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Residents of Hollis slam plan to shutter neighborhood bank

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Christina Santucci

Senior Sarah Levell was headed to the Capital One branch in Hollis to get cash when she happened upon a rally Saturday of elected officials and patrons, calling on the bank to keep the Hillside Avenue location open despite plans to close later this month.

Levell, who lives several blocks from the bank, at 204-12 Hillside Ave., said she had had an account with ING before it was acquired by Capital One and worried about the effect the branch’s planned closure would have on her graphic design and T-shirt business as well as on her normal routine.

Disabled after she developed polio at 2, Levell said the next nearest location is in Queens Village, at 216-19 Jamaica Ave. — more than a mile and a half away.

“I would have to go so far,” she said.

In a letter to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Jim Brown, Capital One’s senior director of state government relations, said the lease is about to expire on the branch, which does not have a good location for visibility or foot traffic, two reasons behind the planned closure Oct. 19.

“We determined the lack of drive-through facilities and adequate parking here prevented us from providing the best level of service to our customers,” Brown wrote.

A spokeswoman for Capital One, which has 40 locations in Queens, said all employees at the Hollis branch who asked to work elsewhere were placed at other sites.

Elected officials were hoping to at least buy some time before customers have to use other sites and possibly stop the closure altogether.

Hundreds of Hollis residents signed a petition requesting that the bank stay open, Avella said.

“This is not the fault of the local branch or the people who work here. It is a corporate decision and sometimes a corporate decision can be reversed,” he said.

Elected officials are also looking for Capital One customers who may not have received a mandatory letter from the company informing them of the branch’s planned shutdown. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Improvement Act requires banks to notify patrons by mail at least 90 days before a branch will shut its doors.

“It gives us more time to keep working this,” Avella said of the possibility of another round of letters to be sent out, thereby postponing the closure by 90 days.

Avella was joined by state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-Jamaica) and City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St Albans), all of whom are Capital One customers.

“This represents a disinvestment in the community,” Scarborough said.

Hollis resident Nancy Schwarz, 66, who plans to switch to Ridgewood Savings Bank in the FranHill shopping center if the Capital One branch closes, complained of the added cost to travel to another neighborhood to bank.

“If you have to take a bus to another location, that’s $2.50 and time,” she said.

Jacqueline Butler-Elder, 71, found out about her branch’s closing from her hairstylist, Shanta Persaud.

Butler-Elder, who was sure she had not received the letter, said she had two much activity in her accounts to switch banks should the Hollis location close.

“I’m thinking about the bad weather,” she said, “and that is not good.”

Reach Managing Editor Christina Santucci by phone at 718-260-4589 or by email at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com.

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