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May 14, 2010

"You have a Dream."


By Arthur Rosenfield. Full story with Video Interview

There has been a transformational shift...'Self-Empowerment'...Bishop Mitchell Taylor, Founder of East River Development Corporation (ERDA), has created a new model to break the cycle of poverty in public housing.

It could have gone unnoticed in the excitment of the Grand Opening of the ERDA Federal Credit Union on April 16th on a short block in Long Island City. It was a traditional American Bandstand Event, and every political figure came to take the microphone and offer congratulations.

Bishop Mitchell Taylor, East River Development Alliance (ERDA) Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved. Arthur Rosenfield, OurLIC

The applause went to Bishop Mitchell Taylor, his team, and the supporters from governments, agencies, people, and corporations that helped him accomplish this fantastic Grand Opening of a Credit Union where the community of depositors are the owners.

But wait.

Behind Bishop Taylor was 60 years of movements and struggle. From "Desegregation" to "Integration" to the struggle that defined "Freedom" in this country through the guiding principle of the land for over 45 years.... "Equal Opportunity". Behind him has been a history of slow, but extraordinary change.

Five years ago, or perhaps 20 years ago, Bishop Mitchell Taylor had the vision of a different way to break the cycle of poverty that has left people unable to access that promise of opportunity.

The transformation he brings with his vision is a subtle but definite shift from "I have a Dream" to "You have a Dream"..

He acknowledges that this could not have happened without the pain, sacrifice, and even blood of others before him.

As newcomers to Long Island City, we have been learning about the East River Development Alliance (ERDA). During the past year we had seen examples of the work of Bishop Taylor's organization. He was acknowledged for his leadership and support by Jimmy Van Bramer at his Inauguration as City Councilmember.

Since then, we have carefully interviewed ERDA people, their clients, 'customers', and other people who have benefited from ERDA, or allied with it.

I asked to have a conversation and interview with Bishop Taylor because I saw something in the model he had created that I thought was innovative. . On May 14, 2010, I had that conversation with him. I wanted to talk with him about his new model, and learn about his leadership and how he had shaped himself into the man he has become.

I also had some hard questions I wanted to ask. I had a sense that it would be a defining moment. I asked Tony Vaccaro, a world famous photo journalist for the past 70 years, to join me. [ Go to Tony Vaccaro: A Retrospective]

During that hour and a half conversation with Bishop Taylor, he did, in fact, define himself and his place in the future. The OurLIC Video Conversation with him reveals a leader of considerable insight. Viewers will see "the making of a champion", a champion of the people who has taken his vision, and made it a reality.

Through his considerable leadership talents and abilities, and his innovative approaches, the work of Bishop Mitchell Taylor, his organization, and his supporters will ultimately result in improved lives for millions of people.


ERDA (East River Development Alliance) is an alliance of organizations with the mission to help people living in public housing to gain access to the opportunities that can be available to them.

Where there were previously barriers, one-by-one ERDA is knocking them down. One-by-one Bishop Taylor and his team are creating solutions to gain, for residents of public housing, the "access", the skills, the knowledge, and assistance they need to succeed. They are self-empowering people to achieve their dreams.

It's mission statement: "Founded in 2004, the East River Development Alliance (ERDA) is an innovative nonprofit located in Long Island City, Queens working to provide public housing residents with the tools and resources for economic success."

Expansion of the ERDA initiatives has already begun, as ERDA will soon announce new office locations in other parts of Queens..

Bishop Taylor has brought together a terrific team of executives and Board Members that have been working to make these things happen.

  • Jeremy Reiss, Vice President for Strategy, Organizing, and External Affairs
  • Barbara Zerzan, Vice President for Program Operations
  • Carmen Simon, recently appointed CEO of ERDA Federal Credit Union after serving to get it opened as ERDA's Credit Union Organizer.
  • Shanna Castillo, Workforce Development Program Director
  • Florence Juillard, Financial Fitness Program Director
  • Bethany Cureton, College Outreach Coordinator
  • Sarah Proescher, College Outreach Coordinator
  • Cate Elander, Manager of Outreach and Organizing
  • Elizabeth Chominski, Business Accounts Manager, Workforce Development Project
  • Other Executives
  • Board of Directors

Bishop Mitchell Taylor, East River Development Alliance (ERDA) Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved. Arthur Rosenfield, OurLIC

Bishop Mitchell Taylor

Bishop Mitchell Taylor's life today is a reflection of the painful choices made by two mothers and his fathers. From these choices, Bishop Taylor has pursued and discovered 'truths". In his early 20's he recognized the meaning of choices made by his mothers and fathers. He pledged to himself to be worthy of those choices.

Taylor sees himself as having the responsibility to make his life a tribute to his two mothers, and an honorable man to his father, a Pentacostal Minister.

He, himself, grew up in Queensbridge projects and knows it well. He refers to generations of people who are remaining in Queensbridge and other housing projects, locked in a cycle of poverty. He wanted to break it so that children and grandchildren can have a better life. .

Both Bishop Taylor and his wife, Barbara, are Ministers at Church of Hope International on 40th Street in Long Island City. They have two children.

The Vision

Bishop Taylor's vision is to break the cycle of poverty through a system of tools that provide a platform for "self-empowerment". It is a different model. It can work today, in Queensbridge, because of the foundation that has been built over the past 60 years of "the struggle".

The main elements of this transforming difference are:

  1. An alliance of cooperation among organizations to create a strength that none could achieve independently.
  2. The development of a series of tools that can create access to the existing "structure" of society, leading to the productive participation for those who have previously been locked in the cycle of poverty and living in housing projects.
  3. Opening a Federal Credit Union to provide access to capital; and, to provide a means of financial life management.

The empowering tool kit that ERDA has devised can be applied as a whole life solutions in areas of jobs, training, college education, home, and financial well being.

Full video interview with Bishop Mitchell Taylor, Founder of ERDA, is available You Have a Dream in six segments of approximately three to seventeen minutes each.


  • ERDA gives people in public housing the tools for economic mobility and self-sufficiency
  • They start with conversations with people about what is possible.
  • When people walk through the doors of ERDA, at that moment they make a decision to take control of their complete lives, whether it be for employment, financial literacy, college access, early awareness, or community re-vitalization.
  • ERDA organizes and brings together all of the natural social networks and platforms that exist in the communities of public housing. For example, this includes the tenant association presidents, teachers and principles, business people, and religious organizations.
  • This model will work across the city of New York...and across the US.
  • Public housing neighborhoods are different from other comunities. They need different solutions.
  • ERDA is trying to destroy the barriers that maintain cycles of poverty so that people can move into self-sufficiency.
  • ERDA did a survey to determine what people really need.
  • ERDA's survey showed that people living in public housing wanted four things:
    • Training, but not pie in the sky training with no job at the end.
    • Financial literacy services.
    • College access.
    • Access to capital.
  • Discussion about Democracy, segregation, Equal Opportunity, "livable society", and the continuing struggle.
  • Bishop Taylor discussed the history and importance of the New York Housing Authority, advocates, and activists as a context for the success of the ERDA model. Taylor decided to take a different approach. He says "If one voice cries, it can easily be ignored. If a thousand voices cry or speak, we can never be ignored." Not to be confrontational, but to work together with the NYC Housing Authority.
  • People make the mistake of looking back.
  • In a very personal conversation, Bishop Taylor discusses his early life and how it effected his future, and influenced his decisions.

This is Civil Self-Empowerment to break the cycle of poverty.

Related OurLIC Articles:

ERDA's Workforce Development Program Trains People, and Helps Place Them in Jobs

East River Development Alliance (ERDA) Workforce Development Program, Interview with Elizabeth Chominski, Business Accounts Manager. GO to Special Report

BulbAmerica: Innovation in Long Island City creates an eCommerce Success Story.

Long Island City's BulbAmerica talks to OurLIC about its growth and success with employees that come from the East River Development Alliance (ERDA) Workforce Development Program. Go to Special Report

Grand Opening of ERDA Federal Credit Union. An American Bandstand Event!

East River Development Alliance (ERDA), cuts the ribbon and celebrates its community by creating another tool to enable residents through effective, innovative resources and solutions. Go to Special Report

Full video interview with Bishop Mitchell Taylor, Founder of ERDA, is available You Have a Dream in six segments of approximately three to seventeen minutes each.

For questions, comments, and feedback please use our Optin Form or send an email about EDITORIAL PAGE to EDITORIAL PAGE.

Jerusalem: Still Relevant After 2000 Years

By Mayor Ed Koch. Ed Koch STANDS

Here's my advice on how Israel and the Palestinian Authority should proceed with their so-called "proximity" talks mediated by George Mitchell.

Instead of putting the hot-button issue of Jerusalem last on the agenda, the issue should be addressed first. If the Jerusalem question is solved, everything else should fall into place more easily.

I believe there is a way to keep Jerusalem unified. I am talking not only of the old walled city, which is a very small part of the city of Jerusalem, but the whole city, east, west, north and south.

All three major faiths see Jerusalem as special. It makes no sense to say it is more sacred to one group than another. But, we know that when Jordan controlled that city after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Jordanians made the old walled city of Jerusalem and the area called East Jerusalem "Judenrein," a Nazi term meaning "free of Jews."

The Jordanians destroyed every synagogue and residence in the Jewish quarter of the old walled city. They expelled its Jewish inhabitants to Israel and even destroyed parts of the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives using the ancient tombstones as building material for the Jordanian army's latrines.

In contrast, after Israel captured all of East Jerusalem, including the old walled city, during the 1967 Six-Day War, Arabs were permitted to remain and those of every religious and non-religious persuasion were given access to the whole city of Jerusalem, including the walled city with its holy places.

Jews now pray at the Western Wall, having been denied the right to do so during the 19 years of Jordanian rule. Christians have access to and control all of the ancient sites holy to them. Muslims continue praying at their two mosques built on the site where Solomon built and Herod rebuilt the Jewish Temple. Jerusalem has never been more accessible since the ancient days of the Kingdom of Judea when the city was the Jewish capital, having been so designated by King David who won it by defeating the Jebusites.

But reciting history does not solve the current problems facing the negotiators representing Israel and the Palestinian Authority in their newly begun indirect talks. Almost everyone believes Jerusalem must remain open to all. Can that continue to exist if both Israel and the Palestinians want their national capitals to be located in Jerusalem? The answer, I believe, is yes. East Jerusalem is now shared by Jews and Arabs. There are 280,000 Jews living in that part of Jerusalem, including in the old walled city.

My suggestion is to situate the new Palestinian capital in that part of East Jerusalem that is occupied overwhelmingly by Palestinians, allow the inhabitants of East Jerusalem -- Jews, Christians, Muslims and those living elsewhere in the city -- to pick the state to which to pledge their allegiance and to cast two votes -- one in municipal elections for one mayor to govern the entire city of Jerusalem, and a separate vote in national elections related to the Jewish and Palestinian states living peacefully side by side.

Jerusalem is now roughly two-thirds Jewish and one-third Muslim. The Christian population is about 2 percent. All under the proposal would be voting for a single city council and one mayor. Based on the current population, the mayor would be Jewish. If the demographics changed over the years in favor of the Muslims, a Muslim mayor could be elected.

New York City with its model of five borough presidents is a good model to emulate with Muslim and Jewish areas electing borough presidents to respond to the local needs of the inhabitants. If I could live and govern when I was mayor with Andy Stein as borough president of Manhattan, the mayor of Jerusalem can live and govern with a borough president elected in the Palestinian part of East Jerusalem.

As for the peace talks currently underway, I think that it is ridiculous that they are indirect, since heretofore, the talks were direct. Also, the fact that the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen, is unwilling to say he on behalf of his people recognizes the legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel is grounds for understandable suspicion on the part of the Israelis. What President Obama should do through Mr. Mitchell is ask that there be matching statements at the beginning of the talks and before the fate of Jerusalem is discussed, with Israel recognizing once again the need for a two-state solution, and the Palestinians publicly announcing in Arabic, Hebrew and English their acceptance of the Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace with a Muslim state.

For questions, comments, and feedback please use our Optin Form or send an email about Ed Koch STANDS to Ed Koch STANDS.

New York Uprising

By Mayor Ed Koch. Ed Koch STANDS

Thanks to your interest, support, and ideas, New York Uprising - the group I'm leading along with Henry Stern of NY Civic, Dick Dadey of Citizens Union, and others - has quickly become a strong voice in the statewide dialogue about the immediate need for reform.

Whether you came to the initial meeting at my office, or pulled me aside at an event to ask "How can I help?", or you are simply someone I respect as a fellow reform-minded leader: You have been our inspiration in these early stages, and remain the reason I am confident of our ultimate success.

Now I want to update you, among our earliest supporters, on some of the fast-moving progress we've made in recent weeks:

  • All four candidates for Governor (expected and declared) signed our pledge to support nonpartisan independent redistricting, and to veto any redistricting plan that does not bear that mandate.
  • Virtually every major paper in the state has reported on New York Uprising, and six major editorial boards have declared their support.
  • We are actively using new media tools like Facebook and Twitter to get our message out. Last week, I wrote my first "tweets"!
  • New York Uprising incorporated as a PAC.
  • I traveled to Albany with Dick Dadey and Henry Stern to testify before the Senate Committee on Government Operations, on behalf of New York Uprising.
  • We hired two staff members who will manage the effort on a day-to-day basis, Mark Botnick and Adam Riff. They are always available to you.

And be on the look-out for our immediate next steps:

  • We are inviting all candidates for State Legislature and US Congress in New York (including incumbents) to sign reform pledges.
  • We will launch a state-of-the-art website, and continue to aggressively and creatively pursue both new and traditional media opportunities.

Finally, I am pleased to report that initial seed funding for this effort is in hand. However, further funds are needed to make this campaign effective and to take advantage of this special time in our State's history.

I hope you will consider supporting my efforts and New York Uprising with a financial contribution.

Contributions are payable to "New York Uprising PAC" and may be mailed to the following (note contributions are not tax-deductible):

Jim Capalino, Treasurer
New York Uprising
233 Broadway, Suite 850
New York, NY 10279

Thank you in advance for your additional support. I am gratified to know we are in this together.

Please let me know if you have questions.


Mayor Edward I. Koch
Founder, New York Uprising

For questions, comments, and feedback please use our Optin Form or send an email about Ed Koch STANDS to Ed Koch STANDS.



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