2004-12-24 / Front Page

North Fork Bank Slams Door On Seniors

When North Fork Bank closes the Green Point Bank in Far Rockaway next year, after a recent acquisition, it will be slamming the door in the faces of thousands of seniors living around Seagirt Boulevard, some have charged.

In a letter from Green Point Bank, dated December 10, Florence Altschuler and thousands of other banking seniors found out that their bank is closing.

“At the close of business on Friday, April 1, 2005, we will be closing our Far Rockaway branch located at 17-39 Seagirt Boulevard. Your account will be transferred to our [North Fork Bank] Far Rockaway branch located at 20-10 Mott Avenue, where you can continue to enjoy the same service and products you became accustomed to at the old location,” the letter says.

But Altschuler and others are dreading the day.

“My legs are bad. I can’t walk that well,” an emotional Altschuler told The Wave.

The letter from Green Point Bank highlights that the “new” location “is less than one mile north on Beach 13th Street,” but Altschuler, who uses a cane, and others say the walk is too much.

Another area senior, Marilyn Romar, said the disabled would be hit particularly hard.

“It’s a short walk if you’re not using a walker or cane,” Romar said. “A lot of people can’t make that walk.”

Floyd Smith, a senior who lives on Seagirt Boulevard at Beach 19 Street and leads the Concerned Citizens of Rockaway, a civic group with modest accomplishments in the community, said Mott Avenue is not as close to Seagirt as people at North Fork Bank think.

“It’s very hard for us to get up to town to Mott Avenue,” Smith said. “I’m certainly not walking.”

Unable to drive herself and with her husband too sick to operate a motor vehicle, Harriet Winthrop, a senior who lives on Beach 17 Street nearby the ocean, said she will have to take her business to the Bank of America location at 231 Beach 20 Street.

Jonathan Gaska, District Manager of Community Board 14, said the closure of Green Point Bank would be a “major inconvenience” for potentially thousands of seniors who densely populate that area. George Vogel, a Divisional Administrator for North Fork Bank, said the company would not discuss the number of customers or accounts the Green Point Bank served, but stressed that the North Fork Branch on Mott Avenue will offer those people more services, such as safe deposit boxes and night depository. The Mott Avenue location is also much larger, he said.

“I understand that it is farther than [those] people travel now for banking,” said Vogel, who suggested that people living near Seagirt Boulevard likely travel to Mott Avenue for other commercial needs. “I’m sure they’re heading in that direction to begin with,” he said.

It is unclear what the future use of the Green Point Bank space will be, but a Wave source said other banks have recently expressed interest in expanding to Far Rockaway.

North Fork Bank has been operating in the west end at 211 Beach 116 and will relocate on April 1 to the newly acquired Green Point Bank location at 116-01 Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

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