Brooklyn borough president setting sights on banks too

Barack Obama’s not the only president who’s getting tough on banks.

Borough President Marty Markowitz is planning to focus a “laser” on big financial institutions this year, arguing that recipients of federal bailout cash owe it to the borough to open customer service centers in Brooklyn — as opposed to places like Bombay.

“In my opinion, the banks owe it to us,” he told this paper.

Markowitz, who recently purchased his first home in Windsor Terrace,said the planned public initiative came from a very personal epiphany. The beep called Citibank to inquire about his first mortgage payment, and “Lo and behold,” he recalled, “I was on the phone with a service rep from Bombay,” he recalled.

While the level of service he received “was not really satisfactory,” Markowitz said the issue was more profound than his frustration with the call.

“We have a 20 percent unemployment rate among men in East New York, and here are the banks, who receive the money of the federal government so that they can stay in business, employing non-Americans,” Markowitz said. “To me, that’s an outrage.”

The borough president said his initiative, which is still in the formative stages, would help give local residents the hope of a career. “These are not jobs that require a PhD,” he said. “A condition of federal support should be that American banks should give preference to American citizens for jobs.”

Calls to Citibank, and the New York Bankers Association were not returned by this story’s deadline.

Markowitz, who has no authority to compel bank policy, said he plans to reach out to federal lawmakers and make a concentrated effort to contact the presidents of various New York City based banks, using the power of persuasion to bring about the change he seeks.

President Obama this week proposed a series of reforms seeking to curb the size and activities of large banks, a move to curtail what some feel are the riskier practices of modern banking.

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