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What’s next for WaMu bank locations?

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The recent merger of two banking powerhouses with branches in the east Bronx has left some in the business community wondering if vacant storefronts will soon line commercial strips.

Washington Mutual is merging with J.P. Morgan Chase at the end of July. New branches of Chase, America’s largest bank, are expected to replace some WaMu locations beginning in August, said J.P. Morgan Chase spokesman Michael Fusco.

However, the move has caused some concern on Buhre Avenue in Pelham Bay and E. Tremont Avenue in Throggs Neck as to the future of WaMu branches that are located close to existing Chase branches.

In Pelham Bay, the Chase branch at 3217 Westchester Avenue will be just blocks away from a former WaMu branch at 3008 Buhre Avenue. That particular WaMu branch is currently being converted into a Chase branch.

“WaMu went into bankruptcy and the location will be converted into a Chase bank branch,” said Mindy Schmidt, senior property manager for the owner of 3008 Buhre Avenue, Mosbacher Properties Group.

Fusco said that existing Chase branches would not close, and that customers will now have more options, not less.

“In New York City alone there are 290 Chase branches and 120 WaMu branches that will remain open,” Fusco said. “Customers will have access to more than 400 branches when the Washington Mutal branches are converted to Chase.”

Fusco said that while some WaMu branches would close, the end result would be more choice for customers in the Bronx. He said that Chase expects to have all of the new signage up at former WaMu locations within a month.

In Throggs Neck, with a Chase branch at 3528 E. Tremont Avenue and a WaMu branch less than a block away, local merchants expressed concern over the likely vacant store in the strip mall.

“I would think that they are going to close one of the branches because I cannot see Chase having two branches so close to one another,” said Nua Nicaj, a broker at Capital Shield Agency at 3707 E. Tremont Avenue. “What Chase might do is close the WaMu branch in the strip mall, but keep renting the property to avoid a competing bank from moving so close. That will not be good for the neighborhood because we’ll be looking at a vacant storefront.”

Nicaj said that he thinks this might happen because Chase’s branch is the only bank near Bruckner Boulevard in Throggs Neck.

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