In the Bronx


 Click here to view the weekly ICP Bronx Reporter.  Click here for Inner City Press' weekday news reports, from the United Nations   

                                 New: 6/1/7 6/14/7 6/29/07

  ICP has published a (double) book about a variety of Bronx-relevant topics -- a review in Commonweal magazine of Dec. 5, 2003, opines  that "Predatory Bender... is as vivid an account of life in the Bronx as you are likely to read" -- click here for sample chapters, here for an interactive maphere for fast ordering and delivery, and here for other ordering information.  The Pittsburgh City Paper of Dec. 11, 2003, wrote that it "may, in fact, be the first great American lending malfeasance novel" including "low-level loan sharks, class-action lawyers, corporate bigwigs, hired muscle, corrupt politicians, Iraq War veterans, Wall Street analysts, reporters and one watchdog with a Web site."  And all in The Bronx!   Click here for that review; for more information, contact us.

    Click here to view ICP's "Voice of the Bronx" in poetry....        Click here to Search This Site

  Inner City Press/Community on the Move was founded in the South Bronx in 1987, and it and its spin-off Inner City Public Interest Law Center remain headquartered here.  

     ICP has completed an analysis of bank branches and population, in the Bronx, South Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.   Here at the top is a summary table of the overall results:

Area       Population     Branches      Pop/Branch

Manhattan 1,629,000          703            2,317

Bronx        1,400,000          154          9090

S. Bronx       543,000            27          20,111

Brooklyn      2,567,000        345            7,740

Queens         2,306,000        433            5,325

    The South Bronx became known nation- and even world-wide in the 1970, when, due to arson and the withdrawal of City services, it lost nearly half of its population, and half of its buildings became abandoned.  Inner City Press/Community on the Move sprung up here in 1987, founded by low income families who were living doubled up (two or more families living together in the remaining, often decrepit apartments, right next door to buildings with all of their apartments abandoned).

     The group began by publishing a community newspaper, in English and Spanish, promoting the idea of “homesteading”: reclaiming and repairing these vacant buildings to make the housing that was needed. The idea hit a nerve and a need, and the Inner City Homesteaders’ Association quickly grew to over 200 families, repairing two dozen previously abandoned buildings. Most of these buildings are in the South Bronx, but the ICP Homesteaders have also expanded to (and been contacted to help in) East Harlem and Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, and elsewhere.

    As the homesteaders spent their weekends repairing vacant buildings, they began to ask themselves both why these buildings had been abandoned in the first place, and why it was so difficult to get loans of any kind to assist in the rehabilitation process. Research in land records, and interviews with long-time Bronx residents, revealed that redlining by banks and insurance companies had been a major cause of the mass-abandonment of whole sections of the South Bronx in the 1970’s.

   Banks simply refused to make loans in certain areas (simultaneous with racial change in the neighborhoods); insurance companies refused to write new policies. Without access to credit and insurance, even a responsible landlord cannot maintain an apartment building. The more irresponsible (i.e. criminal) of the landlords simply milked their tenants for rent without making repairs, and then, in some cases, torched the buildings to collect insurance. As the City government became the owner of most of the buildings in the South Bronx (due to the owners’ failure to pay property taxes), it decided to save money by “consolidating” the remaining tenants. If the City took over two adjacent buildings, both half occupied, it would move the tenants from one building into the other, and seal the now-empty building with a thin piece of plywood. Scavengers would enter the recently vacated building and “strip” it of wires and plumbing, to be sold as scrap metal. Often, these gutted shells would then burn, and damage the still-occupied building next door. The City would then move the tenants out, into another of the half-occupied buildings it owned.

    While this can be viewed as simply incompetent or visionless bureaucracy, more recent research has revealed that during this time a number of City planners and “captains of industry” began to think that it might be best to withdraw the remaining City services in the declining areas of the Bronx, and to, as one said, “blacktop the whole area and make it an industrial park.” This in fact happened, in many areas of the Bronx. The elevated train began skipping stations to go directly to the North Bronx; firehouses and schools were closed. And, in the 1980, whole neighborhoods were vacated and bulldozed, to make industrial parks, and certain new developments of low-rise private homes, that few current South Bronx residents can afford.

   Despite all this, the Bronx is without question “coming back.” To some degree this was inevitable: it is adjacent to the business capital of the United States and perhaps the world (in Manhattan); it simply “makes sense” as a residential community, and, perhaps, as a base for light industry. The major question as we enter the 21st Century is for WHOM the Bronx will be re-developed: the moderate income people who remained here through the hard times, and who, along with more recent immigrants from the Caribbean and elsewhere, are the majority here, or in the service the post-industrial, financial-services driven economy of Manhattan and the world elites?

   More concretely, the rebuilding of housing in the South Bronx is being and will be undermined by major banks still refusing to lend fairly here, banks which never re-opened the bank branches they closed in the 1970s, leaving South Bronx residents to rely on check cashing stores (which take a percentage of every check you cash, and where you never develop a credit or financial services history)?.  Why should we (and the relevant government environmental agencies) continue to allow the waste industry and city and state government to locate so many toxic facilities, from regional medical waste incinerators to waste transfer stations, in the South Bronx, whose residents are lower income (and more predominantly minority) than residents of the areas where this waste is coming from? These are the struggles...

   In 2000, ICP engaged in advocacy concerning Citigroup, including its acquisition of the scandal-plagued subprime lender Associates First Capital, and a wider movement; Chase Manhattan and J.P. Morgan, Fleet, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, and others.

   ICP is also engaged in a number of open government campaigns, for example against the Federal Reserve Board, for that agency’s refusal to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and other rudiments of fair procedures. Click here to view ICP’s Freedom of Information guide.

    This website has sub-pages on a variety of issues: CRA, insurance redlining, environmental justice, telecommunications advocacy, arts and culture. We welcome your suggestions or comments on this website, or on our work. Click here for five different ways to contact us.

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     ICP has completed an analysis of bank branches and population, in the Bronx, South Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.   Here at the top is a summary table of the overall results:

Area       Population     Branches      Pop/Branch

Manhattan 1,562,773          529            2,954

Bronx        1,365,536          124          11,012

S. Bronx       543,000            27          20,111

Brooklyn      2,475,290        267            9,271

Queens         2,237,216        361            6,197

Untold History of the Bronx
Part of an Ongoing Series

      In May 1999, a second floor loft space facing the trapezoidal square where Willis meets Third Avenue, at 149th Street in the South Bronx, suddenly halted its business. Since 1995, Marine Midland Bank had run a consumer loan production office in the space, which had its own stairway up from Willis Avenue. Marine had said the business was good, that the Bronx was coming back. Then, with little public notice, white canvas sheet were unfurled to cover Marine Midland’s signs, and the loan office was gone.

     In the South Bronx, as in other low income urban neighborhoods, businesses come and businesses go, often with little notice. Banks, however, are different. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, many banks closed their branches in the South Bronx, as the population declined due to the abandonment of housing. Starting in 1994, due to local activism using the federal Community Reinvestment Act, six banks opened new office in the South Bronx.

     Marine was the second to open, and the second to close. One might surmise that Marine “gave the Bronx a chance,” and simply found there was not enough business in the community. That is contradicted, however, by government statistics on new housing and jobs that have been created in the area. Marine’s claim, once the issue was raised, was that it had opened or acquired other branches nearby, obviating the need for the Willis Avenue loan office. But Marine’s nearly consumer facility is on Fordham Road, some forty long blocks north of 149th Street. The history:

In September 1994, when a Bronx community group, Inner City Press / Community on the Move, “state[d] that Marine Midland’s pattern and practice of marketing, branching, and servicing upper Manhattan and the Bronx constitutes a clear violation of the Community Reinvestment Act... Marine Midland spokesman Robert Becton disputed the charges, noted that the bank earned ‘satisfactory’ CRA ratings from the Fed.” American Banker, September 27, 1994, Pg. 4, Community Group Targets Marine Midland. See also, Buffalo News of September 24, 1994, Marine Denies Loan Bias in New York City.

In October 1994, when HSBC reached an agreement to open the South Bronx loan production office, its executive vice president Peter Davidson claimed it was “part of the bank’s recent confirmation of ‘its commitment to serving the real needs of people throughout New York State.’” Buffalo News, October 19, 1994, Marine Bank To Increase Loans in New York City.

In September 1995, when Marine opened the South Bronx loan production office, HSBC tried the same spin. The “regional president of Marine Midland Bank said its new office demonstrated its commitment to a ‘slow but steady’ expansion throughout the New York City markets. The Bronx office will include four full-time employees -- two small business loan specialists, a home mortgage expert, and a consumer products person who will handle credit cards and home equity loans.” American Banker, September 21, 1995, Pg. 8.

In an April 1997 New York Times article about branches opened in the South Bronx in connection with Inner City Press’ advocacy, an official of another bank which opened a South Bronx branches stated that “it’s done exceptionally well. It’s absolutely a profitable branch. I treat it no differently than any branch in midtown Manhattan. In fact, I think the growth potential may be greater up there.” HSBC’s “president for metropolitan New York said that the South Bronx was unique because of a 2-year-old, multi-billion dollar effort by the city and Federal Government to build more than 30,000 housing units in a neighborhood that epitomized urban decay. The investment, he said, attracted middle-income residents and fueled a broad economic upswing that has helped the new branches.” New York Times, April 16, 1997, Pg. B1, Banks Discover the South Bronx; Forced to Open, Branches Profit and Refute Stereotypes.

In August 1997, “Marine’s regional vice president [said], ‘We have three people working in our loan production office in the Bronx. They all speak Spanish. They all belong to community groups.’ By day, these employees work for the bank, and by night they are making outside contacts, [he] said.” American Banker, August 20, 1997, Pg. 1, The South Bronx Cheering as Banks Comes Back.

     So what happened, between August 1997 and early 1999? Already in August 1997, Marine had made its two acquisitions, and already had “10 branches in the Bronx and 7.8% of the county’s banking market.” Id. As noted, none of Marine’s Bronx consumer facilities was in the South Bronx, except the loan production office, which HSBC was still touting in August 1997. Has the Bronx’ economy declined since 1997? No. Other banks which opened South Bronx facilities say they are profitable, and, even, that they present greater opportunities than elsewhere. See  above.

    But on June 14, 1999, the New York Daily News reported:

“Three and a half years ago, with much fanfare, HSBC opened a loan office in the South Bronx in response to protests from community activists concerned over subsidiary Marine Midland’s lending record in the area. Now that the 1995 agreement to make at least $15 million worth of loan to the area’s residents has expired, HSBC is calling it quits.

“In a recent filing with state bank regulators, HSBC said it would close the office at 509 Willis Ave. The decision comes as HSBC is shelling out $10.3 billion in cash for Edmond Safra’s Republic New York Bank, strongly increasing its presence in the city.

Demand for the lending center had dwindled since the bank opened three full-service branches in nearby Bronx locations, said HSBC spokeswoman Linda Stryker. As she explained, ‘We had not booked a loan there in months.’”

     Marine Midland in 1999 claims that demand at the loan production office dwindled, then quickly makes reference to three other Bronx facilities, calling them “nearly” when none is within less than forty blocks. If Marine’s business at the loan production office dwindled, it either demonstrates Marine’s lack of commitment to serving low- and moderate-income communities, or indicates that Marine intentionally decided to undermine its one South Bronx facility, by “referring” prospects to branches more than forty blocks away. What happened to the “community outreach,” including at night, that HSBC publicly touted as recently as August 1997? It was discontinued, to save money, by closing Marine’s lone consumer facility in the South Bronx.

     And the cycle begins to repeat itself... A review of mortgage lending data, required under the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, reveals that in 1998, Marine Midland Bank received 190 mortgage loan applications from The Bronx. Based on Marine’s marketing, however, only 44 (or 23%) of these applications came from the South Bronx, defined as Community Planning Districts 1-6 -- less than a quarter of applications from the lower-income, more predominantly minority half of the county. Marine Midland Bank’s denial rate in the South Bronx was (a high) 28.6%. The denials were disproportionately to consumers and homeowners, actual residents of the South Bronx. The approvals are disproportionately “multifamily” loans, which do not distinguish between simple refinances and loans that actually help to improve a rental property for tenants.

     Bronx-based Inner City Press, now having created an affiliated legal advocacy group, the Inner City Public Interest Law Center, on June 24, 1999 raised these issues to the Federal Reserve Board and to the New York State Banking Department. Inner City Press placed a copy of the protest on its web site, at <>.  The Independent newspaper of London, England, where Marine’s parent HSBC is based, covered the protest on June 27, 1999: “‘We are aware a statement has been published on the internet,’ an HSBC spokesman said. ‘We expect U.S. regulators will invite our comments. We shall respond and are confident the challenge won’t delay our application.’”

     The Bronx reaches out - but who reaches back?

      To be updated on this site. Until then, for or with more information, contact us.

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   Click here for a sample ICP Bronx history: of Beaumont Avenue...

            Click here to view ICP's "Voice of the Bronx" in poetry...

Some Bronx Resources:


Bronx News at NY 1 television

Bronx News at News 12 The Bronx television

Bronx Data Center

Bronx Council on the Arts


We’re Still Here: The Rise, Fall, and Ressurrection of the South Bronx, by Jill Jonnes (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986)

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, by Robert A. Caro (New York: Vintage Books, 1975) -- see esp. Chapter 37, “One Mile,” about the effect of the construction of the Cross-Bronx Expressway in the early 1950s.  Turns out that Caro moved to The Bronx for nine months while writing this chapter. See, Newsday, 12/11/01, Pg. B7. Yes, there will be a quiz...

Bronx Primitive, by Kate Simon (Viking Press, 1982; republished by Penguin in 1997) -- memoir about growing up in East Tremont in the 1920s.

Bronx Beat: Reflections of a Police Commander, by Tony Bouza (Chicago: Office of International Criminal Justice, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1990) -- relative obscure "monograph" by ex-NYBD Borough Commander, reviewed in ICP's Bronx Report, December 2001.

The Bronx, It Was Only Yesterday, by Lloyd Ultan and Gary Hermalyn (Bronx County Historical Society, 1992)

McNamara’s Old Bronx, by John McNamara (Bronx County Historical Society, 1989)

Monte Carmelo: An Italian-American Community in the Bronx, by Anthony L. LaRuffa (Gordon & Breech, Publishers, 1988).

Dropsie Avenue: The Neighborhood, by Will Eisner (Kitchen Sink Press, 1995) -- a graphic novel about the Bronx, from 1870 forward. Note: an ICP collaborator who is also a comics fan is eager to find a copy of this book, which appears to be out of print. Contact info for ICP is below....

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Copyright 1999 - 2004 Inner City Press/Community on the Move, Inc..   All rights reserved.   For further information, or to request reprint or other permission, contact: Permissions Coordinator, Legal Administration, Inner City Press, P.O. Box 580188, Mount Carmel Station, Bronx, NY 10458.  Phone: (718) 716-3540.  Fax: (718) 716-3161.  E-mail:  BronxWatch [at]