1,000+ New Yorkers Gather for Urgent Town Hall Calling for
Public Banking to Ensure a Just COVID-19 Recovery
NEW YORK, NY – Yesterday, a broad coalition of community, labor, cooperative, environmental and economic justice groups convened a virtual town hall highlighting public banking as an essential strategy for ensuring a just COVID-19 recovery. The timely event, entitled “From Crisis to Recovery: NY’s Fight for Public Banking,” engaged more than 1,000 New Yorkers and featured presentations by NYC-based movement leaders and guest Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson.
Click here to view a livestream of the event.
At the town hall, members of the Public Bank NYC coalition underscored the need for public banks to support public divestment from Wall Street banks – and investment in cooperative, neighborhood-led development to stabilize and strengthen communities hardest-hit by COVID-19.
New Yorkers also took action, as the coalition launched a new statewide petition and announced a call-in day, during which New Yorkers will press their state legislators to enact the “New York Public Banking Act,” sponsored by NYS Senator James Sanders, Jr. and Assemblymember Thomas J. Abinanti.
During the town hall, coalition members unveiled a new analysis of how the City of New York’s designated banks are maximizing profits during the global pandemic. The “COVID-19 Scorecard” shines a light on how the City’s top banks are shutting out small businesses from emergency relief funds, continuing to charge predatory overdraft fees, doubling down on oil and gas investments, and backing lobbying efforts to undermine the COVID-19 crisis response. Through public banking, advocates said, local governments can cut ties with banks that systematically harm New Yorkers and their communities.
Presenters representing community land trusts, worker-owned businesses, financial cooperatives, and member-led grassroots groups described ways that public banks could invest in neighborhood-led development -- to expand deeply-affordable housing, worker ownership, community-controlled renewable energy, fair banking, and other critical community needs.
"Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wall St. continues to prioritize profits over people. From financing landlords who displace tenants to ramping up funding of the fossil fuel industry, Wall St. banks are doubling down on their destructive investments instead of supporting our communities. That's why now, more than ever, we need to fight for a public bank so that we can take back control of our money and create an economy that puts people above profit," said Britney Soogrim, Queens College student and member of NYPIRG.
“The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated and further exposed the deep inequality in our economy, and Wall Street banks are the engine of this exploitative system. Even in this moment, they continue to prioritize corporate profits over the health and well-being of communities, especially the black, indigenous, and Latinx communities hit hardest by this pandemic. It has never been more clear that we need to transform our economy to one that is people-powered. It has never been more clear that we need a public bank to invest in the public good,” said Juleon Robinson of New Economy Project.
“We are working to create a public bank so that public money goes to the public good, investing in New York City communities instead of fossil fuels, oil pipelines, and housing for the rich. The public bank will build the capacity of community development credit unions and other CDFIs, to enable them to provide affordable financial services and loans in the communities that need them most,” said Linda Levy of Lower East Side People’s FCU.
“Wall Street banks systematically extract wealth from neighborhoods of color; bankroll fossil fuel infrastructure; and finance landlords that evict large numbers of tenants. This business was deeply harmful before, and now, during a global pandemic, leads directly to devastating health outcomes. Through public banking, we can dismantle entrenched financial and political power for the benefit of communities of color, immigrant communities, and working class people,” said Jamie Tyberg of New York Communities for Change.
"The actions of privately-owned banks and other financial institutions have made the COVID crisis far worse for the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean (SAIC) communities . Whether they are being rigid with forbearance programs for homeowners, or harming residential and commercial tenants with their predatory equity practices, it's clear that privately-owned banks are putting profits over people and causing displacement. The need for a public bank has never been clearer. A public bank would support affordable housing development and provide funding to community land trusts, which would reduce displacement in SAIC communities across New York City by keeping homes in these communities affordable,” said Gurpreet Singh, Organizer at Chhaya CDC.
“Public banks are needed because private banks have only worsened economic inequality, and have failed communities of color. Black homeownership rates are actually lower today than they were 60 years ago. Private banks have financed speculation and displacement in low/moderate income communities. Public banks can be held accountable, and can help close the wealth gap in America," said Steve Herrick, Executive Director of Cooper Square Committee.
“Wall St. banks have continued to fund the fossil fuel industry resulting in the climate emergency. Through a public bank that is controlled by the people, rather than by corporate executives, we can move our money out of major financial institutions and fully divest from the fossil fuel industry and instead invest in clean sustainable energy,” said Matthew Hauser of Sunrise NYC.
"There are certain things that are essential for the survival of human beings, such as food, shelter and access to medical assistance. Wall Street should not be allowed to manipulate the prices of these services just to make more money that will not remain in the community. Local government should play a role in helping money stay within the community of the people who generate it to help businesses thrive,” said Carmen Guzman of West Side Neighborhood Alliance.
“Now, more than ever, we need to invest in our public institutions to steward us through transformative changes with equity. A public bank will be a critical lever for that stewardship,” said Rebecca Lurie of Community and Worker Ownership Project and CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.
For more information about Public Bank NYC, please visit publicbanknyc.org.