New York Community Bancorp, the largest Long Island-based banking company, reported higher earnings Wednesday for the third quarter as loan refinancings rose and bad loans diminished.

The Westbury-based bank said it earned $128.8 million, or 29 cents a share, in the three months ended Sept. 30, in both cases up 7 percent from a year earlier.

The company, which specializes in loans for multifamily housing, said its total assets were $44.1 billion at the end of the quarter, up $2.1 billion so far this year.

It said the quality of its assets also improved. Nonperforming assets fell to $290.5 million at Sept. 30, a decline of $119.9 million in nine months.

President and CEO Joseph R. Ficalora cited strong growth in mortgage income. "With mortgage rates at historical lows and more homeowners refinancing, mortgage banking income totaled $52.6 million in the quarter -- more than twice the amount we recorded in the third quarter of last year," he said in a statement.

The company said it originated $1.6 billion of multifamily loans during the quarter, up $614.6 million from a year earlier. The increase stemmed from low interest rates and higher property sales and refinancing, the company said.

The company's shares fell by 71 cents on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday to close at $13.92.

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New York Community says it's the 21st largest bank holding company in the nation. It operates 274 branches in New York and four other states, under its own name and others, including New York Commercial Bank, Roslyn Savings, Queens County Savings, Richmond County Savings and Roosevelt Savings.