CITY HALL — Astoria City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. took a jab at Speaker Christine Quinn Thursday, calling for the city to reinstate funding for a college scholarship he says she and Mayor Michael Bloomberg cut from the budget two years ago.
Vallone and three of Quinn's mayoral rivals — Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu and former Comptroller Bill Thompson — rallied on the steps of City Hall Thursday demanding the city reinstate The Vallone Scholarship, which had been doled out each year to high school students who enroll in a CUNY college.
The $6 million in funding for the scholarships, named after the councilman's former Council Speaker father, was eliminated in 2011 — the same year Vallone also saw his discretionary funding slashed, reportedly for opposing Quinn's plan to re-name the Queensboro Bridge after former Mayor Ed Koch.
"The Vallone scholarship offered thousands of young people across New York a tremendous opportunity for a great education," De Blasio said in a statement. "The fact that these resources were cut, and reportedly cut in an act of political retribution, is simply wrong."
At a separate press conference Thursday, Quinn told reporters the scholarships had no connection to discretionary funds, and were cut that year during the council's budget negotiations — the same year many other City Council initiatives were cut.
"They are funded in the same way every other CUNY initiative is funded in the budget, which is a participatory decision, first made by the budget negotiating team, then referred to the delegations, then affirmed by the whole body," she said.
"This was not a decision that related to former speaker Vallone or Council Member Vallone and it was not a decision that I made personally," she added.
"I think as soon as there are resources back that we could restore the scholarships to a fuller level, we would love to do that."
Vallone said the scholarships were being given out to approximately 15,000 students at the time they were cut, and said rising CUNY tuition costs mean they're needed more than ever. The scholarships were given to students regardless of their immigration status, he points out.
“The Vallone Scholarship was New York City’s Dream Act — it was a reality here when the State and Federal acts were just dreams,” Vallone said in a statement.
“It was a promise we made to our hardest working kids, that we would help them achieve their dreams of a college education, and it was a promise that was broken.”