CITY COUNCIL HOLDS HEARING ON CREATING A NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC BANK
The City Council Committee on Finance considered a comprehensive package of legislation to lay the foundation for creation of a New York City public bank.
The New York City Council Committee on Finance held a hearing today on a series of bills, collectively dubbed “The People’s Bank Act,” to create a public bank in New York City. A public bank will enable the city to leverage its immense financial resources toward advancing economic security and shared prosperity for all New Yorkers. Public banks around the world, including the century-old Bank of North Dakota, have a strong track record of making equitable investments, providing high-quality financial services to underserved neighborhoods, and building community wealth.
This year, the City of New York will collect more than $100 billion in revenue, from taxes and other sources, to fund public services. Currently, this money is placed on deposit with large commercial banks that fail to equitably serve all New Yorkers and that provide trillions of dollars in financing to harmful industries like fossil fuels and gun manufacturing. At the hearing, supporters expressed a shared vision of moving these deposits to a public bank which would invest in permanently affordable housing, living-wage jobs, community-owned clean energy, and other local needs.
The Committee on Finance took an important step today in bringing public banking to New York City by considering four bills sponsored by City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers.
Introduction 999 creates an implementation plan for a public bank. It establishes a task force to immediately get to work on preparing a business plan and other charter requirements for a municipal public bank.
Introduction 499 will require the Director of Management and Budget to issue to the Speaker of the Council, and to post on the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) website, quarterly reports on the City’s use of non-depository financial institutions. Such reports would detail the fees and returns for a wide variety of financial services but would exclude pension investments.
Introduction 498 will require the Commissioner of Finance to issue quarterly summaries of the City’s accounts with depository financial institutions, including account balances and fees charged. This data has historically been made available to the public only through Freedom of Information Law requests. Together, Introductions 498 and 499 will enable New Yorkers to assess the scale of deposits available to a public bank and work to increase transparency and accountability.
Resolution 203 calls on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, the New York Public Banking Act (S1754/A3352), which would create a statewide regulatory framework for local public banking – making it easier for New York City and other local governments to establish public banks.
“I am proud to sponsor a slate of bills that will create the foundation for a New York City public bank while also increasing transparency and accountability,” said City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. “A public bank will expand access to high-quality financial services in historically underserved neighborhoods, promote economic security, and build community wealth.”
Ahead of the hearing, the Public Bank NYC Coalition, made up of over 50 community and labor groups, rallied in support of the bills and urged speedy passage by the committee and the full City Council.
“Amid the sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank and ongoing turmoil in the financial sector, ‘The People’s Bank Act’ is needed more than ever,” said Tousif Ahsan of New Economy Project, which coordinates the Public Bank NYC coalition. “Through public banking, the City can responsibly steward our public dollars while investing in permanently affordable housing, small and worker-owned businesses, community solar, and other cooperative and community-led wealth-building initiatives in historically-redlined Black and brown neighborhoods.”
“A Public Bank in New York City would ensure our tax dollars are being put to work for the public good,” said City Council Member Lincoln Restler. “We can invest in our communities through Public Banks to create deeply affordable housing, renewable energy projects, good jobs, and so much more.”
“In efforts to create a more equitable city for our New Yorkers, it is imperative that we create awareness about the issues facing our society. One major area of concern in our city is its finances and distribution. Presently, taxpayer dollars are dispersed to large financial institutions that unjustly serve our communities. By creating a public bank, our city will see significant changes. There will be more room for transparency amongst how the money is being utilized, opportunity for the underserved communities in our city to receive better quality and access to resources, and ultimately build wealth for our communities. Through research, it has been proven that public banking has positive effects in other communities and I am hopeful that it will have the same effect for our New Yorkers,” said City Council Member Nantasha Williams.
“The introduction of these bills is a crucial step towards a more transparent, accountable, and equitable financial system for our city,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “By requiring the disclosure of financial relationships with banks and pushing for the New York Public Banking Act, we are advocating for a future where public funding is directed towards advancing social justice, supporting affordable housing, and promoting renewable energy projects. A municipal public bank will offer increased access to capital for communities that have long been overlooked, strengthening the economic fabric of our city as we continue to recover and build a more inclusive New York.”
“There is no reason we should keep banking with the massive Wall Street firms that we continually discover have ripped off and discriminated against everyday New Yorkers, and which continue to bankroll destructive industries like fossil fuels and gun manufacturing – especially when we could form a public bank that is accountable to our communities, our environment, and our principles of fairness and transparency,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán.
“A public bank would allow us to invest in historically under-served communities, truly affordable housing, real community development, worker-owned businesses, clean energy, and policies and initiatives which advance opportunity and equity. The People’s Bank Act would facilitate critical investments in local economic development, bolstering communities today and building upon our capacity to withstand future crises. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Council to pass this meaningful legislation, and urge the State legislature to pass and the Governor to sign the New York Public Banking Act which would create a statewide regulatory framework for local public banking,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-02).
“As a college student and a young person, climate change is a very important issue for me,” said Edison Tian, NYPIRG member and City College student. “It’s unconscionable that our tax dollars are deposited with Wall Street banks that invest in fossil fuel companies, exacerbating the climate crisis and increasing carbon emissions. Queens, my home borough, was devastated by Hurricane Ida in 2021 – 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 co-operatives, reducing building emissions, and other renewable energy upgrades to our city.”
“I am proud to support Majority Leader Keith Power’s ‘The People’s Bank Act’ as the Council continues to push for the establishment of a public bank for New Yorkers. Public banks allow for historically disenfranchised communities to pursue greater economic and racial justice, after decades of divestment and misguidance from large private banks. A public option is essential to ensuring public dollars are spent for the people and not only for profit,” said Council Member Amanda Farías.
“A public bank will support tenants as they fight for greater control of their homes and neighborhoods. The creation of a public bank means our tax dollars can be put to work for the public good. With record levels of homelessness and rent burdened tenants, the time for that is now,” said Jodie Leidecker, organizer at Cooper Square Committee.
“We are excited to be part of a historic moment with the New York City Council poised to pass “The People’s Bank Act” and lay the foundation for a municipal public bank. As an organization committed to affordable housing and worker and economic justice, a public bank will transform the lives of so many New Yorkers who have been excluded and harmed by our current banking system. A public bank will enable nonprofit affordable housing providers such as CGA to develop permanent low-income housing in areas that have been actively disinvested by private banks. A public bank will support the creation of community credit unions, increasing financial literacy and secure banking options for the thousands of domestic workers that we work with who are currently either excluded from the banking system or actively preyed upon through fees, loans, and discriminatory practices,” said Ben Fuller-Googins, Deputy Director of Carroll Gardens Association.
“A municipal public bank would greatly benefit the City of New York and its residents. The legislation S.1754/SANDERS Same as A.3352/Hunter would provide the City of New York and other municipalities throughout New York state the option to establish a municipal bank. A municipal bank would prioritize the public needs of a municipality and not the profit of private shareholders. Now is the time for us to unite to pass this legislation this year for everyone’s benefit,” said Senator James Sanders Jr., lead sponsor of the New York Public Banking Act in the NYS Senate.
“Large commercial banks continue to be a blight on not only immigrant communities, but society as a whole. When they aren’t financing the fossil fuel industry or gun manufacturers, they are discriminating against Black homeowners, or completely refusing to allow our immigrant neighbors to open up accounts if they use their IDNYC for identification. We must establish a public bank in NYC to reinvest the City’s funds in an ethical manner and ensure the immigrant New Yorkers, along with other unbanked and under-banked communities, have access to a responsive and responsible financial institution,” said Theodore A. Moore, Vice President of Policy & Programs of the New York Immigration Coalition.