Queens neighborhood begs for big banks

November 21, 2011 01:44PM

From left: Council member Ruben Wills, bank branch logos and a map of Richmond Hill

While the thought of another bank taking retail space is enough to make some Manhattan communities push to rezone their streets, one Queens neighborhood is begging a big bank to open in one of its storefronts.

Crain’s reported that the Richmond Hill community board and local City Council members Ruben Wills are pushing to designate the area a Banking Development District, which allows New York State to design programs, including reduced property taxes, to encourage banks to open branches there. The city already has 27 such districts.

Comprised of 30 blocks running along Altantic Avenue from the Van Wyck Expressway to 114th Street, Richmond Hill does not have a single bank branch. Its residents, largely of Indo-Caribbean and South Asian descent, and small business are serviced solely by check-cashing establishments such as Payday Loan and Check Cashing.

“I have to go 20 blocks to a Chase bank to do my banking,” said Michael Butler, president of the Richmond Hill East Business Persons, a non-profit that represents local businesses, and owner of several local companies. “We’ve been trying to get a bank here for years to this forgotten part of Richmond Hill.”

Crain’s speculates that the area is short on bank branches because its median income is just $35,000. [Crain’s]