FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 3, 2020
NYC AND ROCHESTER COUNCIL MEMBERS JOIN 55 GROUPS
IN URGING ALBANY TO SUPPORT PUBLIC BANKS
Bold economic justice measure gains ground as dozens of NYS Legislators
endorse the “New York Public Banking Act”
Members of Public Bank NYC coalition call on the City to divest from Wall Street and establish a municipal public bank
Fifteen Members of the NYC Council delivered a letter last week urging the NYS Legislature to pass the New York Public Banking Act (S.5565-C/A.9665-D), a groundbreaking bill that creates a pathway for New York cities, counties and regions to form public banks—financial institutions established by local governments and chartered to serve the public interest.
The move comes on the heels of an emerging effort by members of the Rochester City Council to establish a municipal public bank, as well as a statewide push by 55 labor and community groups to win passage of the bill, as a matter of racial and economic justice.
“We need bold policies to rebuild New York City’s economy more equitably. A public bank would give us the power to invest in the sectors and organizations that will make our city greener, fairer, and more affordable,” said NYC Council Member Mark Levine. “That’s why I am proud to stand with my colleagues in support of the New York Public Banking Act.”
“The New York Public Banking Act would create a framework for Rochester to create its own municipal public bank, enabling us to take back our public dollars from Wall Street and leverage them to increase investments in housing, education, public transportation, our small business economy, green infrastructure, jobs training programs, worker cooperatives, and more—improving our quality of life by correcting the historic inequitable investment in our city,” said Rochester City Council Member Mary Lupien.
The bill, introduced by NYS Senator James Sanders, Jr. of Queens and NYS Assemblymember Thomas J. Abinanti of Westchester, authorizes the state’s banking regulator to issue special-purpose public bank charters to New York cities, counties and regions, making it easier for local governments to establish public banks.
Public banks would hold public deposits and leverage that money toward investments in permanently affordable housing, living-wage jobs, renewable energy, and more. They would also partner with local, community-based financial institutions to expand responsible lending and other financial services in historically-redlined communities of color.
“Our credit union strongly supports the New York Public Banking Act,” said Linda Levy of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union. “Public Banks would help increase the capacity of credit unions like ours to serve our members and communities, and guarantee that public money is used for the public good.”
Public banks are common throughout the world, from Costa Rica to Germany. Recently, the century-old Bank of North Dakota has been credited with helping North Dakota small businesses secure more Paycheck Protection Program funds, per capita, than small businesses in any other state. Last year, California enacted similar legislation to facilitate public banking at the local level.
“We need public banking in New York State. In a city like Buffalo—one of the nation’s poorest and most segregated—public banking would allow for the use of public funds for the public good, while providing a level of accountability to residents that speaks to community reinvestment needs beyond existing policies like the federal Community Reinvestment Act. The COVID-19 crisis has underscored how we desperately need bold policies, like public banking, to address the expanse of disinvestment across New York. In a time of financial instability, to keep our communities whole, public banking is a solution we should invest in,” said Kathryn Franco of the Western New York Law Center.
Momentum for the “New York Public Banking Act” has been growing within the NYS Legislature and across the state, with more than three dozen NYS Senators and Assemblymembers and 55 community, labor, cooperative, environmental and economic justice groups endorsing the bill in the last several weeks.
“If New York is going to recover from COVID-19 in a way that meaningfully addresses the racial and economic inequities that have exacerbated the crisis, we need to demand transformative ideas like public banking. What has groups so excited about this bill is that it can pave the way for ongoing investment in community-led development, good jobs, affordable housing, renewable energy, and much more, in communities all over New York State,” said Mike Sandmel of New Economy Project.