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As NYC Banking Commission announces banks eligible to hold billions of public dollars, coalition urges City to redirect funds from Wall Street to a public bank
NEW YORK, NY – Today, members of the Public Bank NYC coalition rallied at a meeting of the NYC Banking Commission to call on the City of New York to divest from banks that harm New Yorkers and NYC neighborhoods, and to invest in communities through a public bank.
“Instead of being locked into relationships with Wall Street banks that drive gentrification, displacement and homelessness, NYC needs a public option,” said Scott Hutchins, member of Picture the Homeless. “We need a public bank that will invest in community needs, and be accountable to New York City residents—one that will prioritize housing, not warehousing, and not prey on low-income New Yorkers.”
In 2017, the City announced it was cutting ties with Wells Fargo, following public outcry over the bank’s fraudulent accounts scandal, investments in pipelines, and violations of indigenous rights. At today’s meeting, the Commission announced it had yet to completely divest from Wells Fargo and that it would renew the bank’s conditional designation — allowing it to hold City funds — for another two years.
“The Banking Commission has taken important steps to reduce the City’s business with Wells Fargo. At the same time, the City must go faster and further to ensure that public money works for the public good,” said Ali Issa, Coalition Organizer with New Economy Project. “That it has taken this long to divest from Wells Fargo demonstrates how embedded the big banks are in the City’s finances, and why we need a public option.”
With no opportunity for public comment or participation in Banking Commission meetings, coalition members gathered outside the meeting to speak out about the City’s current banking relationships. Representatives described how many of the City’s “designated banks” redline and extract wealth from people in neighborhoods of color and immigrant neighborhoods, and invest heavily in destructive industries, like fossil fuel extraction and private prisons.
“Even as climate science is telling us the world is burning, Wall Street banks are investing in fossil fuel extraction. We need a new system that puts people over profit,” said Tousif Ahsan, NYPIRG’s Civic Engagement Coordinator. “A Public Bank for NYC will allow us to get our public money out of banks that fund Big Oil and Gas and put it back into community-led, sustainable energy solutions.”
“Right now, the City of New York places public money on deposit with megabanks like Bank of America, which continue to invest billions in prisons and immigrant detention centers,” said Basma Eid, Program Coordinator with Freedom to Thrive. “With a public bank, we can divest from racist systems like the Prison Industrial Complex and invest in our communities’ liberation.”
“Unions are looking for ways to secure & invest their money in ways that advance the public good,” said Nancy Romer, Environmental Justice Working Group, PSC-CUNY, AFT 2334. “The Public Bank offers a way to stabilize our communities, support worker coops and invest in renewable energy. We are for it!”
Coalition members also spoke out about the potential of a public bank to make direct investments in deeply affordable housing, local infrastructure, and other critical community needs, and to partner with community development credit unions to expand affordable financial services in low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color throughout the City.
Public Bank NYC is a coalition of community, worker rights, environmental, and economic justice organizations that is calling for creation of a municipal public bank to help transform the local economy and fundamentally change the City’s approach to economic development. For more information, visit: publicbanknyc.org.