On April 26 Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) held a rally outside City Hall with immigrant advocates and other politicians, calling for the mayor and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) to restore money for a scholarship geared toward undocumented college students.
Those opposed to the grant’s elimination accused Quinn of punishing Vallone for renouncing the partial name change of the Queensboro Bridge for former Mayor Ed Koch. Vallone also claims his discretionary funds were cut by 40 percent because of his nay bridge vote. Quinn said the decrease was made to even out the district that for years enjoyed the added monetary perk of being represented by former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr.
Almost a month later Quinn sat down with the Chronicle editorial staff. She spoke of her stance on several topics, including saying that Vallone’s claim is just plain false.
“One thing that Peter has been saying, that is just wrong, is about the Vallone Scholarship,” Quinn said. “On the year we had to cut the funding for the Vallone Scholarship, in 2008/2009 it was the peak of the recession. Every program that year in the Council budget was not restored.”
Roughly 15,000 students were the recipients of the Peter F. Vallone Scholarship before it was cut.
According to Quinn, the budget negotiating team slashed the $6 million provided annually for the scholarship, adding that it was not a decision made by the speaker alone as is the case with discretionary fund allocations. The decision was then reaffirmed by the Council, she said, adding that at least three boroughs had to say yes for it to go through.
“Some members of the Queens delegation feel they are being punished on the retribution level, and that is just not what happened,” Quinn said.
“Did she say this with a straight face?” Vallone asked Wednesday.
Although the Council as a whole made the vote, Vallone reiterated that as the leader of the body, Quinn has the power.
“She controls the Council,” Vallone said. “Just once I want her to say ‘I didn’t refund the libraries the Council did.’”
“I was told by her staff that there would be retribution,” Vallone said, “and there was.
“None of the other council members said a word prior to the vote and I certainly could have used some help,” he added. Vallone pledges if elected as borough president to restore the Queensboro Bridge name.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who voted against the renaming, said he didn’t speak as publicly as Vallone, but did make his opinion heard.
“I sent a letter to all the folks who had writen to my office several days in advance of the vote. One blog picked it up. I also spoke very passionately against it in the council chambers before the vote,” Van Bramer said.
He added his vote did not affect his funds.
“She was good to me and my district before the vote and she was good to me and my district after the vote,” he said of Quinn.
Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Queens Village), a longtime Koch pal, voted for the switch along with other members such as Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who said it “wasn’t that big of a deal,” and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).
At the time some political insiders speculated that the renaming served as a political chess move. In December 2011, Koch endorsed Quinn for mayor eight months after she backed the naming. Koch also put his money and name behind Weprin for speaker.