By Kelsey Durham
Just a few months after the City Council passed a historic reform package that included changes to the discretionary funding process, Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) touted a 2015 fiscal year budget that included nearly three times more funding for his Council district than the area had seen in the past few years.
The $75 billion city budget, officially adopted June 26 after the Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio reached an agreement the week before, includes an allocation of more than $6.7 million for Vallone’s district, which encompasses Bayside, Whitestone, Auburndale, College Point, Malba, Beechhurst, Murray Hill and parts of Little Neck and Douglaston north of the Long Island Expressway.
The money given to District 19 in this year’s budget is more than three times the funding it received last year — about $2.2 million — under former Councilman Dan Halloran.
“As promised, working hand in hand with my fellow elected officials helped to ensure that our district finally received its fair share of funding,” Vallone said in a statement released after the budget was approved. “The fiscal budget for 2015 includes critical new initiatives that will improve the lives of all New Yorkers and is a clear victory for our communities.”
Vallone was one of the major advocates for reforming how the Council distributed funding, a process for which former Council Speaker Christine Quinn was often criticized for handing out money based on a system of rewards and punishments.
Vallone’s territory had been toward the bottom of the 51 districts for several years, dating back to when state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) was in office as the District 19 councilman from 2002-09. Avella received $2 million in capital funding in 2009, ranking 50th out of the 51 Council districts, and was given only $43,000 more in 2010, moving him up one spot to 49th.
District 19 also came in at the bottom of the list for discretionary funding in 2009 under Avella, receiving about $447,000, and moved up to 47th the following year with $482,000.
This year’s increase in spending in the northeast Queens district was spread out through different areas, including schools, libraries and parks.
As part of the funding allocation, every school in Vallone’s district will received at least $50,000 to make technology and security upgrades, and some schools will receive additional capital funding for further upgrades, including PS 209 in Whitestone that will receive $100,000 to upgrade its gymnasium and auditorium and PS 184 in Whitestone that will get $200,000 for a playground upgrade.
Those allocations are part of nearly $3 million in money that was set aside strictly for schools within the district. Bayside High School is also in line to receive an additional $100,000 for technology upgrades.
“I was determined to protect, preserve and enhance our students’ futures,” Vallone said.
Three libraries in the district — Poppenhusen, Whitestone and Auburndale — will each receive $86,000 in order to make upgrades to their security systems, while Bay Terrace Community Library will get $1 million for interior renovations and modernization.
Vallone’s funding sets aside $1.15 million for Bowne Park to upgrade its tot playground, install new play equipment and benches, upgrade the pond with water fountains and new filtration systems and renovate the asphalt pathways and grass areas.
MacNeil Park in College Point will also get $100,000 to renovate portions of the seawall and repair the walking paths.
Vallone praised this year’s budgeting process and said the influx of money that his district will receive will help improve the lives of everyone living in the area.
“Our district can proudly saw we are once again a priority as we stand tall in northeast Queens,” he said.
Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at email@example.com.