Shelter Island Reporter Editorial: Raising voices

JULIE LANE PHOTO Chase Bank on North Ferry Road.
JULIE LANE PHOTO Chase Bank on North Ferry Road.

When the Reporter broke the story two weeks ago that Chase Bank was going to shutter its branch on North Ferry Road in the Center, it seemed like another example of a corporate giant so wedded to its bottom line that it forgot one of the pillars of its existence is not just charging people money but serving them.

In the banking business the trend is to close down brick and mortar branches due to technology that allows customers to do their banking in their pajamas. Latest statistics gathered by the Wall Street Journal revealed that there were more than 1,700 bank branches closed across the country from June 2016 to June 2017, with no sign of the rush to padlock buildings slowing down soon.

The Island’s Captiol One branch on West Neck Road went dark last November. Shelter Island seemed to be in the path of a trend line and was about to be run over.

But something different happened here with Chase. After the online story by Julie Lane that the branch would be closing by September — the Reporter got confirmation even with radio silence from corporate headquarters — and after posting the story to our Facebook page, Islanders were activated and started contacting the bank’s headquarters to keep the branch open.

Supervisor Gary Gerth was on the case immediately, getting in touch with Chase and demanding a meeting on the Island to explain their reasons for heading out. He wanted a face-to-face conversation to let them know what the closing would mean to residents, especially seniors who at times find it difficult to go off-Island for errands. Business owners, especially those in the hospitality industry — and especially this time of year — who need to make night drops of large amounts of cash would also be shut out.

In another Long Island community, if the local branch pulls up stakes it’s usually a short ride to find another. Here it’s a round trip across the water.

At the Island meeting, Chase officials, to their credit, realized the burden customers would have to bear if their bank closed here and made a commitment to Mr. Gerth to stay.

Credit must go to the supervisor for taking the lead and acting swiftly and firmly. But more credit goes to residents, who raised their voices and were heard.