Cashless advance: Homeless depositing themselves in Bay Ridge banks

Too close for comfort: Bay Ridgites are nervous withdrawing cash beside homeless sleeping in bank lobbies.
Community News Group / Caroline Spivack

Bay Ridgites appreciate it’s a tough situation, but they want more interest from the city.

Officials must invest in more homeless-outreach to vagrants spending the night beside cash machines in local bank lobbies, Bay Ridgites are demanding. Across the neighborhood, the destitute are turning bank vestibules into bedrooms, and locals are afraid to withdraw their own money, because some itinerants are harassing them, according to one local, who used a cash machine at Dime Community Bank on Fourth Avenue near 86th Street at 9 pm on Nov. 1 and was followed out by a man who was sleeping there.

“It’s a scary situation being in a small room with someone who needs money when you’re withdrawing it. That’s a recipe for disaster really,” said Iris Malone. “That was terrifying. He followed me out saying, ‘Can I get some of that?’ And it was late at night, too. I’m lucky people were around or it could have turned ugly.”

The community board has gotten several calls recently about the down-on-their-luck spending the night in three area banks — though the Dime on Fourth Avenue was not among those that people reported — said district manager Josephine Beckmann.

Some lay out sleeping bags with their luggage in tow, and others huddle in their coats in the corner. It’s a problem that will likely grow as the mercury continues to drop and more homeless look for warm places to spend the night, said Beckmann.

Here’s how branches are reacting:

• Alma Bank on Fifth Avenue at 85th Street has hired security guards in response to customer complaints, but the guards are stationed during business hours and not at night when homeless sleep in the lobby, said staff.

• Roosevelt Savings Bank on Fifth Avenue between 81st and 82nd Street plans to hire security guards if it becomes a consistent issue at the bank, said the branch manager.

• A manager at the Dime Community Bank on Fourth Avenue at 86th Street declined to comment.

• HSBC on Third Avenue at 92nd Street could not immediately be reached for comment.

Being homeless is not illegal, and the city encourages people to call 911 on street homeless only when they are an immediate danger to themselves or others — or if they are blocking a sidewalk or cash machine, according to information from the city. Concerned citizens can call 311 to report vagrants so that outreach organizations can find them and offer help.

Homelessness is on the rise in Bay Ridge, and locals are sympathetic, but they should not be scared to do daily activities like banking, one resident said.

“It’s painful to see someone on such hard times that they have to sleep in a bank,” said Cythina Agnes, who banks with Alma. “It’s not a good situation for anyone. They should be able to feel safe enough to be in a shelter, and people shouldn’t have to be afraid to use an ATM. It worries me. I’ve walked a few blocks over to use a different bank.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2517. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

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