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First National Bank of Long Island plans push into Queens

A First National Bank of Long Island branch

A First National Bank of Long Island branch on East Merrick Road in Valley Stream in 2012. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

First National Bank of Long Island is pushing westward, with plans to open its first Queens branch Oct. 1 in Howard Beach -- and more in that borough in the future.

The bank, which is headquartered in Glen Head, said in an announcement it hopes to have eight to 12 Queens branches in operation within the next five to six years.

In an interview, president and chief executive Michael N. Vittorio said Queens is the next logical step for First National since it already has a strong presence in neighboring Nassau. "We're starting in eastern Queens and pushing west," he said.

The bank targets small and middle-market businesses, and professionals such as medical, legal and accounting firms, although it serves consumers as well, marketing itself as providing first-rate, one-on-one service.

Another Long Island-based bank, Bridgehampton National, has been moving westward from its traditional market on the East End to western Suffolk, Nassau, Queens and Manhattan. As of Monday, the bank, which refers to itself in shorthand as BNB, had 40 branches, including 11 it just acquired in closing a deal with Melville-based Community National Bank.

First National's Howard Beach branch will be located at 159-14 Cross Bay Blvd., a former location. A Whitestone branch is scheduled to follow Feb. 1 at 19-01 Utopia Pkwy., the site of a Capital One Bank branch that closed in April.

Vittorio said the bank also is contemplating expanding into Brooklyn.

The move, implemented over a period of years, carries relatively low risk, said one research analyst who covers the company, Alex Twerdahl of Sandler O'Neill + Partners LP in Manhattan. "There's a lot of competition in Queens, but it's a huge market," Twerdahl said.

He said also that multifamily housing loans represent a strong growth area for the bank and that it makes sense for First National to have branches in the boroughs where that type of housing is more common than on Long Island. "It's not surprising that they would want to place branches near where their loans are," he said.

Sandler O'Neill provides investment banking services to First National.

The bank is the sole subsidiary of The First of Long Island Corp., which trades on the Nasdaq Market. Its shares rose 31 cents, or 1.13 percent, to close at $27.70 Monday.

First National Bank has 41 branches now, including two in Manhattan, and also is planning new branches in Hewlett in the first quarter of next year and East Islip in the second quarter of next year.

First of Long Island Corp. said in April that its first quarter net income rose 8.9 percent from a year earlier, to $6.5 million. Total assets were $2.8 billion.

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