37th Assembly District
from Assemblywoman
Catherine Nolan
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan
Queensbridge finally gets bank
Amalgamated plans a branch for housing residents in an area of Long Island City long underserved
Newsday Staff Writer

July 13, 2006

Nearly 15,000 residents of the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City soon won’t have to waste money on transportation or check-cashing just to manage their finances.

By next January, Amalgamated Bank will open a branch on the corner of 21st Street and 36th Avenue in Long Island City near the Queensbridge and Ravenswood housing projects - an area underserved for years.

State and local officials hope the bank’s arrival will coincide with the creation of a Banking Development District to help the area’s economy.

Currently, there are no banks within a mile of Queensbridge Houses. Residents either use check-cashing services, take mass transportation to a bank or squirrel cash in mattresses.

”I think it will raise their whole attention around financing their savings and building their own financial structure,” said Borough President Helen Marshall.

On Monday, the Queens Borough Board unanimously approved a resolution to submit an application to the state Banking Department to create the Banking Development District.

The state-run program encourages banks to open in underserved areas by offering tax breaks as well as other incentives for state and local governments to open accounts.

Queens already has two such development districts, for New York Community Bank in Corona Heights and Carver Federal Savings in South Jamaica. Jim Fuchs, a spokesman for the New York State Banking Department, said it has not yet received Long Island City and Amalgamated’s application.

Derrick Cephas, president and chief executive of Amalgamated, said his bank will open even if the application is not approved. Amalgamated has signed the lease for the 21st Street building, he said.

City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Long Island City) and Assemb. Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) said they approached a number of banks about a Long Island City location. Nolan said she approached Amalgamated because of its reputation as a working-class and union bank. “I feel it’s an ideal fit since I chaired both the banking and labor committees,” she said.

The Rev. Mitchell Taylor, chairman of the East River Development Alliance, said a bank is the keystone to improving the economic culture of the area. He created alliance to assist residents in buying homes. Now they will have a chance to save for those homes. “A bank is the building block of economic mobility in any community,” he said.

Traci Stevens, 41, who lives in Queensbridge Houses with her husband and two children, said she may open an account with Amalgamated when it arrives.

Currently, she banks near her job in Manhattan. That proves inconvenient, especially on weekends. “A bank opening would provide all the right services,” she said. “Maybe those check-cashing places will become a thing of past.”