A fast-growing, minority-owned bank in New York is shifting its headquarters to one of the city's most storied bank buildings.
New York National Bank, the state's only bank owned predominantly by African-Americans and Hispanics, bought the vacant former Bronx County Trust Co. property last year and opened a branch there June 5.
This year $90 million-asset New York National plans to move its operations into the 70-year-old building from another site in the Bronx.
"This is a reflection of our confidence in this community," said Serafin U. Mariel, president and chief executive officer of New York National.
"Our belief is that the Bronx is back, and we are happy to be headquartered here."
Built in the 1920s, the structure was occupied by Bronx County Trust until it was bought by Manhattan Bank in 1955, Mr. Mariel said. The next year, when Manhattan Bank was merged with Chase Bank, the old building became the new Chase Manhattan Bank's district headquarters.
The building had been operated as a Chase branch since the 1980s but was vacated in early 1997 after Chase's merger with Chemical Banking Corp.; deposit accounts were moved to a nearby Chemical branch.
Mr. Mariel said he views New York National as the heir to long-gone Bronx County Trust. The bank, which has grown from $6 million of assets since its 1982 founding, can flourish in the Bronx, he said.
"When people settled in the West, a town knew it had made it when it could support a bank," he said. "I think that is still true today."
A local activist said he supports New York National's efforts but stressed that one community bank is not enough to bolster the area.
"New York National, regardless of its good intentions, does not have the money to do the whole job," said Matthew Lee, executive director of Inner City Press/Community on the Move, a Bronx activist group.
"The Bronx is on the rebound," Mr. Lee added, "and a lot of people want to buy homes here. New York National is not big enough to provide those big mortgage loans. We still need the big banks here to do that job."