Higher earnings for Astoria Financial Corp.

Monte N. Redman, the company president and chief

Monte N. Redman, the company president and chief executive, said, "The double-digit percentage increase in earnings . . . is largely due to a decline in operating expenses, primarily lower compensation and benefits expense." (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

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Astoria Financial Corp., one of Long Island's largest banking companies, said Wednesday that cost-cutting and an increase in multifamily and commercial real estate loans boosted first-quarter earnings.

The Lake Success-based parent of the 85-branch Astoria Federal Savings & Loan Association said net income for the three months ended March 31 was $13.9 million, or 14 cents a share, representing increases of 39 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

The quarter a year earlier included $3.4 million in pretax charges for severance-related expenses.

The company said multifamily and commercial real estate loans, which the bank is aggressively seeking, totaled $3.4 billion at March 31.

Monte N. Redman, president and chief executive, said, "The double-digit percentage increase in earnings . . . is largely due to a decline in operating expenses, primarily lower compensation and benefits expense."

Cost controls and a reduction in insurance premiums paid to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reduced general and administrative expenses in the quarter to $71.6 million, down from $82.2 million a year earlier.

Total assets decreased by $286.1 million from Dec. 31 to $16.2 billion at March 31. Loans on one- to four-family homes fell as many homeowners refinanced.

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