WASHINGTON - Chalk up another victory for Inner City Press/Community on the Move, the Bronx-based group that has used the Community Reinvestment Act to defeat some of New York's largest banks.
The group's latest targets, Dime Bancorp and Anchor Bancorp, agreed Monday night to open a full-service branch in the South Bronx, to lend $15 million there and $5 million in Upper Manhattan over the next three years, and to institute a multilingual marketing program.
"We made our case to them and at the 11th hour, they committed to it," Inner City executive director Matthew Lee said. "We feel positive about it."
The two sides were set to square off Tuesday before an Office of Thrift Supervision official. The hearing was called so the two sides could debate Inner City's claim that Dime and Anchor did not serve minority sections of the Bronx. As part of Monday's deal, Inner City withdrew that complaint.
The agreement benefits the banks, which hope to merge early next year, Anchor chairman James M. Large Jr. said Tuesday.
"What this demonstrates is that the complaint was without substance," Mr. Large said. "Also, it gives us a chance to show our intentions and involvement in the South Bronx."
Consumer advocates also praised the settlement, saying other groups must imitate Inner City's activities if they hope to further develop low-income areas.
"With a potentially hostile CRA and fair-lending Congress, this may be the way to go next year," said Kenneth Thomas, a noted CRA author. "Community groups must take their battles to the street. This is the perfect example." Dime did the right thing by examining its record in the Bronx and agreeing to boost its presence, said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. This decision should make the bank money, he added.
"It is good for the bank money said. "It is good for the Bronx. It will be safe-and-sound lending. This is the way it is supposed to work."
Bankers shouldn't worry about other groups or the government forcing them into similar deal, said Andrew Sandler, a banking attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
"Every situation involving a protest is an individual situation," said Mr. Sandler, who represented Chevy Chase Federal Savings Bank in its fair-lending settlement with the Justice Department this summer. "I don't see this as a precedent with respect to other protests."
Inner City Press has battled seven banks this year, signing deals most recently with Marine Midland Bank and Republic New York Corp. Each agreed to lend $15 million in the Bronx.