FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 3/3/2023
Comptroller, Public Advocate, Borough Presidents, Council Members,
Groups Call on Albany to Clear Way for NYC Public Bank
Comptroller, Public Advocate, Borough Presidents, Council Members, Groups Call on Albany to Clear Way for NYC Public Bank
100+ Local Elected Officials Delivered Letter to Governor and Legislative Leaders,
Urging New York to Enact the New York Public Banking Act
NEW YORK, NY – Today, elected officials, including City Comptroller Brand Lander, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, and members of the City Council, joined the Public Bank NYC coalition for a spirited press conference calling on the state to enact legislation opening the way for public banking in New York City.
The press conference coincided with the release of a letter, from more than 100 local elected officials from 33 cities and counties across New York State, to Governor Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, urging enactment of the “New York Public Banking Act” (S1754/A3352) – legislation that would create a safe and appropriate regulatory framework for local public banking.
The move reflects rapidly growing statewide enthusiasm for creating local public banks, financial institutions created by local governments and chartered to serve the public interest. The New York Public Banking Act has broad support in both the NYS Senate and Assembly, but advocates charge that the banking lobby has thus far prevented the bill from coming to a vote.
In their letter, local elected officials urged state lawmakers to give “local governments a powerful new tool to spur truly inclusive local economic development and help address long-standing inequalities that the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated and exacerbated.”
The press conference came on the heels of new measures by Mayor Eric Adams and Comptroller Lander to hold banks with which the city does business “more accountable to the public.” Currently, just three big banks – Bank of America, Citi, and JPMorgan Chase – hold the vast majority of New York City’s deposits. The City Council also is taking action, with proposed legislation, supported by a supermajority of Council Members, that lays groundwork for a public bank.
At the press conference, speakers emphasized how a public bank would enable the city to divest public money from banks that harm New Yorkers and NYC neighborhoods, and reinvest in affordable housing, green jobs, equitable financial services, renewable energy, and other critical needs in historically-redlined Black and brown communities.
Signatories to the letter collectively represent millions of New Yorkers and include Comptroller Lander and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens Borough Presidents; more than three-quarters of the NYC Council; the entirety of the Rochester City Council; The Albany City Treasurer and Chief City Auditor; the Chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators; the Mayors of Hudson, Kingston, and North Tonawanda; and a wide range of other local lawmakers from all corners of the state. Local lawmakers and public banking advocates in Rochester held a simultaneous press conference on Friday.
“Embracing New York’s reputation as a center for prosperity and opportunity requires addressing financial inequities facing communities of color. A history of discriminatory banking policies have left low-income New Yorkers struggling to build credit and receive loans. Albany can act now to establish public banking opportunities so that all communities have the path to build wealth and achieve the prosperity that New York promises,” said Comptroller Brad Lander.
“The time has come for New York State to establish public banks,” said State Senate Banks Committee Chair James Sanders Jr., lead sponsor of the New York Public Banking Act in the NYS Senate. “A public bank would result in less expensive financing for infrastructure, affordable housing, economic development, environmental protection, small businesses, including Minority and Women-Owned Enterprises (MWBEs), and many other worthy projects in the public interest. Since taxpayers will save funds with public banks, it makes sense. Everyone benefits from public banks.”
“Establishing a public bank will improve the lives of New Yorkers. Public banks are a proven way to build community wealth and fund vital, mission-driven projects while remaining accountable to the public. I urge the State Legislature to pass the NY Public Banking Act,” said Council Member Keith Powers, lead sponsor of public banking-related legislation in the NYC Council.
“The message is clear: From Western New York to New York City and Long Island, local governments across the state are ready to move forward on public banking, enabling them to divest public money from big banks and reinvest in historically-redlined communities of color,” said Mike Sandmel of New Economy Project, which coordinates the Public Bank NYC coalition. “The New York Public Banking Act will create a safe and appropriate regulatory framework that paves the way for cities and counties to do just that. With over 100 local elected officials from every corner of the state endorsing the New York Public Banking Act, Albany must heed their voices and pass the bill this session.”
“Recent uncertainty about the direction of the economy has made it more imperative than ever to act boldly to raise the standard of living of all New Yorkers, including those who have been underserved by traditional financial institutions,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “The creation of public banks would strengthen the economy and address the persistent inequalities that make achieving financial independence more difficult for working people in Queens and throughout New York State That’s why the Legislature should pass and the Governor should sign the New York Public Banking Act, which would create a fantastic new tool that would help increase prosperity all across New York.”
“Time and time again, big, private banks have shown us they are willing to overlook fairness, ethics, and the interests of the people they serve in pursuit of profit,” said City Council Finance Chair Justin Brannan. “In New York, we live with them anyway because we don’t have any other choice. But public banking has delivered financial services geared towards the public good and people’s real needs in communities across the world – even in the ‘red state’ of North Dakota. It’s a no-brainer: public banking works, and New Yorkers deserve the chance to have it work for them.”
“Achieving financial justice and generational wealth-building for Black and Brown communities requires our city to create pathways that address systemic disparities,” said Council Member Kevin C. Riley. “Corporate banks have historically marginalized and disinvested from our people. It is time that we encourage local economic development and support the movement for public banking in New York, which invests money directly back into the community. I encourage my colleagues in government to stand behind this opportunity to hold big banks accountable and reimagine the banking system to center the needs of our constituents, especially in underserved communities like The Bronx.”
“Each year, New York City moves tens of billions of taxpayer dollars through Wall Street banks, which profit from redlining, private prisons, and climate destruction,” said Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs, Council Members Shahana Hanif & Lincoln Restler, and Vice-Chairs, Carmen De La Rosa & Jennifer Gutiérrez.“The Progressive Caucus is proud to support the call for public banking in New York. Allowing the City to move municipal funds out of predatory financial institutions and into a publicly accountable and publicly owned financial entity is essential to building a just, equitable City.”
“The New York Public Banking Act can help foster growth, innovation, and economic mobility within our communities,” said Council Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala. “It can open the doors for investments in affordable housing and small businesses; we have an opportunity here to provide local governments with the resources they need to grow economically and I hope that our state partners see that.”
“There is no reason we should keep banking with the massive Wall Street firms that we continually discover have ripped off and discriminated against everyday New Yorkers, and which continue to bankroll destructive industries like fossil fuels and gun manufacturing – especially when we could form a public bank that is accountable to our communities, our environment, and our principles of fairness and transparency,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán. “With broad consensus around this issue in places like NYC, it’s past time for Albany to pass the New York Public Banking Act and pave the way for us to take action locally”
“I am honored to support the New York Public Banking Act. Once passed, this bill will promote financial inclusion and support economic development, while also giving access to financial services to those who lack the resources,” said Council Member Nantasha Williams. “This is especially important to me because many of my constituents are low to moderate income, small business owners within marginalized communities.”
“A public bank would allow us to invest in historically under-served communities, truly affordable housing, real community development, worker-owned businesses, clean energy, and policies and initiatives which advance opportunity and equity. The New York Public Banking Act would facilitate critical investments in local economic development, building upon our capacity to withstand future crises. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the State legislature and Governor to enact this important legislation,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.
“The time for New York City to break free from its dependency on the big banks is now,” said Council Member Alexa Avilés. “Not only do Wall Street banks channel our deposits towards destructive corporate interests that work against the public good, they charge us for the service. Instead, with a public bank, we can finally put our money in a public institution that is accountable to the people and that invests in our needs and our communities.”
“The letter released today from over 100 elected officials shows there is strong grassroots support across the state to pass the New York Public Banking Act,” says Kyle Giller, staff attorney at NYPIRG. “It’s unconscionable that our tax dollars are deposited with Wall Street banks that invest in fossil fuel companies, exacerbating the climate crisis and increasing carbon emissions. With a public bank, we could divest from Wall Street and finally put our public dollars to work building a green, sustainable future, including the development of solar co-operatives, reducing building emissions, and other renewable energy upgrades to our city.”
“Through this framework, we can move our communities toward a restorative framework for public investments,”said Council Member Shahana Hanif. “I’m proud to join dozens of elected officials from across the state to call on Albany to pass the New York Public Banking Act (S1754/A3352) this year. We need public banking to fully recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19 and ensure our communities are made whole again.”
“A Public Bank in New York City would ensure our tax dollars are putting money to work for the public good,” said Council Member Lincoln Restler. “We can invest in our communities to create deeply affordable housing, renewable energy projects, good jobs, and so much more.”
“Public banking has the potential to create meaningful economic opportunity and growth, reinvest in local communities, and support financial inclusion,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez. “The Public Banking Act will further the cause of financial justice – a more democratic and equitable financial system that serves the needs of all people, not just a privileged few.”