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Gioia promotes free tax services

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The East River Development Alliance, known as ERDA, is offering free tax preparation services in February and the first week in March, helping tax payers with the Earned Income Tax Credit and other benefits that may be overlooked.The three-year-old nonprofit mainly serves public housing residents in Long Island City and has helped open a bank in the underserved area as well as provide hundreds of free tax services. The group's executive director is a former Gioia staffer.To get the word out on the tax preparation services, the group sent out mailings to residents and tenants organizations that sport a photograph of Gioia and the nonprofit's chairman the Rev. Mitchell Taylor with a tax preparation client. Posters with the same photograph were also distributed in the neighborhood and adorn the building at 12-11 40th Ave. in Long Island City where the organization is located.Representatives from the councilman and the organization did not respond to requests for comment.Former Council speaker Gifford Miller was pilloried after he spent $1.6 million on mailings paid for with city tax money that were perceived as campaign literature in June 2005. Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union in New York, when asked about the flyer, said it raised questions as to the level of visibility a political official should have with nonprofits the legislator supports with government support."Councilman Gioia's involvement does bring credibility to the services provided in this program," he said. But he added, "the not-for-profit's prominent feature of his support raises questions about how much visibility do you give an elected official"I think this crosses the line," he said. "This makes it seem to be not just about making known a valuable service, but also promoting Eric Gioia's support for it and Eric Gioia personally."The East River Development Alliance mailings were not directly funded by the city, an official with the group said. However, much of the funding comes from the city, including a $225,000 in 2007 and $210,000 in 2006 fiscal years.The most recent financial records available online for the group showed it had $186,799 in revenues in 2005.The home page on the Internet for the nonprofit was also changed within the last year, according to the Web Archive.org, which records old sites.The front page from a year ago showed a simple drawing, but that was changed sometime in the last 12 months to the new page, which displays a photograph of the group's chairman and Gioia.The tax preparation services have expanded quickly from 85 taxpayers in 2005 to more than 300 so far this year. The free help is available Wednesday through Saturday up to March 3. Call ERDA at 718-784-0877 for more information.Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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