ERDA touts free tax prep

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Bishop Mitchell Taylor, founder and president of the East River Development Alliance, encouraged residents of public housing Tuesday to take advantage of the city’s free tax preparation services at ERDA and throughout the city.

“We want more people to come,” Taylor said, “not only here but the sites that are spread around the city of New York.”

Joined by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), Carlos Rodriguez from the Food Bank of New York City and Queensbridge resident Roxana Uribe, Taylor touted the services offered by his organization in front of ERDA’s tax prep site at 12-14 40th Ave. in Long Island City.

ERDA, a nonprofit aimed at empowering public housing residents, began its tax preparation services in 2005, Taylor said. Since then it has helped 6,000 people in the community get a total of $12 million in tax refunds, Taylor said. After opening in late January for the 2011 tax season, ERDA has filed 800 tax returns for a collective $2 million in refunds.

Quinn touted the free tax prep services and also spoke about the Earned Income Tax Credit benefit. She said about a quarter of New Yorkers are eligible for the benefit, which is for families with children who earn less than $50,000 a year and single filers making less than $18,000 a year, but have not gotten it.

She also encouraged public housing residents to use free tax services instead of paid preparers.

“If you are a low- or moderate-income New Yorker, you do not have to pay,” Quinn said.

Vallone praised the work Taylor had done in the community. Taylor said ERDA would hold a tax preparation day March 15 at its Astoria Houses office, which is in Vallone’s district, at 425 Astoria Blvd. This event will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and those interested can come by appointment or walk in.

“It’s such a great thing, such a great service,” Vallone said.

Through an English translator, Uribe spoke in Spanish about all ERDA had done for her family. She said she had learned about the organization from her son, who went there for a workforce development program and since then has started using its tax preparation.

“I’m very happy with the services that have been provided to me,” Uribe said.

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

Updated 10:33 am, October 12, 2011
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