“Only in the Bronx,” says someone in the crowd, reflecting on the celebratory and lively July 19th press conference where people join on the ‘dance floor’ at Boricua College Plaza after a special dance performance by the Mexican folkloric dance company, Mazarte. Music, dancing, and a little Delicioso Coco accompanied the official launch of the Bronx People’s Federal Credit Union and the announcement of a permanent branch coming to the Bronx in 2023. The atmosphere was celebratory and festive, but the deep commitment and heartfelt passion held by the Bronx residents and community groups in attendance for financial inclusion, access, and growth was also in the air.
This announcement from the Bronx Financial Access Coalition, a partnership between UNHP, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, We Stay/Nos Quedamos, and Whedco, comes in the wake of banking and financial struggle in the Bronx. ( see the official press release here) Due to pandemic-related branch closures in an area that already houses the fewest bank branches in the state, as well as redlining and continued disinvestment in the Bronx, the need for better financial services is great. In the vacuum created by the loss of traditional banks, the Bronx is populated by check cashers, pawn shops, and costly financial services and contains the highest number of these predatory financial services in New York state. The establishment of a Bronx People’s Federal Credit Union in association with the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, as explained in the press release from BxFAC, marks a step toward providing our Bronx community with affordable and wealth-building financial services. UNHP has a long history of community-based work on redlining and reinvestment; our Director worked for the NWBCCC reinvestment project in the 70s when disinvestment and bank closures were widespread. Read a bit about our history on these issues here. Given the history of redlining and disinvestment in the Bronx, the news of another Bronx bank closing, this time a Sterling bank branch, hit like a punch to the stomach.
Webster Bank is the premier sponsor and corporate partner for the project, fulfilling its promise to fund a community credit union to expand financial opportunities for Bronx residents. When Sterling Bank (now merged into Webster Bank) closed a local branch, The Bronx Financial Access Coalition was able to negotiate with Webster Bank to fund the effort in order to ameliorate the loss of the branch and support affordable accessible financial products through the Credit Union for Bronx residents.
Jumelia Abrahamson, UNHP’s Director of the Northwest Bronx Resource Center and board member of the LES People’s Credit Union, explains what it will mean for Bronx locals to have access to a credit union and how the support of Webster Bank has afforded this opportunity. “We are grateful to the bank for listening to us and acknowledging the collective expertise in our own neighborhoods. Our conversations have been many, and at times difficult, but they are guided by a mutual commitment and understanding. We negotiated a strong agreement with the Bank that seeks to make up for the harm done by the recent branch closing. We believe that their investment in our efforts will impact the banking game in the Bronx by bringing access to affordable and solid banking to neighborhoods beyond the largest commercial districts, and in particular, for residents who feel they don’t need, trust, or could afford mainstream products and lending. By merging literacy and products, BxFAC is making it easier for low-income and immigrant families to avoid check cashing fees, to apply for credit and improve their score no matter their immigration status, and for new entrepreneurs to open business accounts.”
Although the Bronx People’s Federal Credit Union officially launched on July 19th, UNHP has been advocating for financial services and organizing with the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union for some time. Jumelia Abrahamson has been involved in many initiatives to address the lack of sufficient banking services in the Bronx such as being a panelist for ANHD’s 8th Annual Community Development Conference about Access to Financial Services for Immigrant Populations, hosting UNHP’s “Ask the Banker” event, and providing monthly bilingual sessions to answer questions and share tools and opportunities for financial stability and growth. UNHP has scheduled the Credit Union Mobile Van days at UNHP spots twice a month. The Bronx People’s Credit Union Van and its experienced LESPeople’s CU staff offer in-person registration to become a member and the opportunity to ask questions about the perks of joining the credit union with a financial professional. Many of the days have been extremely successful, especially the event on June 24th, where the van came to Part of the Solution in association with UNHP, and saw a total of 13 new members enroll in the credit union!
As we await a brick-and-mortar BPFCU, mobile van services will still be available throughout the Bronx thanks to the member groups of the BxFAC, and LESPFCU, 8/4 at 45 West Tremont between 10 am-3 pm, and 8/11 at Concourse House, 2751 Grand Concourse between 10 am-3 pm. Check out our calendar to stay up to date on these events. The mobile branch van is able to come to neighborhoods throughout the Bronx for special events by visiting,https://bronxfinancialaccess.nyc/. Organizations other than UNHP can also become “select partner groups” and create a regular bi-weekly or monthly schedule for the mobile branch as well. Please visit or sign up if you’re interested in seeing affordable financial solutions in the Bronx.
A big thank you to Webster Bank, the Members of the Bronx Financial Access Coalition, and the LES People’s Credit Union! Thank you to everyone who attended the launch of the Bronx People’s Mobile Credit Union Branch and made this day possible especially:
- Emcee: Sonyi Lopez (BronxNet Community Television)
- MazArte Musical Performance
- Karina Saltman, Kara Manners, Vladimer Ortega and Marissa Weidner (Webster Bank)
- Eddie Pagan, Ana Vicente and Jessica Clemente (Nos Quedamos)
- Kerry McLean, Yesmin Vega and Amarfis Olivares (WHEDco)
- Felix (Delicioso Coco)
- Barika X. Williams, Jaime Weisberg and Will Depoo (ANHD)
- Mike Sandmel (New Economy Project)
- Greg Jost, Jordy Rojas and Sonya Ferguson (Banana Kelly)
- Aissatou Barry-Fall, Alicia Portada, Ayasilis Nunez, Tyler D’aquino, Linda Levy and Jorge Vasquez (LESPFCU)
** Photo Credit - Daniel Ynfante (WHEDco) and Edwin Pagan (Nos Quedamos)**