OP-ED: Bank of America Closing North Hartford Branches
Here we go again – Bank of America Closing Two Northend Branches
Open Letter from: Hartford Enterprise Zone Business Association (H.E.Z.B.A.)
To: City of Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and Council Members
Attn. Northend Hartford Residents
A few years ago, Bank of America, which was then Fleet Bank, announced it would be closing its Northend branches. A few weeks ago, Bank of America made the same announcement. Little has changed aside from the bank’s name, and what certainly has not changed is the bank’s insistence on putting its bottom line ahead of its customers.
The most recent decision is probably driven by news that Bank of America will have to pay AIG $650 million to address allegations of fraud regarding its actions during the mortgage crisis. Or, maybe it was the other news that Bank of America is working with the Justice Department to agree on a penalty – likely to be in the billions – that the bank will pay for the bad behavior of one of its subsidiaries through a program called “The Hustle,” which sped up the loan process for bad mortgages. The effects of that initiative are still being felt by Northend neighborhoods, which were especially hard-hit by foreclosures.
There are four Bank of America locations in North Hartford, one of which is a standalone ATM on Barbour Street. The bank is proposing to close the Blue Hills Avenue and Main Street branches, leaving just one branch on Albany Avenue. Meanwhile there are nearly 10 branches in other parts of the city. North Hartford has a large concentration of elderly residents, not to mention the percentage of people with limited access to transportation. Seniors living in the Northeast and Blue Hills neighborhoods will have to travel miles to get to a branch.
Going back to the bottom line, Bank of America has argued that the branches have not had new business, and are a financial drain. Hartford is one of the poorest cities in the country, so residents will not be opening accounts in droves. But Bank of America makes plenty of money through the City of Hartford, one of its largest regional account holders. Simply put, the bank is supported by the city that is supported by the taxpayers that the bank does not want to serve.
Closing these branches would not only create a void, it will be one more slap in the face from an entity that has made quite a lot of money off this community.
As our elected officials, the City of Hartford should protest this decision, and urge Bank of America to work with this community to be more respectful and responsive to our needs.
W. Reggie Hales, President