Friday, July 2, 2021

Roosevelt Island Bank Branch Search Update - RIOC President Says Westview Building Owner Not Willing To Help Get A Bank For Empty Space, Westview Owner Says Not True And Would Consider Any Leads Or Proposals For New Robust Retail Corridor

As reported June 18

Roosevelt Island has been without a bank since Amalgamted Bank closed it's Main Street branch last September

Since that time, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC), Main Street Retail Master Leaseholder Hudson Related, local politicians and residents have been unable to persuade any bank to open on Roosevelt Island. 

During yesterday's RIOC Operations Advisory Committee meeting, RIOC President Shelton Haynes and Chief Financial Officer John O'Reilly reported that banks refuse to open a branch on Main Street. 

However, there is interest in opening a bank branch near the Roosevelt Island Transportation Hubs, Tram, Subway and Ferry in Southtown near the Riverwalk Buildings, Cornell Tech and the newly opened Graduate Hotel. 

RIOC plans to offer space in the renovated Sportspark building to a bank that may be interested in the location....

I asked Hudson Related's David Kramer:

Has Hudson tried getting a bank for Main Street? What do they say?
Mr Kramer replied:

We’ve tried to recruit a bank, and thus far, they’re only interested in being located in Riverwalk, where we don’t have a vacancy.

I’d be surprised if a bank was interested in Sportspark, not enough foot traffic for them.

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Rossana Ceruzzi recently discussed the lack of a Roosevelt Island bank with RIOC President Shelton Haynes. According to Ms. Ceruzzi, Mr. Haynes said that Westview building (site of the former Amalgamated Bank) owner  David Hirschorn:

... is not willing to help...

get a bank on Roosevelt Island and Mr Hirschorn:

... doesn't want to work with us to use the old space.
I asked Mr Haynes if he wished to add to or clarify his comment about Mr Hirschorn. RIOC Public Information Officer Amy Smith replied:

Since Amalgamated Bank closed its branch on Roosevelt Island last year, RIOC has received several inquiries about bringing another bank to the island. As part of that strategy, RIOC approached Mr. Hirschhorn with the idea of bringing another bank to the Amalgamated Bank space but, unfortunately, he was not willing to entertain our proposal for a new bank at that location. And, unfortunately, many of the banks that have been approached to establish a presence on the island have declined our offer either because of limited storefronts large enough to outfit a new branch along Main Street, or because of an interest to be close to a transportation hub such as the F train or the Tram. That said, RIOC continues its search to bring a new bank to the island in an effort to fulfill the needs of the community.

RIOC CFO John O'Reilly followed up with a phone call with me yesterday saying that during a summer 2020 telephone conversation with himself, Mr Haynes and Mr Hirschorn, the Westview owner indicated he was being paid rent by Amalgamated Bank through September 2021 and was not interested in putting any effort at the time to market the space to another bank.

In response to my inquiry, Mr Hirschorn replied:

I was extremely disappointed when I first received notice from Amalgamated back in June 2020 that they would be permanently closing their Westview Branch.  Attached is the letter I sent to Amalgamated at the time reminding them of the importance to residents of having a banking facility here on Roosevelt Island and asking them to reconsider their decision to permanently close the branch.  Unfortunately, they were just not able to continue retail banking at Westview.

I then reached out to a very senior person at a major bank with whom I have a close relationship and discussed the possibility of his bank opening a branch in the former Amalgamated space.  I also asked him, as a special favor to me, to reach out to his banking colleagues as to whether they would consider the Westview location for their banks.  Regrettably, there was just no interest.  Remember, this was during the height of the pandemic, a difficult time for everyone.

I reached out to Shelton Haynes at RIOC to share with him what I had learned and to see what RIOC might be doing.  Mr. Haynes advised that his experience was similar to mine.  I suggested that he explore with the relevant NYS agencies whether there was some State incentives that could be offered to attract a new bank and asked him to be back in touch with me.  Until recently reading your article and listening to Mr. Haynes’ report to the RIOC Board, I was unaware of any steps RIOC had taken and did not know they were courting banks to locate at Sportspark.   I was disappointed, but not surprised, to hear Mr. Haynes report to the Board that based on his canvassing of banks, none were interested in opening a branch on Main Street, which would include Westview.

Since Amalgamated’s lease expires this month,  a decision needs to be made whether to remove the vault and safe deposit boxes.  I would imagine that any chance that a new bank would consider Westview as a banking site would be severely reduced once the vault and safe deposit boxes are removed as the cost to replace these items is quite significant.  I am glad that you reported on this topic since it is indeed very timely.   I reached out to Amalgamated yesterday, but regrettably they cannot reverse course.  If RIOC has any leads or proposals, I would certainly want to be able to consider them.  However, based on Mr. Haynes’ recent report to the Board,  the reality of the situation appears to be that no banks are interested in Main Street/Westview.  My understanding of the banking world today, particularly given the tremendous investment banks have made in their on-line banking platforms, is that Roosevelt Island is just not a location that would support a new brick and mortar branch.  Maybe RIOC knows something I do not.

The Westview retail space is at an interesting juncture.  RIOC will soon be vacating the Westview offices at 591 that it has occupied rent free for 45 years, having decided to move out and pay rent elsewhere.  The Westview Wine and Liquor store will be moving to Island House and of course the Amalgamated space is now empty.   While not something we planned, it does present an opportunity to rethink Westview’s commercial spaces.  With the pandemic hopefully behind us, and a return to a more normal business environment on the horizon, we look forward to creating a robust Westview retail corridor that provides services that the community wants.  In the meantime, we are hard at work completing the Westview cooperative conversion.  We will soon be offering fully renovated Westview Apartments with amazing River views (contact 

On a final note, I was pleased to learn that RIOC intends to address the sunken roads, collapsed curbs and resulting damaged sidewalks at Westview (some of the worst of which are in front of the Amalgamated space), as part of its overall program to address these deficiencies throughout the Island.  This will certainly help attract retail tenants.  I just hope that we will see action soon.  Thank you RIOC.

Here's the RIOC Operations Advisory Committee meeting discussion about the possibility of a Sportspark Bank branch (25 minute mark). 


According to Mr. O'Reilly, Amalgamated Bank closed their Roosevelt Island branch with 800 customers and $9 million in deposits, needing $20 million to break even.At closing, RIOC had over $40 million in deposits at the Roosevelt Island Amalgamated Bank  branch. But, Amalgamated did not give the Roosevelt Island branch any credit in evaluating it's viability for the RIOC $40 million deposit which was credited to the Amalgamated corporate group.  

The Amalgamated Bank branch opened on Roosevelt Island in 2009. At that time, then Roosevelt Island NY State Assembly Member Micah Kellner reported:

On October 1st, I was proud to join Amalgamated Bank President and CEO Derrick Cephas, as well as Borough President Scott Stringer and a number of other distinguished guests, to mark the grand opening of Amalgamated’s new branch on Roosevelt Island. The opening marks the beginning of a new era of community banking for island residents — a secure replacement for the New York National Bank branch that closed this summer.

In July, I posted about how I worked with Assembly Banking Committee Chair Darryl Towns to ensure that the State Banking Department designated the island’s new Amalgamated branch as a Banking Development District (BDD) branch. This means that $10 million in public funds have been deposited with the new branch, providing the security it needs to serve as a reliable long-term bank for Roosevelt Islanders. Thanks to the BDD designation, as well as support from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, and other stakeholders, island residents will continue to have a convenient location to do their banking for many years to come....

Apparently a $40 million deposit from RIOC is not sufficient incentive to keep or obtain a new bank branch on Roosevelt Island's Main Street.