(January 15, 2008 – Jackson Heights, NY) Late last week, three of the largest credit unions in New York City, United Nations FCU (UNFCU), Municipal Credit Union (MCU) and Melrose Credit Union joined the largest community development credit union (CDCU) in the City, the Lower East Side People’s FCU (LESPFCU), for a roundtable meeting to discuss plans for expanding credit union service to underserved communities in Jackson Heights and Corona, Queens.
The special meeting, organized by the Queens Community House and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation), brought together credit unions, local community-based non-profits, and a host of New York policy-makers, including U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY), New York Assemblyman Member José Peralta, and representatives from the offices of New York State Senator John Sabini and Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall.
| (Left to right) Rob Nemeroff, VP of Marketing, Melrose CU; Linda Levy, CEO, LESPFCU; New York Assemblyman José Peralta; Pablo DeFilippi, Federation Associate Director of Membership Development; John Lewis, General Counsel United Nations FCU; Zoe Sullivan and Alexis Iwanisziw, Queens Community House; U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley; Shan Rehman, Chhaya CDC; Ralph Pagan, VP Marketing and Business Development, Municipal CU; Melva Miller, Office of the Queens Borough President; and Shams Tarek, Office of New York State Senator John Sabini.
Zoe Sullivan of the Queens Community House highlighted the “incredible need for more transparent and affordable alternatives to the banks and check cashiers that are so common in these [low-income] communities.”
“CDCUs,” said Sullivan, “Provide an effective and proven mechanism for underserved communities to gain control over their financial resources. “Furthermore, as financial cooperatives, credit unions are driven not for profit or for charity, but by the needs of the members and communities that they serve. This results in the direct empowerment and improvement of their communities.”
U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley, who attended the meeting in person, expressed his support for the new collaboration. “I am a long-time supporter of the good works of Queens Community House, and in particular of this initiative to provide affordable financial services. It is by building assets that families and communities become economically self-sustaining and having access to affordable and equitable financial products and services is a critical component toward achieving this goal.”
State Senator John Sabini, who represents Jackson Heights and Corona, also praised these efforts, stating that, “community-based credit unions give people from all walks of life access to the American Dream in a financially secure and responsible way.”
“The interest this roundtable has generated within the New York City credit union community is very exciting”, said Pablo DeFilippi, Associate Director for Membership Development at the Federation. “It is important to recognize that this will be a collective effort between credit unions and community organizations that leverages the resources and core competencies of everyone involved. This will provide a viable, organic solution to the particular financial needs of these underserved communities.”
“We seek to mobilize public and private support to move this project forward,” said Linda Levy, CEO of LESPFCU. “For more than 20 years our credit union has been effectively serving thousands of low-income consumers and as a result, we have developed products and services tailored to the particular needs of that market. The support and involvement of our fellow credit unions will be critical in making this new collaboration a reality. We are confident that by working together we’ll be able to more effectively respond to the needs of the community and our respective memberships,” she added.
“We are very excited about this project,” said DeFilippi. “Queens Community House, is a well-respected non-profit that has been serving these communities for twenty years; LESPFCU has specialized in serving low-income inner-city consumers since the late 1980s; and Melrose CU, UNFCU and MCU bring tremendous capacity and expertise for effective delivery of affordable financial services. With support from the community and its elected officials, the prospects for this partnership are very bright indeed,” DeFilippi added.
The Federation has long been a proponent of partnerships as a mechanism for credit unions to leverage expertise and resources. This type of collaboration is one of the foundations of its Community Development Partners program, which is building bridges between larger credit unions whose field of memberships may not necessarily be primarily low-income, and the typically smaller CDCUs, whose central mission is serving the underserved. For more information or to become involved as a Community Development Partner, contact Pablo DeFilippi at email@example.com or at (800) 437-8711, ext. 304.