By Courtney Dentch
There is a white house near the corner of Merrick Boulevard and Pineville Lane in Springfield Gardens where a home-grown law firm and an international bank have joined together to help southeast Queens residents find fair mortgages.
The law firm of Hopkins, Lawrence & Bailey and JP Morgan Chase opened a mortgage office around the corner from the attoneys’ office at 186-17 Merrick Blvd., providing a community-based site for home buyers to apply for and close on a loan.
“This is the first time a law firm in the local community and a major multi-national bank have joined together as partners,” said Everett Hopkins, one of the firm’s partners.
Inside the house, which is owned by the law firm, is a small office where Oshane Whittaker, a Chase loan officer, will help residents apply for the bank’s mortgages. There is also a conference table where the lawyers will complete the legal paperwork and the closing, Hopkins said.
The office allows customers to access a large bank within their community rather than going to Long Island or Manhattan to get a mortgage, said Whittaker, who grew up in South Ozone Park.
“People are so used to going out of town to close on mortgages,” she said. “They’re shocked when I tell them we’re here.”
The office has been open for about a year, but the lawyers and Chase employees officially cut the ribbon on the recently added signs outside the house Monday.
Whittaker also offers her customers more flexible hours than most banks, such as appointments after regular working hours, she said.
“They don’t have to miss a day of work to get a mortgage,” she said. “Most of my customers are right here in the community.”
And by keeping the office in southeast Queens, it keeps both the business and the lawyer’s fees in the community, said Mary Frank, vice president of Chase’s national emerging markets department.
“Part of our vision and commitment is only to use the resources in a community,” Frank said. “My dream is that all the money, all the wealth we’re creating stays in the community. We must work to keep the money and the success in the communities.”
That tactic will work in the bank’s favor as well, said U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), who was on hand for the ceremony.
“We have not had those kinds of partnerships where individuals who are doing great things merge with corporations,” he said. “It’s not only good sense for Chase to work with Hopkins, Lawrence & Bailey, it’s good business — this will make money for them.”
The office will also help fight predatory lending — loans that burden homeowners with exorbitant fees and interest rates — by providing a place where residents can go to do business with a bank with a solid reputation, Whittaker said.
“They see the honesty and truth and when you go with a chain like Chase, they know they’re not going to be taken advantage of,” she said.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.