Upham's Corner Online

Bank of America - Uphams Corner Branch to Close 3/21/13

In a customer letter dated 12/6/2013, Bank of American announced that the Uphams Corner branch would close Friday, March 21, 2013.  The letter reflects a coup-d'etat attitude toward Uphams Corner with no consultation - no warning - in advance.  It is incumbent on members of this community to rally, to speak up, to call upon every mechanism to stop the "rollover" and convert it into a change that is meaningful for the community.

Bank of America Uphams Corner Branch Closing 3/21/13 Bank of America Uphams Corner Branch Closing 3/21/13

Excerpts from the Bank of America Letter

What's changing On Friday, March 21, 2014, the banking center located at 555 Columbia Road, Dorchester, Massachusetts, will be permanently closing. Banking services will continue to be available at the banking center located at 1104 Massachusetts Avenue, Dorchester, Massachusetts.

BOA customer letter
 Click to view full letter

How to Comment Any person wishing to comment on this proposed banking center closing may file comments with the Licensing Manager, Large Banks, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Licensing, 250 E Street SW, Mail Stop 7-13, Washington, DC 20219. However, the agency does not have the authority to approve or prevent the closure.

Why is the Bank Closing?

Customer Service in Dudley Square said:  "It was a corporate decision and who knows why."  Bank employees were informed of the closure a couple days before the official letters went out to customers.

Bank of America leaving Uphams Corner does not deprive our community of a bank close by as there are at least two branches within one mile - South Bay and Dudley Square.  At the same time, as Janice, a BOA Customer Service Rep in Uphams Corner, stated:  "I feel bad because so many of my customers are elderly." 

Janice said:  "Maintenance of this building is so expensive."  She also talked about renovation challenges if the bank wanted to add another ATM.  Apparently that would have triggered a lot more building upgrades than the bank was willing to commit to. 

Only last year, Bank of America authorized painting the exterior after years of ugly paint flaking and disrepair on the face of the building.  BOA also upgraded the carpeting on the inside.  The corporation suddenly deciding to close the branch is out of step with their prior maintenance decisions.

Bank of America Uphams Corner Branch Closing 3/21/13 Bank of America Uphams Corner Branch Closing 3/21/13
Bank of America Uphams Corner Branch Closing 3/21/13 Bank of America Uphams Corner Branch Closing 3/21/13

What Steps Can the Community Take?

The Bank of America operates many branhes in the greater Boston area.  Their current location in Uphams Corner was originally the Bank of Boston until the merger fever scarfed that up.  Within one mile are two branches - South Bay and Dudley Square.  At the same time, the Uphams Corner community is unique and deserves its own branch.

Residents and community organizations in Uphams Corner MUST step up to the plate and quickly address the implications of BOA closing a branch that is so important for the community.  Uphams Corner is 90% people of color (POC), many of whom do not speak English (hispanic, Cape Verdean and Haitian and more).  Many are older and have depended on the BOA branch for years.

Adelina Alves, Uphams Corner Health Center, asked:  "Why didn't they come to us, the community, before making their decision?"  This is the right question despite the fact that big business notoriously makes decisions that only benefit the corporation.  Bank of America is no different. 

Had the bank come to the community to address its concerns, the question might have been answered the same way, but the likelihood is that members of the community would have been able to discuss alternative strategies for customers, financial support to the community and the future of the building in Uphams Corner.

Community Reinvestment Act

The Community Reinvestment Act, often referred to as the CRA, is part of title VIII of the Housing and Community Development Act passed in 1977 and was created to reduce discriminatory credit practices against low-income neighborhoods, practices also known as "redlining."

To be covered by the CRA, a bank must receive Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance, which then triggers review by Federal banking agencies to determine if the bank offers credit in all communities in which they are chartered to do business.  While seeking to address discrimination in loans to individuals and businesses from low and moderate-income communities, the CRA does not promote high-risk behavior.  The institution is still expected to conduct itself in a safe and sound manner.

The Community Must Act Now:  Questioning the Bank's Decision and Overall Behavior

Clearly, the bank's decision to close is not directly related to loan discrimination, or is it?.  At the same time, CRA requirements are meant to be flexible and to accommodate the situation and context of each individual institution (and by, implication) the community in which the financial institution is operating. It is incumbent upon key community players in Uphams Corner to find a way to put a damper on the immediacy of the proceedings to allow a more meaningful community based strategy and plan to be put into effect.

Remember that we are NOT dealing with a bank that has done the best for their customers.  Bank of America has had to pay large fines for engaging in risky behavior associated with sub-prime lending, CDO's, derivatives and many other financial mechanisms for taking advantage of financial systems, retirement plans, people's homes and ultimately, our community. 

While the home that remains vacant on Virginia Street due to a sub-prime lending foreclosure may not be directly related to Bank of America, the condition of our community has been affected and has deteriorated as a result of a global financial behavior in which Bank of America played a huge part.

Think of it this way.  The Virginia St home where several very pleasant people and their dog, Caesar lived until evicted, became vacant and overgrown with weeds.  The elegant banking building on Columbia Rd, which we see as a key to the overall appearance of our community, will also become vacant and boarded up. 

PPS (Project for Public Spaces) acts as a consultant to our community and to many urban communities throughout the world.  Abandonment, boarding up and blight only serve, they say, to create more.  Our community leaders must reach for helping to lead.  We must grab at this opportunity using whatever mechanism, justification and pressure we can to stop the rapid decline or Columbia Rd and to enable a more rational and reasonable change to the face of our community.

Posted: December 13, 2013     Nancy J Conrad

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