Public Comments

We, the undersigned 25 organizations, including members of the Public Bank NYC coalition, write to you in your roles as members of the NYC Banking Commission (“the Commission”) regarding the recent Bloomberg Businessweek investigation into Wells Fargo’s discriminatory mortgage lending practices.1 For the reasons outlined below, we call on the Commission to revoke unconditionally Wells Fargo’s designation to hold City deposits.

I’m pleased to testify today about community land trusts (CLTs), and to urge the Committee to support $3 million in FY2023 funding for the Citywide CLT Initiative. New Economy Project further urges the Committee to advance legislation to strengthen CLTs and expand non-speculative, community- and tenant-controlled housing. In the wake of the pandemic, public investment in CLTs and other forms of social housing will be critical to stabilize housing, combat speculation, and promote a just recovery in low income and Black and brown neighborhoods hardest-hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

As you know, climate scientists for decades have warned that fossil fuels are wreaking havoc on our environment and that bold, concerted action is needed to address the climate crisis. Yet, in the six years since the Paris Agreement, banks have poured over $3.8 trillion into the fossil fuel industry, according to the Rainforest Action Network.i Banks’ funding of fossil fuels is accelerating the climate crisis, which is becoming deadlier each year.

As low-income communities and communities of color across the state continue to reel from the economic devastation caused by COVID-19, this year’s budget presents an historic opportunity to make bold investments that will drive equitable local economic development for years, and even decades, to come. We urge both houses of the Legislature to allocate $100 million for the NYS CDFI Fund and $100 million in matching funds to help local governments capitalize public banks, and to adopt, as part of the budget, the NY Public Banking Act (S1762A/A8290), which creates a safe and appropriate regulatory framework for local public banks in New York.

With yesterday’s Executive Budget proposal, Governor Hochul had the opportunity to present a bold community economic development agenda that addresses long-standing racial and economic inequality that the pandemic has exacerbated. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, this budget proposal offers more of the same.

New York’s approach to economic development desperately needs a reboot. We spend billions of dollars annually on wasteful corporate subsidies and tax giveaways – in the process diverting much-needed resources from higher education, transit, health care and other investments that would advance equity and economic opportunity in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

New York City’s housing and land use policies have contributed to neighborhood segregation, displacement of BIPOC New Yorkers, racial health disparities, widening wealth inequality, and a host of other inequities. New York City’s charter must be reformed to repair past harms, by giving Black and brown communities meaningful opportunities to own and control land, housing and neighborhood development.

My testimony today will address ways in which our current financial system serves to extract wealth, and the need to strengthen and enforce laws to hold banks and other financial institutions accountable to people and communities. At the same time, we must focus on creating public banks and other institutions that are designed to build community wealth and serve the public interest.