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Queens Chronicle

Astoria, LIC funding slashed

Groups in Vallone’s district lose out

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Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:28 pm, Thu Jul 21, 2011.

Nonprofit groups such as the Variety Boys and Girls Club, little leagues and senior centers in western Queens are likely to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding over the next year.

The reason, reportedly, is that Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) stood up against the city’s renaming of the Queensboro Bridge for former Mayor Ed Koch. Seventy percent of Queens residents opposed the renaming, though only four of the borough’s 14 council members voted against it. And only Vallone came out against it immediately and vocally.

Now, in what published reports say was an act of retailiation, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) has slashed Vallone’s share of so-called member-item funding, which lawmakers dole out to area organizations at their discretion, by $600,000. The cut marks a reduction of 42 percent compared to what the councilman had at his disposal last year.

Vallone said the reduction will hurt many people in his district, which encompasses Astoria, Long Island City and parts of Jackson Heights, because it will hurt so many of the groups that rely partly or completely on public funding.

“It’s going to be much harder for them to provide the services that they’re used to providing,” he said. “So I’m hoping to recover some of the money in next year’s budget.”

He added that he hopes some of the groups can make up the loss through private donations, saying he will help encourage area companies to contribute what they can.

Vallone also said that he expected a cut in discretionary funds because of the economy. But according to reports, not all council members lost out.

The councilman declined to comment on the idea, reported in the New York Post, that Quinn cut his funding to strike back at him for objecting to the bridge renaming. The span is now the Ed Koch-Queensboro Bridge, though of course it’s even better known as the 59th Street Bridge.

Vallone had objected to the renaming as a proponent of pride in Queens, pointing out, as many residents did at the time, that no one would seriously consider renaming the Brooklyn Bridge. A pair of polls, one conducted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce and another by Quinnipiac University, both found that 70 percent of borough residents agreed with Vallone.

In addition to the member item money, City Hall eliminated $6 million for scholarships that had been given out by a City University program named for Vallone’s father, former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. The funds would have gone to 14,000 students, the younger Vallone said.

“These kids were promised that money and it was ripped from them by City Hall,” he said. As with the other funds, he declined to state the bridge issue was the reason, however.

Motorcyclist hits Vallone’s car as he sits inside

Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) got a bit of a shock Wednesday afternoon when an out-of-control motorcyclist crashed into his parked car as he sat inside it. No one was injured, he said.

The councilman had just parked on 31st Street at Ditmars Boulevard and was about to go into his office when the incident occurred. He said he felt a hard hit from behind but looked back and saw nothing — because the biker was on the ground.

He went to the man, a novice rider, to see that he was okay, which he was. Vallone is a veteran biker.

“As a rider, I understand how difficult that can be, but thank God nobody got hurt,” Vallone said, adding, “The motorcycle just lost control. It kind of ruined my day, the damage to the car. It’s a nice new car.”

The councilman said he was glad, however, to take the hit, because if the car wasn’t in the way, the biker would have gone up onto the crowded sidewalk. A witness told him the man took his hands off the handlebars as he lost control while turning from westbound Ditmars onto southbound 31st.

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