• Sam Wood Jr

The Community Board 8 Economic Development Committee scheduled a virtual meeting for November 10, 2020, the first in several months. The main agenda item was a Banking Development District proposal by Popular Bank. As the presentation began, I quickly recognized the importance of the Popular Bank proposal and the need for the public and local business owners to support the implementation of the program in the CB8 district.

Approximately 16 participants were logged into the EDC virtual meeting while Popular Bank representatives shared a PowerPoint presentation. Popular Bank is encouraged to establish a Banking Development District (BDD), but cannot without the approval of the Community Board and Brooklyn Borough President. The bank representatives spoke of the program's prior success in other New York City neighborhoods, and emphasized their dedication to establishing the program in Crown Heights. The New York City Department of Finance approaches banks in underserved communities to establish Banking Development Districts. The local banking institution would then actively engage local residents, small business owners, and neighborhood civic organizations to expand financial literacy workshops, bolster community development through an increase in home ownership lending, and bolster economic development by providing support to small businesses. Popular Bank would partner with the Community Board to establish goals for residents and business owners. The Department of Finance would then periodically review the progress in the Crown Heights district to ensure goals are aligned and support is consistent.

The general goal of the BDD is to enhance access for consumers to banking services and promote local economic development. By providing a broad range of bilingual financial education workshops, residents would be able to increase their credit. By expanding affordability and accessibility to banking services and products, low cost deposits would become available at the Popular Bank branch on Eastern Parkway and Nostrand Avenue. By increasing consumer and small business lending, mortgages and small dollar loans would become available to future homeowners and small business merchants. Popular Bank would also provide a dedicated marketing plan for the district to consistently communicate the availability of such products, services and education sessions. The bank will provide donations, grants to and actively participate in community organizations within serving the BDD that have community development as part of their mission.

In 2019, Popular Bank participated in 317 New York Metro events with 420 employees volunteering a total of 625 hours. They sponsored over $500,000 in grants and charity sponsorships over the past 3 years. Their Financial Education program was developed to promote the economic well-being of the communities they serve and their local branches host a variety of financial literacy sessions, career fairs, and career day panel and banking events.

Pending Community Board 8 approval, it would still be several months for the Banking Development District to be established in the Crown Heights neighborhood. This is an ideal opportunity for older established community organizations like the Crown Heights North Association, and newer organizations like Nostrand Bar and Restaurant to provide feedback to the CB8 and Popular Bank representatives regarding the current needs and future goals of residents and business owners. Our Crown Heights community still needs to endure the upcoming Covid-19 winter months, but with our civic minded approach and planning, we can ensure residents and businesses flourish when the pandemic ultimately ends.