Photo Credit: Ultranauts, NY Times

As a mission-driven, community-based bank, we prioritize our neighbors and the unique financial needs of the Bronx and Harlem. Since the day we opened our doors in the South Bronx over thirteen years ago, we have been grateful for the partnership of many small businesses and values-aligned organizations, including some of New York City’s oldest and most reputable nonprofits.

When COVID-19 hit, we responded by supporting our small business and nonprofit partners when they needed it most. Hours after the CARES Act passed in April of this year, our lending team got to work to assist organizations with their applications for a Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan.

We are proud to report that as of this month, we secured 360 PPP loans–valued at $86.8 million–for small businesses and nonprofits in the New York City area.  With these funds, organizations retained over 5,000 jobs.

 At the height of the lockdown, we helped Callen Lorde Community Center– a primary care center dedicated to serving the LGBTQ and homeless communities–secure a PPP loan that allowed them to continue their critical work on the frontlines of New York City’s battle against COVID-19. Our partnership helped them retain 80 of their employees, all while running a temporary hospital out of a hotel in Queens.

Additionally, our lending team supported other major nonprofits organizations like Grand Street Settlement–a social services agency that helps thousands of New Yorkers–and The Forward–one of New York’s oldest Jewish media publications. In total, we secured PPP loans for 53 nonprofits valued at $35 million, funding that they otherwise may not have received if they had gone to a larger bank.

But we didn’t stop there. We also partnered with values-aligned companies that are revolutionizing the business world. We take particular satisfaction in our work with Ultranauts, a company that mainly employ autistic workers for technology jobs.

With 75 percent of its workforce on the autistic spectrum, Ultranauts uses a unique set of operational policies and practices. Recently featured in The New York Times, their remote work model and unique accommodations have become a model for businesses looking to foster inclusion. And yet, pivoting to 100 percent remote working could not shield them from the economic downturn caused by the global pandemic. Ultranauts lost business as their clients made cuts to cope with the impact. To cover these unexpected costs, they partnered with us to secure a PPP loan that allowed them to adapt to the changing market, and soon, they were flourishing once again. Ultranaut acquired new clients and has plans to expand its workforce from 90 to 200 employees in the next two years.

We are proud to support organizations that, like us, are working to build an economy that includes and nurtures every individual’s talents. We are proud to help small businesses and nonprofits continue their work during this historic time.

If your small business or nonprofit requires financial support during this time, we can help you secure a lending option that best suits your organization. Do not hesitate to contact us at 718-879-5000. And we can set up a small business checking account or a nonprofit checking account so that you keep your money local, investing in communities in New York City that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Check out the article about Ultranauts in The New York Times. Read about our work with Callen Lorde Community Center, Grand Street Settlement, and The Forward. Open a small business checking account today.

Young kid smiling

As an SBA Preferred Lender and community bank, we knew we could quickly ramp up to help existing and new customers access the SBAs Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). We reached out to and heard from our small business customers and our nonprofit community partners. Grand Street Settlement—a social services agency that supports thousands of people in New York City–was top of our list.

As soon as Grand St. Settlement realized they would need to close their programs, their teams organized to provide immediate supplies, prepare for virtual programming, and navigate for social distancing, emergency food distribution at their senior centers. Teachers prepped education materials for the parents of 800 preschoolers and 2000+ youth who attend their early childcare and after-school programs. They also adapted to use computers and smartphones to connect with their students.

When we heard that Grand St. Settlement needed a PPP lender, and knowing they and many other nonprofits were not confident their banks would prioritize their application, we made nonprofits a focus of our efforts.

“We are very grateful to Spring Bank. The approval happened very quickly, from one day to the next. I think it was the first time a CEO of a bank texted me directly to tell me we were approved for a loan,” says Robert. “It was faster, more efficient—and because Spring Bank has experience in nonprofit lending, they knew exactly what we needed to meet the lending requirements.”

The greatest ongoing need of their community continues to be support with social benefits, housing assistance, tax preparation, and legal guidance. The 450+ staff of Grand St. Settlement are working remotely, helping people navigate public systems during this challenging time. Robert Cordero, Executive Director of Grand St. Settlement, is optimistic they will not only survive this unprecedented time but work to rebuild more durable systems as a result.

“The most marginalized groups in New York City are the most resilient,” says Robert. “And what’s become clear is that healthcare, safe housing, and access to healthy food—these are rights, not privileges. This is laid bare for us to see, and we need policies that provide real economic support and opportunity for everyone.”

The PPP will help Grand St. Settlement make payroll for the next two months and maintain their infrastructure. We are proud to support Robert and his team as they focus on the needs and health of the families and communities they serve across NYC.

“At Grand St. Settlement, we focus on what we can control. We help people in the neighborhoods we live in and serve to create opportunities. We’ve survived the depression, the war on poverty, welfare reform—and have continued to create more impact. We have faith we will make it through this,” says Robert.

We have faith you will too, Robert. Read more about the work of Grand St. Settlement. Learn about the PPP.

Bragging Big this B Corp Month

 

UnCommon Goods quote for B Corp Month

 

We get big-time bragging rights. Our clients make it so easy. As the first B Corp bank in New York City, we are proud to be the financial institution many B Corps in the city choose to trust with their accounts, borrowing needs and programs for their employees. And, to launch our B Corp month celebrations, we are excited to exercise our bragging rights about a unique Brooklyn-based B Corp, Uncommon Goods.

One of the first online marketplaces for makers to sell their crafts, homewares, and customizable gift options Uncommon Goods offers products that meet the highest standards for design and social responsibility. In fact, they created a Vendor Code of Conduct, which outlines their commitment to protecting animal life, fair and equal pay, and sustainable supply chains-to which every vendor is held accountable. And they offer gifts you can’t find anywhere else. Some of our favorites include their New York Times Custom Front Page Puzzle and made-in-Brooklyn, Bee Knee’s Salted Honey.

Twenty years in with over 200 employees, Uncommon Goods boasts a reputation for supporting and scaling the small businesses of hundreds of artisans with thousands of packages shipped daily from Brooklyn across the country. And year over year, they are equally acknowledged as being a great place to work.

When the UnCommon Goods HR team learned about our Employee Opportunity Loan program that provides access to capital and free financial counseling, they knew it was another tool to support their employee-first culture.

“We weren’t offering an employee loan program or financial counseling for our team. Spring Bank’s program can help our team create healthy financial habits, build savings, and it caters to all employees across departments. It was an attractive opportunity for us,” says Jennifer Coleman, PR & Affiliate Marketing at UnCommon Goods.

Our Employee Financial Empowerment Program serves as a tech-enabled comprehensive financial health tool. The Spring Bank Employee Opportunity Loan provides lip to $3000 with no minimum credit score requirement and built-in savings and credit building features. And, the Trust Plus program from Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners gives employees access to free, unlimited, and personalized financial counseling via phone, Skype, or text.

Just a few months after the launch at Uncommon Goods, fourteen employees have taken advantage of the Financial Empowerment Program.

“So far, we’ve heard great things from employees about the experience with the financial counseling and loan program. And working with Spring Bank as a fellow B Corp, is important to us, too,” says Jennifer. “The biggest reason people apply to work with us is because we are a Certified B Corp. The B Corp ethos is part of our culture. We attract top talent who are interested in civic engagement,volunteerism, and who want to contribute to what we are building together,” says Jennifer Coleman, PR & Affiliate Marketing Manager at UnCommon Goods.

In addition to offering paid volunteer days, and double the federal minimum wage as starting pay for hourly team members, UnCommon Goods has been an active supporter for paid family leave laws. Named as a “Business Champion” by Family Values at Work, Founder & CEO Dave Bolotsky, advocated for mandated paid time off for new parents, caretakers of ill loved ones.

“We offer 12 weeks of paid time off for primary caregivers and gender-neutral family leave,” says Jennifer. “And we are committed to offering a livable wage for our employees.”

Lucky us to have values-aligned partners like Uncommon Goods who use their business as a vehicle for social and environmental good, and community-building.

We are proud to celebrate B Corp month with UnCommon Goods, our other partners in the Employee Loan Program, Greyston Bakery, Crave Fishbar, and Pistici restaurant, and the 150+ other B Corps in New York City.

Read more about the UnCommon Goods story. Get the details about our Employee Financial Empowerment Program and learn about other B Corps who participate.  Request more information about our Employee Opportunity Loan.

The property at 645 Barretto Street in the South Bronx was so far behind on taxes that its owners were facing foreclosure. A 48-unit building incorporated as a Housing Development Fund Corporation co-op (HDFC), the property had not been fully occupied for years. Its unpaid water bill alone was close to half a million dollars. And it had a history of maintenance issues that went back years — a boiler collapsed shortly after it was incorporated as a co-op in the early 1980s, says Ann Henderson, who has worked at UHAB, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, since the late 1970s.

UHAB, a nonprofit that develops low-income co-op housing and assists existing co-ops, had tried to help the Barretto Street group resolve its tax arrears in 2002 and 2008, but they were having trouble filling the vacancies, so it was tough to secure loans, Henderson says. In 2014 the property was up for auction, but a city councilmember pulled it off the list at the last minute.

“And so we had to come up with a plan to resolve it or they would get foreclosed,” Henderson says.

As an HDFC co-op, the Barretto Street property’s owners are income-limited, earning up to 120 percent of area median income. HDFC co-ops also get reduced tax bills for adhering to income caps and certain rules about renting, subletting, and reselling units. New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development had money available for co-ops like theirs through its Green Housing Preservation Program. Quite a bit of money, in fact — $2.4 million from the housing department, according Juliet Pierre-Antoine, a department spokeswoman. And the grant came with a retroactive tax exemption through Article XI of the New York Private Housing Finance Law. That would get the co-op close, but not the whole way. Money from the housing department can’t be used to pay down water bills. So, working with UHAB, the co-op got two more loans, from Habitat for Humanity NYC and the Bronx-based Spring Bank, to cover the water debt.

“That’s what we try to do, is sort of combine this and that and come up with a plan,” Henderson says. “Our main goal is to make the maintenance [payments] affordable for the current residents.”

Henderson says there are around 1,200 HDFC co-ops in the city, many of which were turned over to residents by the city as landlords were abandoning properties during the 1970s. Many of them have been lost to foreclosure, she says. And many others have struggled to keep their properties maintained. Groups like UHAB have been a lifeline, offering technical assistance and help finding loans and grants to co-ops like 645 Barretto Street. This helps stabilize co-ops so that low- and moderate-income owners can stay in their homes.

“The reality is that the city sold these unrenovated buildings to the lowest-income people in the city of New York and said, ‘Bye, have a nice life,’” Henderson says.

Henderson says that most co-ops are stable, but there are around 150 HDFC co-ops that might need help. They might need a new boiler, or have to clean up after a fire, or they’ve had money stolen. But many are “allergic to loans,” Henderson says. In the case of the Barretto Street property, UHAB met with the board repeatedly to walk the shareholders through the finances of the deal it structured, which will require the board to pay back loans for years. The vote to approve the deal was unanimous, Henderson says.

“In most buildings, the shareholders have a deep, deep sense of ownership,” she says. “And it’s not based on ‘how much money I’ve invested’ and ‘how much I’m going to sell the apartment for.’ It’s, ‘I lived through the abandonment of the sixties and seventies.’”

Akbar Rizvi, the chief lending officer at Spring Bank, says the co-op’s situation was a “catch 22,” because it needed money from the city to complete the repairs that could keep it from foreclosure, but it couldn’t get the money because it couldn’t pay the water bill. And the size of the water bill would be a red flag in most cases.

“Most banks would hear that and go, ‘You know what? No thanks. This doesn’t make sense,’” Rizvi says.

But Spring Bank saw that the co-op had new management and was working with Habitat, and was “in it for the long haul,” he says.

“What helped us move forward was our commitment to being able to understand the full story and not jumping to conclusions — understanding what this HDFC had been through,” Rizvi says. The bank ultimately ended up loaning the co-op $265,000.

Chris Illum and Charlotte Bell, a vice president of housing services and loan officer, respectively, at Habitat NYC, both previously worked at UHAB, according to Ann Henderson. The group loaned the 645 Barretto Street co-op $250,000 through a housing preservation program that’s part of the Habitat NYC Community Fund. Given how many limited-equity co-ops there are in neighborhoods threatened with displacement, the group has focused on keeping those homeowners in place, offering technical assistance on construction projects, help with budgeting, and facilitating board elections.

The fund launched recently, and in its first year, it lent $640,000 across five buildings, according to Illum. The Community Fund is hoping that over the next three or four years it will lend around $4.5 million to help develop or preserve 1,500 buildings in New York, Illum says. For projects like Barretto Street, even relatively small loans can make a big difference.

“There was a previous effort to save the building, but all of that was contingent upon selling the units they had vacant during a time when no one wanted to live in the Bronx,” Bell says. “When we’re not able to help stabilize the type of housing that’s in these communities, they’re likely to be lost.”

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our thrice-weekly Backyard newsletter.

You may not have ever heard of Greyston Bakery, in Yonkers, New York, but if you are a fan of Ben & Jerry’s Brownie Batter Ice Cream, you know its brownies.

You may also be surprised to know that the workers who bake those brownies in 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, five and sometimes six days a week, all came through an open door hiring process — no questions asked, no drug test, no credit check. Not even an interview. Founded in 1982, the bakery was recently featured in the New York Times for its open hiring policy, which has given a second chance to many with a criminal record or other barriers to employment for more conventional businesses.

Anyone who needs a job can come to Greyston, put their name and contact info on a list, and when there’s an opening, they get a call to come in and begin paid training immediately as part of a six-month apprenticeship. As head of human resources for the bakery, Abigail Saunders made that first call to many of the current bakers at Greyston.

With nearly three decades of experience in HR, Saunders has been through a lot, but nothing like she has since joining Greyston in 2015. She’s helped employees experiencing homelessness find housing, and spends more time away from her desk — coaching and spending time with workers out on the bakery floor — than any other job she’s had before. Attendance is the biggest issue, often connected to trouble outside the workplace, often housing or healthcare. A few years ago she brought in a social worker to help her colleagues navigate such challenges.

The newest addition to Saunders’ HR toolset: emergency loans for employees. Through a partnership with a local bank, Greyston Bakery employees, including management, can access personal loans up to $2,500 with no credit check required. Repayments come directly off the employee’s paycheck. The program is open to employees who have been at Greyston for at least one year. About 30 of Saunders’ colleagues have used the program since Greyston formed the partnership in 2018.

“A lot of HR professionals don’t understand financial problems at home might affect performance,” Saunders says. “The process is very painless. For whatever they need, it’s great. One of the employees took a loan out to help out a family member.”

The loans come from nearby Spring Bank, the only bank based in the South Bronx. Since launching this program for employer-based loans in 2015, it’s made a thousand of these loans through more than twenty employers including nonprofit organizations, local businesses, and Jetro Restaurant Depot, a major wholesale supplier for bodegas with 3,000 employees throughout the New York City area. The average loan size is around $2,100.

Spring Bank’s employer-based loan program is just one example of a larger trend bubbling up across the country. Recognizing the scourge of predatory payday lenders and other alternative financial services providers weighing down on employees, companies are offering employer-based loans as an alternative. You don’t need a credit check. Just a job.

There’s platforms like TrueConnect, which has more than a thousand companies on its employer-based loan platform. The structure is similar: Employees take out a small loan from a bank (in TrueConnect’s case, it’s Twin Cities-based Sunrise Banks), and repayments come directly out of the employee’s regular paycheck. Billed as a competitor to payday lenders, which often charge as much as 300 or 400 percent annual interest, TrueConnect charges 24.9 percent — still higher than most credit cards, but more accessible to people who may not qualify for a card.

One critic told the Los Angeles Times that employer-based loan programs and other “financial wellness benefits sound pretty gimmicky and of dubious value to workers, and sound more like employers wanting to continue not offering wage increases to attract workers.”

Higher wages would certainly help workers at all levels, but they’re not a guarantee against the unforeseen. Some 60 percent of households experienced an unexpected financial shock in the previous 12 months, according to a study by Pew Charitable Trusts — and the median financial shock was $2,000.

While these numbers have gone down over the past five years, in a 2019 Federal Reserve survey 27 percent of Americans said they would have to borrow money or sell something to cover an unforeseen expense of just $400; another 12 percent they would not be able to cover it at all.

As a result, the market for alternative financial products — payday loans and other financial services provided outside the banking system such as check cashing — continues to grow year after year, to a projected $188 billion in 2018, according to the most recent Financially Underserved Market Study from the Center for Financial Services Innovation.

In New York, the usury cap is 16 percent — which is what Spring Bank charges on its employer-based loans. As a result of the state’s strong usury protections, Spring Bank isn’t facing the same competition from payday lenders as in other parts of the country. It’s possible to get a payday loan in New York state through an online provider, and it does happen, but it’s not nearly as prevalent as places where payday lenders operate out of storefronts, usually in low-income and predominantly black or Latinx communities.

When an employer signs up for the Spring Bank program, director of consumer lending Melanie Stern and loan officer Carol Guzman typically go out and make a presentation to the employees of the company. Often, by the time they get back to the office, employees of that company have already submitted applications. Guzman says over the past few months she’s consistently seen around 20 applications a week from all of Spring Bank’s participating employers. Approval can take up to seven days — still not quite as instant as many payday loan providers promise.

Stern designed the program to break the debt trap. When Spring Bank approves an employer-based loan, the loan amount goes into a savings account in the employee’s name. It can be withdrawn the same day, in-person — their main branch is located along two major subway lines in the South Bronx. The loan repayments are set up as a direct deposit from the employee’s regular paycheck into the savings account. Some employees choose to keep the direct deposits going even after repaying the loan, getting them started on a path to building savings.

On more than one occasion, Guzman says, employees have applied for a second loan, not realizing they had already paid off the first loan but kept paying into their savings account. She’s told these applicants they don’t need a second loan because they had already saved up more than the amount they requested.

“They come for another loan and they didn’t even know they had money there,” Guzman says. “One had $1,500, another had $1,800 in their savings account.”

So far, the median annual income for borrowers in Spring Bank’s employer loan program is $36,000. The bank also reports the on-time payments on each borrower’s credit history, resulting in a 50-point credit score bump after repaying an employer-based loan, according to Stern.

“Where we really see a nice impact is for people who didn’t have a prior credit history at all,” Stern says.

One obvious risk is that borrowers leave the company before repaying a loan. Spring Bank requests a back-up bank account to use for repayments in case that does happen, but it doesn’t require that. So far the losses have been less than Stern expected — at program launch in 2015, she forecasted ten percent of loans going bad, but so far it’s only been three percent, which is on par with other employer-based loan programs.

There are some key limitations. Specifically, people currently paying child support cannot access Spring bank’s employer-based loan program. Child-support payments take precedent over loan repayments, making those borrowers just too risky to access this program. Saunders, of Greyston Bakery, says that has definitely been an issue for some of her colleagues.

Technology has been a key piece of the puzzle — as well as an expense. Spring Bank partnered with tech startup Happy Mango Credit to build and operate an online platform that provides access to the employer-based loans as well as other Spring Bank financial products. The same platform also integrates tools for some household financial planning as well as setting up appointments for financial counseling.

Stern hopes to add another ten employers to Spring Bank’s employer-based loan program over the next year.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter. The Bottom Line is made possible with support from Citi Community Development.

Recognized by B Lab as a Best For The World Honoree in Overall, Changemaker, Customers, and Governance

It’s a momentous time for us. Not one, but four recognitions from the B Corp movement that affirm our work to create a world where all people have equal access and the opportunity to build prosperous and abundant financial futures. Today we are proud to announce we have been named 2019 Best For The World Honoree by B Lab in four categories: Overall, Changemaker, Customers, and Governance.

What does this mean? We rank in the top 10 percent of all 3,000 B Corps worldwide for our positive impact,  an affirmation of our commitment to this journey over the last 12 months.

Here’s a look at some of the things we’ve been up to:

  • Changemaker: Support for the community. We continue to support the incredible network of community partners who provide invaluable services in New York City like financial literacy, affordable housing, and job creation.

    Carbon neutral. This April we offset over 192,874.28 kg of CO2e, part of a movement to preserve the Amazon rainforest and supports indigenous families who live in the rainforests of Pará, Brazil.

  • Customers: Since the day we opened our doors, we have served people and communities most often targeted by predatory lenders. We design affordable banking products like our Start Loan and Green Checking account to help people build savings and credit. We continue to score the highest in the Customer category on the B Impact Assessment because serving the needs of our customers is our priority.
  • Governance: We have been recognized for how we achieve mission, accountability, and transparency through the active engagement of our employees, board members, and community representatives.

Thank you to B Lab for recognizing our efforts. And, Thank YOU, our loyal customers, supporters, and partners who inspire us to do more, go further and stay the path to build an inclusive, equitable, and durable and shared prosperity for all.

About the Best For The World Award
Best For The World recognition is administered by B Lab, the global nonprofit that certifies and supports Certified B Corporations, which are for-profit companies dedicated to using business as a force for good. Today there are 3,000 Certified B Corporations across 64 countries and 150 industries, unified by one common goal: to redefine success in business.

Learn about our score on the B Impact Assessment. Read about the Best For The World Honorees.


There are rare moments in life when the path you’ve chosen is affirmed. The hard work, the commitment, and at times, the uncertainty are validated.  And this week, we at Spring Bank, along with 2500+ of our B Corp peers, experienced one of those moments.

Shareholder Primacy is No Longer Supreme
On August 19th,  The Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs of America’s largest companies, changed their shareholder primacy mantra with an announcement that they would work ‘to promote an economy that serves all Americans’, with commitments to fair compensation for employees; ethical dealings with their suppliers; support of local communities in which they work; protecting the environment by embracing sustainable practices. And an effort to foster diversity and inclusion. Included in this announcement are companies like Vanguard, Progressive, and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Yeah, we know. Let’s “Get to Work.”  
As the first B Corp bank in New York City, and a proud part of the global B Corp movement,  which started 15 years ago can’t help but say, ‘yeah, we know.’ Stakeholder primacy is in our DNA.

“It’s been a long time coming, and we applaud their statement, but its one thing to talk the talk and another to walk the walk,” says Demetris Giannoulias, our CEO. “We’ve been prioritizing stakeholders as a movement for years now. How will these companies change so that their actions match their words?”

Before we opened the doors to our headquarters in the Bronx in 2007, we took time to listen, to understand the needs of the residents in the Bronx. We formed partnerships with community-based organizations, whom we work with every day to build an inclusive economy. We continually develop new products and services, like our Start Loan, Green Checking and lending options for nonprofits and small businesses, as our clients’ needs change. Thankfully, we aren’t unique in this. Our B Corp colleagues use their businesses as vehicles for community, environmental and systemic transformation, too. So, when the Business Roundtable came to the “stakeholder table,” we were encouraged by their words and are hopeful that they will implement changes. The B Corp movement encouraged them to “Get to Work.” Thirty-three of our peers including Patagonia, Danone, Happy Family Organics, Beauty Counter, Ben & Jerry’s and Eileen Fisher, to name a few, signed a full-page letter to the Business Roundtable (in the image above) in a two-page spread in the New York Times last Sunday. The key point? It’s time to build a sustainable, durable and shared economy—together.

A New Economy: The Table is Big Enough for All of Us
We are so proud to be leading this shift in NYC along with Certified B Corps around the globe. We invite the leaders of financial institutions to walk the walk with us. We can create an inclusive economy—where people of all backgrounds have access fairly priced financial products,  to help them build wealth and create financially secure futures. The good news is that the inclusive economy table is big enough for all of us.

Read The Business Roundtable Announcement. Follow B the Change, the B Corp movement’s media outlet and dig into the movement’s response. Learn about our affordable banking products, designed to build credit, savings, and new beginnings for people typically excluded from our current economic model. And take your seat at the table by moving your money into a local, community bank.

In Partnership with Habitat New York City Community Fund

“We have to maintain access. People have a right to live here, to build families here. If we don’t have a preservation mindset, we will cease to be New York City,” Chris Illum, Executive Director of Habitat NYC Community Fund.

Take a walk through the Lower East Side (LES) of Manhattan, and you’ll soon notice a common trend on every block: “For rent” signs plastered on once-thriving neighborhood businesses. Take a walk through the South Bronx, and unsurprisingly, you’ll see the same signs on both commercial and residential properties.

“People said the LES would never be worth much. No one saw the influx of foreign investment coming. And it’s happening all over the city. If we don’t preserve the housing that exists, if we don’t have a preservation mindset and maintain housing for all types of people, our city is only for millionaires,” explains Chris Illum, Executive Director of Habitat NYC Community Fund.

The Habitat NYC Community Fund is a critical part of their Housing Preservation Program, a multi-faceted initiative that assists low-to-moderate-income New York City homeowners in income-restricted cooperative developments, with programs designed to strengthen their ability to remain in their homes.  The fund was created to preserve existing affordable housing properties in New York City by providing small-scale financing. When their team approached us about a community investment opportunity in the South Bronx, we knew we wanted to consider it.

654 Baretto. This 48-unit, Housing Development Fund Co-Op in Hunts Point had not been fully occupied in years. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid water bills, dozens of maintenance issues, and years of back taxes put this property into a “catch-22” as Akbar Rizvi, our VP of Lending explains it. The building needed capital to fix the repairs to prevent foreclosure, but it was unable to secure financing because it couldn’t afford the water bill.

Quoted in a recent article in Next City, called A Lifeline for Preserving Limited-Equity Co-ops in New York, Akbar says:

“Most banks would hear that and go, ‘You know what? No thanks. This doesn’t make sense.’ But what helped us move forward was our commitment to understanding the full story and not jumping to conclusions — understanding what this HDFC had been through.”

We are proud to have joined efforts with the Habitat NYC Community Fund by loaning $265,000 to the co-op for debt-consolidation. So why did we take this risk when most banks would not? It started with a community partnership. Our relationships with Chris lllum and Karen Haycox, CEO of Habitat for Humanity New York City, provided the long-term credibility and trust for us to consider this loan.

“They have always been strong community advocates and supported our work of preservation. We’ve always wanted to do a deal with Spring Bank, so when 654 Baretto came to us, we knew it was a good place to start together,” says Chris.

Secondly, Habitat for Humanity New York City recently became a fellow Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Certified by the US Department of Treasury, this designation allows them to make loans to existing resident-owned, multi-family affordable housing developments and nonprofit affordable housing developers. As a CDFI, Habitat for Humanity New York was able to launch their community fund and partner with other innovative lenders in restoration and preservation projects like 654 Baretto.

“Part of the reason we became a CDFI and launched the fund was to ensure working-class folks who fight so hard to be in this city can create long-term, generational wealth over time,” says Chris.

And lastly, the preservation of community in the South Bronx is key to our mission as a B Corp and as an ethical bank. Building an inclusive economy requires a collective effort.

“We are a small fund. We are not going to solve the housing crisis in New York City single-handedly. And we can’t build ourselves out of the problem. Spring Bank helped us to stem the tide for this property. We know community funds like this create stability and access to our city,” says Chris.

We couldn’t agree more.

“Partnering with Habitat for Humanity New York City to meet the financing needs of this borrower aligned with the bank’s mission in many ways: maintaining affordable housing as well as improving energy efficiency. These are tremendous issues in our community, so this was a win-win,” says Akbar.

Collective investment. Community partnership. And creating access to homes and opportunities to build wealth for all the hardworking people of New York City. This is the work we love to do.

Learn about the Habitat NYC Community Fund. Learn more about the inner workings of the 654 Barreto financing on Next City by Jared Brey. And bank local. Open your Business checking or personal Green Checking, account with us today.

Spring Bank is Home to Community Bank Heroes

Spring Bank Vice President Brian Blake has been named a Community Bank Hero by The Warren Group and Banking New York Magazine. But in accepting the award, he stated that the award was actually a reflection of the hard work of the entire Spring Bank team. Community Bank Heroes is an annual award that recognizes the leaders and visionaries of the New York Banking industry. Read the press release here. 

“There should really be 35 names on this award,” said Mr. Blake in his remarks. “In just 7 years, Spring Bank has accomplished much in pursuit of its mission to serve New York’s underbanked people and businesses. My colleagues and our board have built a bank that truly “walks the talk” when it comes to economic development and financial inclusion.”

Among other initiatives, Brian is the treasurer of the Frederick Douglass Blvd. Alliance and serves on the credit committee of Business Outreach Center Capital (BOC). He is also a frequent contributor to local “access to capital” panels, as well as national policy discussions, such as the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund’s BankOn 2.0 initiative. In 2015 Brian joined the New Leaders Council NYC as a 2015 Institute Fellow. He is a proud graduate of Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA (B.A), and Baruch College, CUNY, New York, NY (M.B.A.).

Banking New York magazine has been informing more than 10,000 bankers across the state for over eight years. It is part of The Warren Group’s suite of banking publications and events that serve more than 100,000 bankers in eleven states, and has been educating the industry since 1872.

The 2015 Banking New York Community Bank Heroes Award Recipients are:

Brian A. Blake, Vice President, Spring Bank

Ralph Branca, President & CEO, Victory State Bank

Nancy Foster, Senior Vice President, Bridgehampton National Bank

Drew Kessler, Vice President, M&T Bank

Marilyn Lipton, Director, Citi

Brenda Mikolajczak, Director of Retail Sales, Evans Bank, N.A.

Matt Nartowicz, Vice President/ Regional Manager, American Community Bank

Susan Proper, Branch Manager, National Bank of Coxsackie

James Terwilliger, Senior Vice President- Group Manager, Financial Planning, Canandaigua National Bank & Trust

Terri Vertalino, First Vice President, Area manager, First Niagara

Awards were distributed at a lunch event Thursday, April 2, 2015, during the Banking New York Conference at the Double Tree by Hilton in Tarrytown, NY. To see a full list of the Community Bank Heroes and more information about the awards lunch, visit: www.bankingnyconference.com, and look for the special section with winner profiles in the June issue of Banking New York magazine.

About Spring Bank:

Founded in 2007 to serve New York City’s underbanked, Spring Bank is an FDIC-insured, independently owned community bank headquartered in the Bronx, New York. In December 2012, the Bank’s second branch opened in the Harlem community of Manhattan. Since its founding, the primary mission of the Bank has been to provide innovative products, services and education that enable low-wealth customers to benefit from mainstream banking. An SBA Preferred Lending Partner, Spring Bank is equally committed to supporting locally owned small businesses through affordable loans, stimulating job growth and the virtuous cycle of economic self-determination.

Supporting Technology and Entrepreneurship

This was fun! In the summer of 2014, Spring Bank wrote a letter of credit to help the Business Outreach Center (BOC)  secure the lease for the Bronx Business Incubator. This exceptional non-profit is a leading micro-lender and provides valuable assistance to local small businesses and start-ups. Our partnership helps BOC bring expertise and technology to more people and businesses in a beautiful space.

Watch the video at YouTube.

Every project is an inspiring opportunity to work in this great borough.