Exclusive: BP Levine and CM Powers push for municipal public bank in New York City

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Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine speaks alongside Mayor Adams on Jan. 4.
Photo by Dean Moses

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and Council Member Keith Powers are introducing two new bills and a resolution to pave the way for a public municipal bank in New York City.

The legislation seeks to amend the New York City charter on reporting deposit money as well as the administrative code when it comes to the reporting on non-depository city financial services. 

Both elected officials feel that by requiring the city to disclose financial relationships with banks, specifically the amount deposited into institutions and the exact nature of those business dealings, it would create transparency and accountability. Defining the terms of these financial relationships can showcase where public funding is actually going.

In addition, the bills are calling upon the state legislature to pass, and for the governor to sign, a resolution that would establish the New York Public Banking Act.  This would allow for the city’s money to be potentially invested in public interest (such as supporting affordable housing developers and renewable energy projects) and to advance social justice since it would be created and controlled by the city government. 

“I’ve partnered with Council Member Powers to introduce the People’s Bank Act because I believe strongly that we need greater financial transparency and responsibility in New York City’s finances.,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “New Yorkers deserve to know what the City’s coffers look like and what banking institutions are profiting from our holdings. And a municipal bank would be revolutionary for underserved and overlooked communities, providing greater access to capital for community development efforts, small businesses, first-time homeowners, and the unbanked.”

Currently, the city collects revenue from taxes and other sources from the public that is designed to fund public services. Powers and Levine shared that much of this money is deposited into private banks such as JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America. They claim that the money is then utilized, in part, to finance ventures like fossil fuel extraction, private prisons, weapons manufacturers, and other destructive industries.

The elected officials have a long-term goal of creating a municipal public bank that would openly showcase where their tax money is going and at what it costs.

“At this pivotal moment in New York City’s economic recovery, this is an ideal time to consider a public bank,” said City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. “A municipal banking infrastructure benefits our city by offering more financial opportunities in underserved communities, funding public needs, reducing costs, and greatly increasing transparency in our city’s finances. I am proud to partner with Borough President Levine on this important bill and look forward to its implementation.”