9/23/2020

Local Electeds, Groups, Call for Public Bank to Strengthen NYC Neighborhoods, Advance Racial and Economic Justice in Wake of Pandemic

New NYC Council legislation paves way for public banking, requires City to disclose billions of public dollars on deposit with Wall St. banks

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** Wednesday, September 23rd, 12:00pm 
Contact: Andy Morrison 716-308-2265 // andy@neweconomynyc.org

 

Click here to view a recording of today's news conference.

NEW YORK, NY - Today, a citywide coalition of labor and community groups and community-based financial institutions joined with NYS Senators, Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, and NYC Council Members to call for the creation of a public bank in NYC.

At the event, speakers urged the city to advance bold, transformative solutions to address deepening inequality brought on by the COVID-19 crisis. Public banking, they said, would allow NYC to leverage billions of dollars in public money and reinvest it in local economic development, including small and worker-owned businesses, affordable housing, and more.

NYC Council Member Mark Levine also introduced first-in-the-nation legislation requiring NYC to provide the public with a quarterly summary of NYC's bank account activity, bond issuances, and other municipal financial services—a critical first step toward creating a public bank. The bills, Introductions 2099 and 2100, are part of a suite of bills now being developed to establish the country's first municipal bank.

"We are fighting for a public bank as part of a broader effort to fundamentally transform our unfair, extractive economy," said Deyanira Del Rio, co-director of New Economy Project, which coordinates the Public Bank NYC coalition. "Through a public bank, New York City can support permanently-affordable housing, small and worker-owned businesses, green infrastructure, and other equitable development in black and brown neighborhoods—and divest from Wall Street banks that are actively harming New Yorkers, our economy, and the planet."

Currently, NYC places its cash on deposit with 30 "designated banks," which include JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and other Wall Street megabanks.

"Last year over $100 billion flowed through the City's budget; this is New Yorkers' money which was raised from taxes, state and federal aid, or other parts of the revenue budget," said NYC Council Member Mark Levine at an online press conference introducing the bills. "A public bank would be accountable not to shareholders but to the people of this city, and would be a vehicle for reinvesting in the local communities that the mainstream banking system has too often locked out and left behind. We need to know: where is our money now going? To what extent is it going to institutions that are investing in ways that are inconsistent with our city's goals and values?"

"We need to replace a system built on greed & inequity that has hurt so many people," said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. "As we recover from the pandemic we need bold ideas like a public bank that meet the moment. We can't try to return to a normal that didn't work for the majority of people."

Speakers underscored the central role that many of the city's banks play in financing fossil fuels, real estate speculation, and other destructive industries — fueling the climate crisis, tenant harassment and displacement, and widening inequality.

These same banks, groups explained, have for decades systematically deprived New Yorkers and NYC neighborhoods of color of fair access to financial services, loans and investments. A public bank would partner with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to channel capital and high-quality, affordable financial services to historically redlined neighborhoods, to support small businesses, affordable housing and other critical needs.

"By partnering with—and investing in—CDFIs, the public bank would increase their capacity to expand to even more communities and provide funding to worker-owned businesses and MWBEs that have been hardest hit by the pandemic," said Linda Levy of the Lower East Side People's Federal Credit Union.

A NYC Public Bank could also catalyze a post-pandemic recovery in New York City.

"COVID-19 revealed and exacerbated profound inequalities in our city and the broader society. We have an obligation to build back in a way that directly addresses this inequality. We need bold strategies to make this possible," said Council Member Levine. "Creating a public bank would give our city a powerful new tool to bring about a just recovery, and to supercharge investment in the people and projects which for too long have been left behind by our financial system."

"A public bank would allow us to finance truly affordable housing, real community development, worker-owned businesses, clean energy—the things our communities need to be resilient in the face of multiple crises," said NYC Council Member Carlina Rivera.

"As we work to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, we must invest in rebuilding a much more just, equitable and sustainable economy. A municipal public bank would be a powerful tool to ensure that our public funds are not being used to fund fossil fuels or predatory housing loans, but instead are going to the resilience infrastructure, affordable housing, renewable energy, and local, green jobs that our communities need," said NYC Council Member Brad Lander. "Intros. 2099 and 2100, introduced by my colleague Council Member Levine, would help us take an important step forward to give New Yorkers a better picture of where our public dollars are and how they are being used." 

"As New York City tackles our economic crisis, this is a good time to examine our city's financial decisions and consider a public bank," said NYC Council Member Keith Powers. "A public bank provides the opportunity to reduce costs to the city in fees, offer more opportunity to underserved areas, and to fund public infrastructure, amongst other benefits. It also becomes necessary as the city explores new revenue streams that may be currently unbankable. Thanks to Council Member Levine for his leadership—I'm proud to partner with him on this effort." 

"The current unprecedented economic and public health crisis demands us to champion bold, creative policies to undo the history of inequity that has hurt marginalized communities for too long," said NYC Council Member Margaret Chin. "This package of legislation provides a unique opportunity for New York City to rewrite the rules that govern our economy, and create more tools to expand affordable housing, finance community land trusts, and reinvest in programs that will uplift more New Yorkers."

"For far too long, our reliance on Wall Street has allowed the rise of deep inequities in our city," said Hae-Lin Choi, Political Director, Communication Workers of America District One. "The creation of a public bank would be a critical step forward in New York City's recovery from the COVID-19 economic crisis, allowing us to reinvest billions into communities, create affordable housing, support small businesses and ensure good jobs with living wages. New Yorkers need and deserve public financial institutions whose missions are centered around people—not profit."

"As members of the East New York CLT, we are looking for pathways to ensure that we can acquire and develop deeply affordable housing for the public. The establishment of a public bank is an integral pathway," said Boris Santos of East New York Community Land Trust. "Although today's bills being introduced by Council Member Mark Levine do not establish a public bank, they are a step in the right direction in getting us to do so and in continuing the public banking conversation. We look forward to continuing the fight for a public bank in NYC." 

"When Wall Street teams up with fossil fuel corporations to protect their own interests, it's people of color, here in New York City and around the world, who suffer the most," said Juvanie Piquant, CUNY College of Technology student and NYPIRG Board of Directors member. "We need to create a Public Bank to divest from Wall Street and to make sure that frontline communities are prioritized during the recovery."

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