Chase Bank officially returned to Coney Island this week, after closing its building in 2012 due to damages dealt from Superstorm Sandy.
“We are an underbanked community,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger at a Nov. 29 grand opening of the new bank. “Residents should not have to travel to another zip code to conduct day-to-day banking, which to me was outrageous and offensive.”
Area politicians from all levels of government applauded the big-name banker for bringing the second full-service bank into the neighborhood, which, before Monday, only had one other full-service Citibank at the western end of Mermaid Avenue. As a result, the area’s most vulnerable residents had to put their trust in local check-cashing businesses.
“After Superstorm Sandy, the West End of Coney Island lost its only commercial bank. The banking desert that was left behind hurt low-income residents and the elderly, allowing predatory check cashing institutions and payday lenders to fill the void,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries at the ribbon-cutting, which was also attended by state Sen. Diane Savino, District 47 Councilmember-elect Ari Kagan and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce head Randy Peers.
The area’s electeds worked for years with Coney Island residents and community leaders to bring full-service banking back to the peninsula.
“Now, retail banking is officially back on Mermaid Ave,” Jeffries said.
After Sandy wreaked havoc on its location, Chase operated a mobile branch just two blocks away from the vacated Mermaid Avenue building, at the intersection of W. 17th Street, until 2016 when it opened an ATM outside of their W. 15th Street building. All the while, locals lamented the loss of the full-service bank.
“[Staff] were forced to work out of a trailer,” Treyger said. “The conditions [after Sandy] were not good for the residents and for the staff at Chase and we had tried to work with them to find an alternate site because the trailer was just not working.”
“It was a real punch to the gut when we got the news they were going to leave altogether,” he added
Now, the company has reopened at 1428 Mermaid Ave. at the W. 15th Street building at the same location as their ATM, just a few blocks away from their original location.
Treyger said the reopening of Chase Bank was a team effort by the neighborhood’s stakeholders that took years of their energy to coordinate and is emblematic of the neighborhood’s never-give-up attitude.
“I think it is indicative of who we are as a people in Coney Island, we are resilient, we are strong, we’re tough, we continue to battle until we get things done for our residents,” he said.
The outgoing councilmember thanked the Russo family, who own Gargiulo’s and La Tombola, for providing a space for the money-lender at their Mermaid Avenue building — the same building as Gargiulo’s — and to the Alliance for Coney Island for making the introduction.
He added that the reopening of Coney Island Chase Bank is one of a wave of reopenings he believes is coming to the neighborhood — pointing to the recent reopening of the Coney Island YMCA, support to local businesses and recent funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“I think it’s a harbinger of things to come,” Treyger said.