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Credit union marks 1st year

With 602 members and assets of more than $300,000, the East River Development Alliance’s Federal Credit Union has had a magnificent first year, ERDA founder and CEO Bishop Mitchell Taylor announced at a meeting for the union.

“I see this credit union growing and growing and growing,” Taylor said.

The first of what is planned to be an annual meeting for the credit union took place May 11 at the United Nations Federal Credit Union, at 24-01 44th Road in Long Island City. While the meeting was held in a modern building in a part of Long Island City that has been seeing significant growth, ERDA’s credit union is mostly made up of members for the nearby public housing projects: Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Astoria and Woodside houses.

Taylor, who began the nonprofit ERDA to help empower public housing residents, had planned to create the credit union since ERDA’s inception in 2004. The idea came from his father, who told him that giving the public housing residents ownership and access to capital would be a way to change the community. Taylor said even in the midst of an economic downturn the credit union, which opened in April 2010, has done remarkably well.

He compared the credit union to two others in New Jersey and Michigan, which began around the same time but currently have less than half the amount of members as ERDA’s credit union.

“He’s a visionary,” Pastor Ronnie Hamlin, who sponsored 50 children’s accounts at the credit union, said of Taylor.

Nina Valmonte of Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, which provided a grant to ERDA’s credit union to help get it started, said the credit union proves those with low incomes can save. Of the depositors in the bank, 45 percent are saving for the first time, and most accounts are an average of $300.

“ERDA provides the pathways, provides the system through which they can empower themselves,” Valmonte said.

John Lewis, who holds positions in both ERDA’s credit union and the United Nations Federal Credit Union, said when ERDA’s credit union began almost a year ago, it only offered savings accounts. Now it offers a variety of services such as certificates of deposit, children’s accounts, personal loans, money orders, corporate checks and direct deposits. The credit union also has a “manage your rent” program that has helped process 2,000 New York City Housing Authority rent payments.

Margarita Lopez, a former Manhattan councilwoman who sits on NYCHA’s board, made an impassioned speech at the meeting, at which she said the credit union was an expression of self-determination.

“It’s yours because you have to take care of it,” Lopez said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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