‘Not your father’s bank’: Chase Community Center Branch opens on East Fordham Road

Borough President Vanessa Gibson said that people coming to the new center can feel the “closeness and connection” to its Spanish-speaking, native Bronxite staff.
Photo Emily Swanson

Last Friday afternoon, the hottest place to see and be seen in the Bronx was not a new club or restaurant or fancy gala — it was the new Chase Bank Grand Concourse Community Center Branch, which the company called “not your father’s bank branch.”

On April 26, Dozens of former and current elected officials, business executives and community partners from the Hip-Hop Museum and other prominent Bronx locales — along with a steady flow of customers just doing their Friday banking — filled the lobby as JPMorgan Chase officials explained why the new center offers something special to the neighborhood. 

“We do more than just build branches. We lift up the entire community,” said Jason Patton, head of Community and Business Development for the northeast division of JPMorgan Chase, a bank whose history in New York dates back over 200 years.

The opening of the new community center comes on the heels of another significant Bronx investment from JPMorgan Chase. The bank recently announced a commitment of $450K to the nonprofit BronxWorks to link individuals and families impacted by domestic violence with Bronx small landlords who want to rent their extra space but need some capital to get it up to code. 

JPMorgan Chase is also partnering with the Hip-Hop Museum, slated to open in 2025, to provide financial support for its construction and, later, financial literacy programming at the much-anticipated institution.

With such efforts as the background, “When the community does well, we do well” was the company’s mantra on Friday. 

The Grand Concourse branch was a $5M investment aimed at increasing access to capital banking services in a borough that has historically been underserved by traditional banks. The branch looks to undo that history by building trusting relationships and offering free workshops for Chase customers and non-customers alike to keep individuals and small businesses financially healthy. 

Most importantly, all its staffers are Bronxites — including those in branch management — adding to the “neighbors helping neighbors” feel.

The new Grand Concourse location at 128 East Fordham Road is one of 17 Chase Community Centers across the country. The first in New York came to Harlem in 2019 and another is coming to Brooklyn by the end of the year. 

Student-created artwork hangs above the teller windows. Photo Emily Swanson

The new branch is designed with a modern look, meeting spaces, free Wi-Fi and comfortable furniture — much like a library, aside from the teller windows. And even the artwork on the walls was done in collaboration with community members. Hanging above the teller windows is a long panel designed by local middle school students from Cornerstone Academy who, in cooperation with the architect of the Hip-Hop Museum, decorated the colorful panel with images that reminded them of the Bronx.

City Council Member Pierina Sanchez, who spoke at the event, said she grew up with Chase as the bank for all her family members and herself. But she said 17% of Bronxites live in “underbanked” areas, meaning there are not enough banks to meet demand — and in the west Bronx, that figure is closer to 30%. The national figure is about 7%, Sanchez said. 

She recalled the 2020 civil unrest and looting in the neighborhood and said she wondered at the time if banks would ever come back. Amalgamated did close, Sanchez said, and residents mobilized at a Chase location to advocate for more investment in the neighborhood. She praised Chase for not only staying in the Bronx but also for creating the community-focused space that she said “represents a belief in our people.”

Photo Emily Swanson

Sanchez was not the only one to say this center offered something unique and much-needed for the neighborhood.

“This Community Center means so much to so many,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, who told JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, “Thank you for never giving up on the Bronx.”

Dimon told the crowd that he grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, as the son of immigrants who never imagined himself leading a major bank. Now, at a time when many banks are closing their branches, Dimon is looking to duplicate the success of the community center model.

Chase has found that most customers — even those of younger generations — want the option of visiting a branch, especially when complex situations arise. So the company says they’re sticking by the principle of “not to have the most branches — but to have the right branches, in more communities.” 

Community Centers are one way to do right by the neighborhoods they serve. “It’s amazing that they work,” Dimon said, so the answer is obvious: “Do more.”

Reach Emily Swanson at eswanson@schnepsmedia.com or (646) 717-0015. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes