Have you noticed that aside from the fact that we see a bank on every other corner in our neighborhood these banks are invisible when it comes to supporting any of our community activities? They are basically the anchors of all our business districts yet they stay uninvolved in the everyday life of the neighborhood only emerging for some superficial event. How and why does that occur? One of the reasons is that we’ve come to expect nothing from them and they don’t disappoint. They are in the business of making money and will go to whatever ends to achieve that goal.
There are a total of nine banks on the business strips of Metropolitan Avenue and that includes the two on Eliot Avenue. The banks are Chase with three, TD Bank and Cross County Federal Savings with 2 branches each and Astoria Federal and Capital One with one each.
It didn’t go unnoticed that this past holiday season we had no holiday lights on Metropolitan Avenue or Eliot Avenue. The speculation for the reason was because the merchants were struggling in a tough economy. The visual of no holiday lights on the business strips was particularly depressing, particularly when you saw the bright lights in the other communities. Where were the nine banks? Why didn’t they get into the spirit of the holidays, take the initiative and get those holiday lights on?
To be fair, we know that the banks were struggling too but mainly because they got a little sloppy with their investments. JP Morgan Chase, by far the largest bank in the group, needed $25 billion of our tax moneys through the TARP program (Troubled Assets Relief Program). They have since paid back that money but it was our tax moneys that got them through a rough time. It has been reported that the banks took the TARP money and ran off with it paying lobbyists big fees to make sure they, the banks, got “user friendly” legislation from our elected officials as our country went forward in a new economy. The depositors got the perfunctory toaster and increased banking fees!
The JPCA has been very generous with the new Chase branch on Eliot Avenue and 74th Street. We’ve given them good face at our meetings and we even posted a story about their opening on our website. Chase Bank should be more than a picture in the Juniper Berry. All nine banks doing business in our community need to become more visible in sponsoring various events in the neighborhood, such as lighting up our business districts at holiday time, sponsoring the very popular and well- attended concerts in the park, and wouldn’t it be friendly if every so often they had a liaison at our JPCA town meetings where we usually have hundreds of their customers in attendance?
This editorial is a wake-up call to the banks that they should be giving back to the folks who support them. We need more substantive contact with them than the photo op at their ribbon cutting ceremonies. We definitely don’t need ever increasing fees to do business with them and they should lose the toasters! Most of all we don’t need them in our face at every other corner if they can’t be involved in our everyday community life. They can start by making a collaborative effort with the merchants and the Chamber of Commerce in Middle Village to perk up Metropolitan Avenue, which is in a downward spiral, with vacancies and dirty looking stores, a sad sign of the times in America.