By Karen Frantz
New York’s oldest credit union, Municipal Credit Union, is opening its first branch in southeast Queens, bringing a financial management option with generally better returns than traditional banks to a neighborhood that is beleaguered with low-income residents and a high number of home foreclosures.
Municipal Credit Union, which has more than 325,000 members and holds $1.7 billion in assets, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at its new branch, at 134-66 Springfield Blvd.
“Traditional banks, while offering the same products and services to lower-income individuals, are probably looking for ways to profit off of them,” said MCU spokesman Michael Mattone.
He said that in contrast credit unions like Municipal see their members as being part of a community. “We’re making their money work for them instead of having them work for their money,” he said.
Credit unions can provide lower interest rates on loans and higher returns on investments than can many banks because they are membership-based, with memberships often only offered to specific communities or employment groups.
Municipal offers a range of tools to help members establish good credit and manage debt, Mattone said, including one-on-one budget counseling with its loan service department, a first-time home buyers program that explains the house-buying process and additional online tools.
“We do a good a job, we feel, of educating our members and helping them grow financially,” he said.
The full-service branch is the second in Queens, with the other in Elmhurst. It is also the first branch to offer an e-banking center where members can conduct bank transactions, check their accounts and apply for loans.
“I’m so pleased this branch is here,” said City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), an MCU member, at the ceremony.
“I know that this branch will be heavily populated, well-used and that you will get new accounts coming in on a regular basis here,” he said.
Municipal Credit Union offers memberships to city, state and federal employees who live and work in the city, hospital and health-care employees, public and private college employees and other professional groups.
One MCU member who lives nearby, Lilawatee Hardeosing, said she was happy the Springfield Gardens location was opening because previously she had to go all the way to Queens Boulevard to use the Elmhurst branch.
“I love it,” she said. “I couldn’t wait for them to come.”
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.