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Gioia brings home $396K in earmarks

With the City Council’s 2010 fiscal budget, Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) trailed the pack in member item funding, though his office said the councilman made up for some of that by seeking private grants for constituent groups.

Gioia procured $396,321 in member items this year, an 11 percent increase from last year’s $357,314. By contrast, neighboring Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) took in more than $533,000 and Councilwoman Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) brought in $465,821. As is standard for Council members, most of Gioia’s funding went to programs for youth and senior citizens.

Gioia was the only Council member to vote against the budget, calling the discretionary funding system “broken.”

“In these tough financial times, the city government needs to ensure we are using taxpayers’ money wisely and not wasting it,” said Gioia press secretary Eric Koch. “Regrettably there are not enough safeguards and some tax dollars will be misappropriated — which is why Eric could not vote for this budget.”

Gioia gave the most — $56,000 — to the Long Island City YMCA for sports leagues. That amount was down from the $63,000 he allotted during the previous fiscal year. Gioia also provided $40,000 to Chess in the Schools for a tournament, keeping steady with 2009 funding levels.

Other major allocations included $37,107 for the nonprofit East River Development Alliance, serving residents of the three massive public housing complexes in Long Island City and Astoria and $19,714 for Woodside on the Move to sponsor graffiti removal and youth programs.

There is no easy correlation between contributors to Gioia’s campaign and the organizations that benefited from his member item allocations. Of the top 10 contributions to his campaign fund since November 2007, only one, a $2,500 donation from Timothy Du Val of Long Island City’s film-location business Du Val Enterprises, was from his district. The vast majority of Gioia’s Queens donors contributed less than $1,000 each.

Gioia did fund some organizations whose members donated to his campaign. People on the board of Sunnyside Community Services contributed a combined $1,440 to Gioia, according to city Campaign Finance Board records. The center, which serves many seniors in the neighborhood, received $25,400 in member items. But contributions such as these made up a small portion of the nearly $2 million Gioia has raised in his bid for the public advocate seat in November’s election.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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