Flushing, NY – More than 50 Queens residents filled the Free Synagogue of Flushing Wednesday evening for a community forum on public banking, sponsored by NYS Assemblymember Ron T. Kim and the Public Bank NYC coalition. At the forum, speakers representing MinKwon Center for Community Action, New Economy Project, and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) discussed the New York Public Banking Act (S1762B/A8290A), proposed state legislation that would pave the way for New York City to establish a public bank.
“The truth is we have had different variations of public banking through public benefit corporations and authorities for decades, until our system was overwhelmed by the power of private capital and Wall Street,” said Assemblymember Kim, a supporter of the New York Public Banking Act. “Instead of allowing the ultra-wealthy to continue extracting profits from the public sector, it is time we unleash the power of public capital to build the necessary administrative capacity to keep our communities safe. Let’s activate the public sector and start building these essential public services.”
The New York Public Banking Act authorizes the state’s banking regulator to issue special purpose public banking charters to cities and counties that demonstrate safety and soundness, public accountability, and ethical and responsible governance. Through public banking, speakers emphasized, New York City could divest public money from banks that harm communities, and reinvest in historically-redlined Black, brown, and immigrant neighborhoods.
“There are many ways that big banks have harmed the undocumented population here in Flushing. By not accepting IDNYC, they have made it so that creating bank accounts and accessing credit are difficult for our undocumented community. We also have a high proportion of street vendors in Flushing, and instead of helping them secure small business loans to open storefronts, big banks have prioritized their wealthiest clients, leaving these hard working community members without support,” said Hailie Kim of the MinKwon Center for Community Action. “A public bank would allow this marginalized community to get access to bank accounts, credit, and help them start small businesses and thrive.”
The event was co-organized by members of Public Bank NYC, a broad coalition of community groups, labor unions, and community development financial institutions. The coalition is calling on Governor Hochul and the NYS Legislature to enact the New York Public Banking Act in the coming legislative session, as a vital strategy for addressing persistent banking inequality and building community wealth.
“A public bank will support small and worker-owned businesses, community land trusts and tenant-controlled housing, and other institutions that build wealth locally,” said Will Spisak of New Economy Project. “It would be the people’s bank, and by leveraging the city’s immense resources, it can partner with community credit unions to scale up services and reach more New Yorkers in historically-redlined communities of color and immigrant neighborhoods like Flushing, where low-income immigrant residents and small businesses are being displaced by luxury condos and global mega-chains.”
More than 90 state legislators and 150 organizations from across the state support the New York Public Banking Act. At the event, speakers urged attendees to contact their state representatives and let them know that in the face of multiple crises, bold solutions – like public banking – are needed more than ever.
“As a college student and a young person, climate change is a very important issue for me. It’s unconscionable that our tax dollars are deposited with Wall Street banks that invest in fossil fuel companies which exacerbate the climate crisis and increase carbon emissions,” said Edison Tian, a student with NYPIRG. “Queens, my home borough, was devastated by Hurricane Ida last year – a superstorm fueled by climate change. With a public bank, we could divest from Wall Street and finally put our public dollars to work building a green, sustainable future, including the development of solar cooperatives, reducing building emissions, and other renewable energy upgrades to our city.”