Have you ever noticed how many banks we have to choose from in our little downtown area of Greenpoint, Brooklyn? South of Greenpoint Avenue, on Manhattan Avenue, our banking options seem limitless: HSBC, Citibank, Bank of America, Dime, Capital One, Chase, Apple, and now, TD Bank.
For the average non-homeowner with a steady paycheck the levels in service don’t differ much from the green bank to the red bank. For homeowners, it’s usually a matter of a quarter percentage savings on the interest of their mortgage. Options are good, but I don’t think that they need to take up so much physical space from the downtown centers of New York City neighborhoods. It’s not like my account is physically there; most banking is done online. And let’s face it, banks are basically big empty spaces used as a public relation tool by an industry that can more easily afford centralized real estate than anyone else. And they are in need of public relations.
I know you hate the newest ugly condo building in the neighborhood, me too, they’re ugly and already falling apart, but this outdoor mall of banks isn’t any better.
It’s worse if you take into consideration the business practices of these financial institutions. If you managed to ignore all of the financial news from the past six months, it’s a long list of most of these banks’ criminal actions coming to light. I don’t doubt your experience of physically cashing a check at Bank of America is nice but at least know that it’s also one of the companies that illegally and unfairly foreclosed on half a million homeowners in the past few years and have agreed to collectively pay between $8-$32 billion to settle the complaints lodged against them.
Settlements, not admissions of guilt, where not a single employee gets charged with a single crime. I realize that the banks provide jobs to a few local residents, like HSBC, just up the block, but keep in mind that they’re also the official money launderers to Mexico’s biggest drug cartel. They’re paying $2 billion for that one.
Dime Bank, which you might think is a smaller, local bank is actually now owned by J.P. Morgan Chase which is part of the Citibank, B of A, Wells Fargo group that were keeping over 400,000 families from being able to stay in their own homes based on false information about their mortgages.
To the one local financial enterprise on Manhattan Avenue, vaguely named, Trade Wall Street, this place has been recently shut down because of it’s own corrupt practices. The owner, Roman Sledziejowski, who is notable in the community for catering to Polish nationals, was accused last week by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) of defrauding three clients of more than $4 million. According to the complaint, between 2009 and 2012, he had allegedly instructed his clients to wire funds to a separate holding company he owned under the pretense that he would be putting it into a Polish bank and the stock of a Polish vodka maker. However, according to the complaint, no such investments were made.
In the mean time, Capital One is paying off their own federal charges because they were caught charging their own customers for add-on protections on their money that they were lawfully supposed to be doing already.
This is less than half of those nine worded New York Times article headlines you almost clicked on since last summer but didn’t because you were sick of hearing about the neglect from all the reckless banking policies from the past ten years. I’m not suggesting that we go burn all the banks down, I’m just saying, they have taken over our city landscape not because they want to badly help manage your comparatively miniscule savings. They are there to bring some local flavor, local employees and an experience that couldn’t be more opposite with how they behave collectively as a multi-national ponzi scheme.
Architecturally speaking, these storefronts are a chromatic eyesore and I would just like a few more people who live in Greenpoint to consider that maybe we should require some kind of ethical background check on who not only saturates our heaviest areas of commerce and foot traffic, but decreases the ability for independent store owners to survive on the Avenue. Wouldn’t you rather see a local shop, a community center, a few more restaurants or anything in place of a false corporate identity that smiles and greets you at the ATM machine while literally stealing your fellow citizen’s homes, pensions or savings, charging you for fake products and laundering money for international terrorist organizations?