The corner of Straight Path and Long Island Avenue in...

The corner of Straight Path and Long Island Avenue in Wyandanch on June 23, 2014. Credit: David Reich-Hale

Wyandanch, a hamlet of more than four square miles, 12,000 residents and just one bank, will soon get another under a state program to encourage more branches in underserved areas.

Roslyn Savings Bank signed a 10-year lease in December at Wyandanch Village, the mixed-use development at the heart of a massive redevelopment effort. Creation of the banking development district, announced by the town earlier this month, means that the bank will open in late summer with $10 million in subsidized deposits from the state and the right to bid on municipal deposits, business that in New York is generally reserved for commercial banks.

Wyandanch is Long Island's second banking district. The first was created in Brentwood last year. There are 41 development districts statewide, 19 with active branches, all created in underserved areas to help bring residents into what the state's Department of Financial Services calls "the financial mainstream."

For Wyandanch residents, it will mean $1 minimum balances for savings accounts, reduced fees and basic services that have been largely absent or hard to access in the years since the hamlet's last stand-alone bank closed in the early 1990s.

Chase opened a small branch in a supermarket on Straight Path, the hamlet's main thoroughfare, in 2000. A bank spokesman did not respond to an interview request this week.

"Banks allow for economic development and equal opportunity," said Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer. "Everyone should have access to conventional banks, and when they don't, it's usually in communities that can't afford not to have access."

When Chase closed its stand-alone branch in the hamlet, "That was like a dagger in the heart," Schaffer said. "They bailed out and they left people stranded."

In majority black and Hispanic Wyandanch, almost one in five people lives below the poverty level, and the median household income of $52,376 trails far behind town and Suffolk County figures.

Wyandanch is "highly underserved" by banks, according to the state's Department of Financial Services, with 0.86 branches per 10,000 people; nationwide, the average is 2.9. It is 3.12 in Suffolk County.

Many residents turned to banks outside the community, to fee-charging ATMs in delis or to the seven check-cashing businesses located in or near the hamlet, which offer some of the same services as banks but for higher fees.

"They just fee you to death," said Reg Mays, 50, who owns Computer Business Center on Merritt Avenue and was born and raised in Wyandanch. "They're not institutions that encourage you to save, to plan for the future, to buy a house, to plan for your children's education."

While Schaffer says that Roslyn can expect a healthy chunk of business from the town -- "We will remember them for being first," he said last week -- he envisions a day where the bank has to compete with others for customers in downtown Wyandanch.

Business owners near Wyandanch Village are optimistic. "Every community needs a bank," said Ahmed Hauter, 52, who owns Sam's Convenience Store on Merritt Avenue. "The train station is the most important thing, but this will bring more life to the community."

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