Heights and West Harlem
to the largest community of Dominicans outside the Dominican Republic, Washington Heights
and West Harlem are two of Manhattan’s
most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, and they
comprise one of New York City’s most densely
populated areas. Every day, streams of new arrivals come
from the Caribbean to settle into a community that is
reminiscent of home. Bustling commercial streets are
evidence of a community on the move.
|The George Washington Bridge
in Washington Heights.
average per capita income in these communities is $10,000—only
two-fifths the national average. Officially, the area is
56% Latino, 30.2 African-American, 11.9% white non-Hispanic, and
1.9% other. The poverty
rate for single female-headed households is 65%, and the general unemployment
rate was 14% during much of the economic boom of the 1990s.
addition, few banks serve the area. Those banks that do
operate here carry minimum balance requirements
and monthly fees that are often out of reach for poorer families.
Fifty percent of low-income individuals live without the basic
security of bank accounts, and few have ever been able to take
bank loans. Instead, families turn to the services of
check-cashing stores and loan sharks (or
provide affordable and accessible financial services to this
opened the Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union in
Washington Heights in March 1997. To date, 4,100 neighborhood residents
have become members of the credit union,
and nearly 2,000 people have participated in CWCID's