated in full. Rocco has even organized an outdoor family festival at MacNeil Park scheduled for this Saturday, inviting elected officials of the area to see how vital the park is to the community.

“They are aware,” Rocco said. “I have made sure that College Point’s voice is there and we want to see this followed through.”

Chrissy Voskerichian, who worked as Halloran’s chief of staff before stepping down in April, has since declared a Council run for his seat as a Democrat. She stood in front of the Poppenhusen Institute Tuesday morning to publicly sign a pledge that she would also use participatory budgeting as a method of allocating capital funds if elected after having a front-row seat to the process at her old job.

“Everyone who pays taxes deserves a say in how their tax dollars will be spent,” she said. “Participatory budgeting brings everyone together in order to decide how public money is best spent in our community.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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