State-backed bank zone proposed for Corona

By James DeWeese

While Queens averages one bank branch for every 6,281 people, Corona and Corona Heights average only one for every 12,625 people, according to data presented by the Queens County Savings Bank in its proposal to create a special state-backed banking district in a 1.3-square-mile area of western Queens.The bank's proposal, which got broad support at Tuesday's borough cabinet meeting in Kew Gardens, would offer lucrative enticements for banks to set up branches in the area bounded by Junction Boulevard in the west, Grand Central Parkway in the east, the Long Island Expressway in the south and Northern Boulevard in the north. Inside the area, where 53 percent of the 100,000-plus residents do not own cars, there are currently only eight bank branches, the company said.In exchange for setting up branches in areas deemed to be “under-banked,” companies gain access to as much $10 million in municipal deposits at favorable rates. The deposits give the institutions a rapid infusion of cash which enables them to locate branches in areas where depositors themselves may be low- to middle-income, Borough President Helen Marshall said.The average household income in the proposed banking area is $47,172, more than $10,000 less than the Queens average, the bank said.”It's very good for the area,” said Marshall, who pointed out that new branches would translate into greater access not just to checking or savings accounts, but also to other services such as mortgage counseling.Across the city, there are 14 such districts, mostly in Brooklyn.One of the first beneficiaries of such a designation would be Queens County Savings Bank, which has plans to nearly quadruple the size of its current Corona Heights facility.The so-called Banking Development District, which must be approved by the state agency that overseas banking, would cover Queens County Savings' branch at 51-13 108th St., which the company hopes to expand from to 550 square feet to 2,200 square feet. Queens County, which is a division of New York Community Bank, also operates another branch at 37-97 103rd St.Richard Italiano, chairman of Corona-based Community Board 4, which covers most of the proposed banking district, said he would welcome the designation.”They'll enhance services,” Italiano said. “It's to bring banking services to all members of the community.”Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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