Creating a Public Bank for NYC

As many of you know, our credit union has a long history of support and advocacy for economic justice efforts in New York City and beyond. We’d like to share more about our efforts in creating a public bank.

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the money the NYC government invests every day?  

Public Bank

Image by Haley Hughes, artist and member of The Debt Collective

It will come as no surprise that it goes to the big nationals (e.g. Chase, Citi) and Wall Street investment banks (e.g. Goldman Sachs).  And what do those banks do with that money? Is the money going to support NYC neighborhoods, a green economy, affordable housing?  Sadly, no. In fact, there is not a lot of transparency when it comes to following the money in NYC. A large coalition of economic justice and advocacy groups are trying to change that, with the formation of a Public Bank.

A Public Bank is not the same as our credit union. It will not be an institution where individuals can deposit money or get loans. Rather, it will be a bank where the public’s money (e.g. our taxes) will be reinvested for the common good. This would include investing in the green economy (think solar energy!), affordable housing (Community Land Trusts!), and supporting our community development credit unions to enable us to serve more New Yorkers across the City.

This is a huge effort, that will take several years. However, we have City Council members who are ready to take the first step, with legislation that would make it easy to determine how much money the City is investing, where these investments are, and how much it is costing the City in bank service fees. This information is vital to the development of an actual business plan for the Public Bank.

Our coalition has also contracted pro bono services from a law firm that specializes in municipal finance. New York State Legislators are also ready to submit legislation to allow for the formation of a public bank.

Equally important is our mobilization of people across the city in support of this effort. We are holding “town halls” to explain the concept and gather support. The next one will be held in Manhattan, and all credit union members will be informed of the specifics as soon as possible. In the meantime, if you are interested in participating in this on any level, please contact Linda Levy, our former CEO who continues collaborating with our advocacy efforts, at llevy@lespfcu.org.  We’ll gladly provide more detailed information, so send us your questions!

In the months that follow we will tell you not only about progress on the Public Bank, but also inform you about other advocacy initiatives we are involved with including our work with the NYS Community Equity Agenda – a package of legislation that promotes economic justice throughout the state.

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