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Doral Bank opens up on Steinway St.

Billing themselves an institution for the masses, officials at Doral Bank toasted the opening of their third and newest New York branch on Steinway Street last week with promises of unbeatable customer service.

“I strongly believe that banking institutions, we need to care more,” said Salomon Levis, chief executive officer and chairman of the board at Doral Financial Corp., as he stood before dozens of well-wishers at a celebration in the bank lobby Friday afternoon. “Our mission is to provide the best service to all New Yorkers, especially minorities.”

The Puerto Rico-based bank, which opened its first branch in the city on Park Avenue in 1999 and operates another in Washington Heights, moved into Astoria for its first venture beyond Manhattan because of the neighborhood’s diverse ethnic population, said Robert Reiner, the bank’s president.

“To us it represents a juxtaposition or a collage of various immigrant groups and diverse ethnic groups,” Reiner said in an interview following the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We just find there’s a vitality in this area and energy we draw upon and we seem to have a synergy with.”

The opening attracted a number of local politicians, including City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) – who was sworn into office only two hours later at a ceremony a few blocks away – state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), state Sen. George Onorato (D-Long Island City), and Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz.

Onorato, a member of the banking committee in the state Senate, praised Doral for coming into Astoria at a time when many people have complained that bank mergers and closures have compromised customer service.

Julie Wager, the president of the Steinway Street Business Improvement District who closed his own store in the early 1990s, said he expects the bank’s services to be a boon to businesses on the heavily commercial Steinway Street.

“I wish we had a bank like Doral around then,” he said. “Maybe I’d still be in business today.”

The Astoria branch, located at 30-18 Steinway St., first opened its doors almost three months ago and has already made an impressive showing for the company, according to Reiner.

“We’ve exceeded our expectations twofold” in both deposit-base and loan volume, Reiner said.

Open seven days a week, Doral offers “the latest banking technology” and hires employees from the local community in an effort to make it customer-friendly, Levis said. Branch manager Sonia Ruiz has worked in Astoria banks for the past 15 years.

“We want to accommodate you,” Reiner said. “We don’t want you to accommodate your business around our hours.”

Bank officials said they expect to open between 20 and 25 more branches in the five boroughs over the next four years.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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