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Mott Haven has a new banking option that is specifically designed to meet the needs of communities with few such opportunities.

A branch of Popular Bank at 374 East 149th Street was recently designated by the state as a Business Development District bank. An April 13 press release explains that this designation “will allow the bank to be an on-the-ground partner with residents and small businesses in providing greater access to affordable banking products and services in the area.”

The branch has already been in the South Bronx for over 60 years and in its current location since 2018. “We have always felt a connection with the neighborhood and the [Business Development District] designation further strengthens that commitment,” said David Lee, senior vice president of retail banking, in an email to the Herald.

Popular Bank expects its new designation to officially take effect within the next few weeks. In the meantime, according to communications officer Alex Moncion, “Our products and services are already available and we have been partnering (for many years) with local non-profit organizations in the area to hold financial literacy workshops in person and virtually.”

The South Bronx badly needs banks. The Bronx Times reported that 17 bank branches in the borough closed between 2018 and 2021, leaving many residents with nowhere to go except check cashers and other institutions that charge high fees for services. 

In addition, the city comptroller reported in December that the Bronx received a disproportionately small share of COVID loans and grants. 

Local elected officials welcomed the news of a banking option to fill these gaps in the South Bronx. As Assemblymember Amanda Septimo said for the press release, “Everyone deserves a chance to be financially educated, stable, and supported by banking services that care for the wellbeing of all communities, no matter the zip code.”

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By Emily Swanson

Emily had long careers as an English teacher and restaurant chef before starting a career in journalism. She was previously an intern for THE CITY and will be reporting for the Bronx Times this summer. She lives in Harlem and enjoys listening to public radio, music, and podcasts, exploring the city, and bartending at the Bronx Brewery. On Twitter and IG @em_and_magpie.