Today’s news:

Queens Savings Bank’s parent company declines federal assistance

New York Community Bancorp, which operates Queens County Savings Bank, turned down nearly $600 million in federal help, the banking group announced last week.

Amid the recent string of failures and government bailouts of the nation’s largest banks, Bancorp said last week that on Dec. 31 it declined $596.1 million in capital infusion from the U.S. Treasury Department after the firm’s board of directors determined they could remain fiscally solvent without federal help.

“We believe that our current capital position is sufficient to support the communities we serve and to enhance shareholder value by growing our assets, our franchise and our earnings capacity,” said Bancorp Chief Executive Officer Joseph R. Ficalora. “We believe we are well−positioned to continue the pursuit of our business model, which has been consistent in its emphasis on the production of multi−family loans on rent−regulated buildings, the maintenance of conservative credit standards and the growth of our franchise through accretive acquisitions of local banks and thrifts.

“In 2008, the pursuit of this model resulted in the expansion of our net interest margin, the growth of our operating earnings and the maintenance of our strong record of asset quality.”

The decision to decline the federal capital infusion was reached after the board of directors for Bancorp completed an assessment of the related costs and benefits of receiving the nearly $600 million through the Treasury Department’s Capital Purchase Program, which was preliminarily approved late last year.

“In view of these factors, and the potential ramifications of participating, the board of directors determined that it would be in our shareholders’ best interests to decline the opportunity to participate in the CPP. While this continues to be a challenging time for financial institutions, we look forward to pursuing and fulfilling our mission of serving our communities and enhancing shareholder value as our industry continues to be redefined by recent economic and market events,” Ficalora said.

New York Community Bancorp is currently the 29th largest bank holding company in the United States with more than $32 billion in assets spread across its six local divisions: Queens County Savings Bank, Roslyn Savings Bank, Richmond County Savings Bank, Roosevelt Savings Bank, Synergy Bank and Garden State Community Bank.

Queens County Savings Bank, founded in 1859 in Flushing, was one of the largest and oldest banks in Queens. The bank is now headquartered in Westbury, L.I.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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