Two Council members describe Quinn’s retaliation against them, and predict more

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I just spoke to two City Council members who have said they were targets of retaliation from Council Speaker Christine Quinn. 

Elizabeth Crowley of Middle Village, who was cited in that big Times piece for having been yelled at by Quinn over the wording a press release and saw cuts to senior centers and sports programs in her district, told me she actually had her funding punitively cut by Quinn on two separate occasions. 

"That's what makes it so obvious, that it's vindictive and that she disciplines members who are independent," Crowley said.

The first occasion was after Crowley sent out a press release announcing fire houses were spared closure in the 2010 budget without crediting Quinn. That triggered a cut, which was first reported by the Post.

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I asked Crowley why she thought Quinn reacted that way to the press release.

"I imagine it didn't have her name on it and she didn't get the credit," Crowley said. "But I apologized for that."

"My office made a mistake," Crowley said. "And then a few days later, I realized her retaliation was her cutting my budget significantly. I forget the amounts I had, but if you look at the difference, it was significant."

It happened again, Crowley said, when she ran for Congress in 2012.

"When I decided to run for Congress I asked her for her support and she said she was not supporting me," Crowley recalled. "And I carried on with my role as a Council member and ran for Congress and my election happened to be on June 26, the day after we were dolling out discretionary funds, she was doling out discretionary funds.

"I was at City Hall at midnight, the night before my primary. I might have left at 12:30. It took me so long to figure out which groups were going to get the cuts," Crowley said.

"Now these are senior centers and youth programs. When she cuts my district, she's not hurting me. She's hurting programs that are in need."

Crowley said. "I don't like to talk about this subject, but since everybody is bringing it up, I think it's important to clarify what I believe happened." And "If you look at what I received the first two years, I was in the top half of the Council."

I asked Crowley what she thought would happen to her now.

"I will likely be retaliated against. I've come to the understanding," she said.

(The consultants who worked on Crowley's congressional campaign were Berlin Rosen, the firm that is now advising one of Quinn's leading mayoral rivals, Pubic Advocate Bill de Blasio.)

Crowley said, "I have respect for the speaker, I just don't respect the current practice of how these funds are doled out."

The other Council member who said funding for nonprofit groups in his district were reduced because of retaliation from Quinn is Peter Vallone Jr., of Astoria. His cut occured in 2011, and was reported on by the Post at the time.

"For nine years my funding was not cut," Vallone said in an interview today. "Then, there was a vote to take the Queensborough Bridge from the people of Queens."

He was referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's initiative to rename it after Ed Koch, a move supported by Quinn (whom Koch endorsed).

"It was made clear to me in no uncertain terms that there would be retribution if I didn't do what the mayor's people and speaker's people wanted me to do," he said. "Obviously I didn't do it. Over the next two years, my funding was cut over 60 percent. And, even worse, the Vallone scholarship was not funded by the Council, for the first time, which deprived kids of the tuition money they were promised."

Vallone declined to reveal specifics about who conveyed the threat, citing his policy of not disclosing private conversations. But he said other lawmakers "made deals" with the speaker which enabled them to vote against the bill, so long as they didn't draw attention to the proposal before the vote. "Their silence was bought and they didn't speak up until the day of the vote. I wasn't willing to make that deal."

He said, "I was the only one who did it and I was the only one who was punished."

Vallone knows quite well the power of the speaker's office. His father, Peter Vallone Sr., was the speaker during the Dinkins and Giuliani years, and was no slouch himself at keeping his members in line.

Describing his time with the current speaker, Vallone said their once-friendly relationship "isn't what it used to be. Let's just say I'm the same person I was. But I'm not sure that's the case on the other side."

I told Vallone that was a strong statement. He laughed and said, "Yeah, I know. I probably shouldn't have said it."

Quinn's office didn't respond to a request for comment.

UPDATE: Quinn spokesman Jamie McShane emails the following comment: "Chris's job is not to make everyone happy all the time - her job is to lead the city council. It has nothing to do with retribution, it has everything to do with delivering real results for New York. That's exactly what she's done, that's what New Yorkers want in a leader, and she makes no apologies for it."