Today’s news:

ERDA brings free tax prep to western Queens

Tax time has come again to Queens and with a special urgency for Long Island City’s public housing complexes, where a free tax prep service is closing a month earlier than last year.

The change is good, however, since the East River Development Alliance needs the storefront at 13-03B 40th Ave. to open its new credit union April 26.

“We’ve already raised $1.1 million for the credit union and we’ve already got over 1,500 people that have pledged to open accounts,” said Bishop Mitchell Taylor, ERDA’s founder, noting his organization is still seeking donors to raise a final $90,000 for operating expenses.

But Taylor still joined City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Food Bank of New York Vice President Carlos Rodriguez and Astoria Baptist Church Pastor Bobby Moore to urge the residents of the Astoria, Queensbridge, Ravenswood and Woodside houses to come in and file to get the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The EITC is available to any family with children and a 2009 income of less than $48,000 and to single-filers making less than $18,000.

“The EITC is really probably one of the most powerful economic tools out there for poor and moderate-income New Yorkers,” Quinn said.

Rodriguez said the Food Bank, which helps operate this and 13 other tax prep stations throughout the city, got 35,000 New Yorkers nearly $64 million in tax rebates last year.

“Every dollar we have to spend on this program returns $30 back into the hands of the community,” he said.

This year ERDA is aiming to complete 1,200 tax returns, down from 1,700 last year due to the shortened operating time.

Still, some residents are celebrating. Carmen Mezarina, 44, lives in the Woodside Houses and received $10,000 in tax credits for her children. She now helps other public housing residents at the tax prep center.

“Not only did they offer me the position to earn additional income, but the best tax return I’ve ever had since I’ve been filing taxes — and free,” she said.

Ravenswood resident Inez Zayas, 33, got a rebate of around $2,600 this year, which she said will help her since she was laid off.

“I take this tax money and I stretch it out to pay for the rest of the bills for the rest of the year,” she said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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