How do you get a major bank like JP Morgan Chase to listen? What do the thousands of New York homeowners, the majority of whom are African American and Latino, who have been pleading for mortgage modifications to avoid foreclosure, do to get them to pay attention?
Wednesday, The Mayor and Board of Trustees of the Village of Hempstead, NY along with New York Communities for Change, sent a new kind of message: if you ignore our citizens, we won’t do business with you. The village voted to pull all $12.5 million of its funds from JP Morgan Chase, and refuse to do business with the bank until it improves its modification procedures.
The Village of Hempstead (pop. 54,000) is the largest incorporated village in the United States, and the largest community of color on Long Island. Research from the Furman Center shows that African American and Latino homeowners in New York are far less likely to receive loan modifications than white homeowners. Moreover, it is well-documented that JP Morgan Chase has the worst track record in New York as far as modifying loans – only 6% of homeowners in the state that have sought modifications from Chase have received them.
Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall has seen his village be ravaged by the foreclosure crisis, and could no longer watch the bank do nothing. “It’s important that Chase and all the big corporate banks start to heed the minority communities,” Hall said. “There’s a lot of power in the minority communities. If we all stick together and start withdrawing our money out of these big banks and start putting it into more favorable banks, Chase will review its procedures for modifications.”
Mayor Hall will be working with New York Communities for Change to promote this action in villages, towns, and cities throughout the State. The Village of Freeport, Hempstead’s neighbor, is on the verge of shutting down their Chase accounts. Elected officials in the city of Albany, as well as Albany County, have expressed their desire to do the same. More announcements by several municipalities in upstate NY will be made in the coming weeks.
Next week, NYCC will be releasing an online tool that will allow New Yorkers to email their local elected officials to support similar resolutions. The federal government may have bailed out Chase, and has turned a blind eye to their abysmal track record with homeowners. All well and good. If DC and Wall Street wish to turn their backs on working families, we can force Chase to change its ways one town at a time, on Main Streets throughout the State (and beyond).
Greg Basta is Staff Director for New York Communities for Change, an organization fighting for social and economic justice for working families throughout New York State. Also an overly proud native of Brooklyn.