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Peralta seeks to lure bank branches to under-served areas

New York Community Bank, which currently operates two branches in the Corona area, has submitted a proposal to the state Department of Banking to designate the area as a Banking Development District. The special districts target areas believed to be under-served by banks, offering lucrative incentives such as guaranteed municipal deposits to financial institutions willing to set up shop there."These are the types of ground-breaking initiatives that are desperately needed in this community to catapult us into the future," Peralta said at a news conference in Corona. "And let us not forgot our next door neighbor, East Elmhurst, which is also in dire need of a new (Banking Development District."The Corona-Elmhurst district would be the second in Queens - there is one in Jamaica - and the 15th in the city.The area to be covered by the proposed Corona-Elmhurst Banking Development District is bounded by Northern Boulevard, the Grand Central Parkway, the Long Island Expressway and Junction Boulevard. Currently, there are only eight bank branches within the area, Peralta said, meaning there are 12,000 residents for every bank branch as opposed to the average of 6,000 people per branch elsewhere in Queens. The assemblyman said 53 percent of the residents there do not have cars, making "it even more imperative to open banks."The situation is even bleaker in East Elmhurst, Peralta said."If you go north toward East Elmhurst, there are zero banks in that area," Peralta said, indicating that he would like to see another Banking Development District set up there. "The idea is to make sure that the entire district is covered."Bank officials earlier this month made a presentation to Borough President Helen Marshall, who professed her support of the project. She said it would help local residents gain access to much-needed financial services, such as mortgage lending, savings accounts and retirement planning.One of the first beneficiaries of such a designation would be Queens County Savings Bank, a division of New York Community Bank, which has plans to nearly quadruple the size of its current Corona Heights facility. The company hopes to expand its branch at 51-13 108th St. from 550 square feet to 2,200 square feet. New York Community Bank also operates another branch at 37-97 103rd St.In exchange for setting up or expanding services in areas deemed to be "under-banked," financial services companies gain access to as much as $10 million in municipal deposits at favorable rates. The deposits give the institutions a rapid infusion of cash, which enables them to locate branches in areas where depositors themselves may be low- to middle-income, Marshall said.Peralta said the state Banking Department would probably make its decision within a month. . "It's a matter of making sure that the banks are investing in the community," Peralta said. "Corona and East Elmhurst are banking on the banks so that they can grow and flourish and to ensure that these up-and-coming communities are still up-and-coming."Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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