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Long Island City’s East River Development Alliance opened its long-awaited federal credit union along 40th Avenue this week, making it the first of its kind to be founded in the city in 10 years.
Bishop Mitchell Taylor, pastor of Long Island City’s Center for Hope International, said the nonprofit credit union would provide bank accounts for thousands of public housing residents in western Queens. An estimated three in 10 residents in the community lack accounts, using check-cashing businesses that charge high fees for financial transactions.
“It is an historic day,” said Taylor, flanked by a swath of city government officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the credit union Monday. “This is the first credit union in New York in 10 years, the first to be chartered in Queens in 30 years and the first to be chartered under the Obama administration. Today, many people in public housing live paycheck to paycheck and have to decide whether to pay for medicine or put food on the table. This will give people financial freedom.”
The alliance fought for five years to establish the credit union, which is at 13-03B 40th Ave. in Long Island City.
Western Queens has four major public housing developments: Woodside Houses, Ravenswood Houses, Astoria Houses and Queensbridge Houses, the largest in the nation.
Taylor had originally marched with community activists and elected officials in 2006 to call on a bank to open a branch in the community, eventually drawing Amalgamated Bank to 21st Street.
But Taylor said he wanted to go one step further to provide financial support for the people of his neighborhood.
“When you put in a bank, you rent space,” said Taylor, who is also ERDA’s founder and chairman of the new credit union’s board. “But when you put in a credit union, you own it. So we’ve created thousands of bankers in western Queens.”
Taylor said 1,000 people have already pledged to open an account at the new site. The credit union has also secured $1.1 million in non-member deposit pledges.
Bloomberg told the crowd of several hundred people at the ceremony that 50,000 Queens households did not have checking accounts.
“We want New Yorkers to have better choices to build their dreams,” the mayor said. “It’s a great day for the people of Queens.”
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) brought ERDA together with the United Nations Financial Credit Union.
“It’s a not-for-profit, so there will be lower fees and interest rates,” the congresswoman said. “The revenue generated goes back to the members.”
The ceremony drew elected officials from across the city, including city Comptroller John Liu, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, state Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood), and Councilmen Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) as well as former Council Speaker Peter Vallone and former Councilman Eric Gioia.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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