First Niagara Pledges $7M Through NAACP

Thomas MacMillan PhotoThe day after a merger between New Alliance bank and Buffalo-based First Niagara was announced, NAACP President James Rawlings paid a visit to see what the lender would do for its new local community. That meeting paid off Thursday, as Rawlings helped hoist a massive check representing an investment of over $7 million in tackling social challenges.

The check represents First Niagara’s investment in several programs—from housing assistance to small business loans—designed to support people in low-income areas of New Haven.

Rawlings and First Niagara officials announced the investment and laid out the way the two organizations are working together at a Thursday morning press conference at the Whalley Avenue headquarters of the Greater New Haven branch of the NAACP.

In a controversial move, First Niagara took over New Alliance bank this spring, marking the end of New Haven’s hometown bank. As soon as the news of the planned merger broke last summer, Rawlings contacted First Niagara to talk about what the deal would mean for New Haven neighborhoods, said Frank Polino, an executive vice president at First Niagara.

First Niagara eventually pledged $1 billion in Community Reinvestment Act lending statewide during its first five years in Connecticut. The $7 million novelty check presented Thursday is part of that pledge.

The NAACP won’t actually receive a real version of that check. Rather, it represents the money the bank promises to invest in the city. (Another $500,000 not represented by the check is going to Gateway Community College.)

“We take our role as a corporate citizen seriously,” Polino said.

Paul McCraven, a senior vice president at First Niagara, broke down the package. He said the investment will go to four areas:

• Home Ownership Assistance, $1.5 million over five years. First Niagara will create an assistance program for low- and moderate-income homebuyers to receive no-interest loans of up to $10,000. The NAACP will serve as the “exclusive referral agency” for the loans.

• Small Business/Micro Loans, a $5.35 million “loan pool.” The bank will create a $4.35 million loan program for small businesses and a $1 million micro-loan pool aimed at companies in low- and moderatie-income areas. The micro-loans will be between $1,000 and $25,000.

• Gateway Community College, $528,000. First Niagara has pledged $500,000 to Gateway to help fund its new building and library. The bank is also funding an NAACP scholarship program for the college at $3,500 per year for four students for two years.

• NAACP Administrative Support, $150,000 over three years. First Niagara will give the NAACP three grants of $50,000 to support its programs. Rawlings said the organization hasn’t decided yet what that money will go toward.

“This is really about hope,” Rawlings said. He said the partnership between NAACP and First Niagara is a “tremendous model” for addressing the “root causes” of urban problems.

“This is the most significant thing we’ve done on my watch,” he said.

“I want to thank you for building a bridge to hope,” said State Rep. Pat Dillon (center-left in photo below).

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posted by: My new bank!! on December 8, 2011  5:01pm

I’ve been thinking of opening a savings account at a different bank, ( don’t want all my money in one place).  So they will definitely get my business.

posted by: lance on December 8, 2011  5:37pm

Niagara please!

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on December 8, 2011  6:02pm

Yikes, Lance.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 8, 2011  6:50pm

Blood money from the crooked banks..Rember the true meaning of the name NAACP.

N-No Action
A- Association with corporate vamipres
A- Advancement for certain people
C-Cash money

Vampire Bankers.

posted by: good for NAACP on December 9, 2011  9:31am

The micro-loan fund sounds great but let’s not forget community banks

posted by: TP on December 9, 2011  3:53pm

This bank has so poorly managed my mortgage that I would never trust them again.  They have consistently been unable to meet stated deadlines and have often not returned important phone calls for days.  This is what happens as we allow all of our community banks to be swallowed up by larger and larger regional, national, and international banks.  Why would these large banks bother to care about providing service to the average consumer, when most of their profits are made trading complex financial products.  Very sad indeed.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 9, 2011  7:49pm

posted by: TP on December 9, 2011 2:53pm
This bank has so poorly managed my mortgage that I would never trust them again.

Well said.In fact Here is How this con works.

Home Ownership Assistance, $1.5 million over five years. First Niagara will create an assistance program for low- and moderate-income homebuyers to receive no-interest loans of up to $10,000. The NAACP will serve as the “exclusive referral agency” for the loans.

The pay back money is hidden the the persons mortgage.

posted by: pkust on December 13, 2011  6:16am

What’s up NHI?  You won’t allow any posts that criticize this venture?  Is NHI that much of a propaganda organ? It’s your right to restrict and suppress viewpoints but you should admit that is your practice, not pretend to be a news org.

[Editor: The issue here was that you and some others were stating false “facts” to attack the NAACP—that they were actually getting this money and dividing it up. The article states just the opposite. The money’s not going to the NAACP, and they’re not dividing it up. They had urged First Niagara to give money to local causes in general, which First Niagara did. Then they held a press conference to celebrate that. If you’d like to make up attacks based on invented information to skewer organizations you hate, you can try some other news websites, although I believe the Register may no longer be publishing such comments under its new policy.]

posted by: pkust on December 13, 2011  10:42am

I take issue with the Editor’s note in which he says without qualification that NAACP is not actually itself getting any of this money.  Read your own article.  Apart from the other provisions regarding interest-free loans (where NAACP gets to be the “referring” party), it says right IN THERE that the bank is giving the NAACP a cash amount of $150,000 (for so-called “administrative support”).  Since when does any outfit calling itself a “news” organization refuse to publish any post, simply because it disagrees with it, or claims that it is not “factually” correct. And interest-free loans given out with race a factor is something that many people object to, especially depositors and shareholders, since the circumstances suggest that defaults on these “interest-free” loans are not only expected (precisely because they are not being granted according to ordinary credit and other legitimate lending criteria)but defaults that the bank will forgive, that is, not sue to recover on, and for PC reasons. These are legitimate issues, ones for your readers to decide without your skewing the commentary. Your justification for refusing to post opinions that you don’t like is strong evidence that you are not a news org. but a propaganda organ. You can choose to disallow all posts; that is your right.  But don’t pretend to allow commentary and opinion because you really don’t.