Originally published in The Star Revue

Chase Bank has announced that its branch at 79 Hamilton Avenue will close on June 2.

According to Chase’s Carolyn Evert, Vice President of Northeast Regional Communications, the bank “is being consolidated to our 360 Court Street branch in Brooklyn, which is 0.6 miles away.” She noted that Chase will transfer “all customer accounts” to the Carroll Gardens location. A letter to customers also recommends the Chase Mobile App for virtual financial services.

Red Hook Civic Association president John McGettrick, however, stressed the significance of brick-and-mortar banking, which will become more challenging for locals. “Where do you go and cash a Social Security check? A lot of people both in and outside of the Red Hook Houses are elderly,” he pointed out. “What about people within the community who would need a home improvement loan or a loan to buy a car?”

When Santander Bank – previously Sovereign Bank and, before that, Independence Savings 

Bank – shuttered its branch at Columbia and Lorraine streets last summer to make way for a mixed-use development, Chase became the only easily accessible commercial bank serving Red Hook. Located in the Columbia Street Waterfront District, it sits directly across the street from Red Hook’s Harold Ickes Playground. The closure will make the area a “banking desert.”

Longtime Red Hook residents may recall the term. In 1996, Jay McKnight and Wally Bazemore of the Red Hook Houses organized a petition drive to convince Charles J. Hamm, the president of Independence Savings Bank, to open a branch in Red Hook. They gathered 3,000 signatures, which dispelled Hamm’s misgivings about investing in a low-income community.

Recently, the neighborhood has been more prosperous than ever, and that may be the problem. Chase employees report brisk business, but property values have risen in the Columbia Street Waterfront District. JP Morgan Chase, which owns 79 Hamilton Avenue, is expected to sell the property once the bank has shut down – unless, perhaps, March’s economic crash discourages the prospective buyer. 

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