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U.S. treasurer extols lending

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (c.) introduces state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (second from l.) to U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios at Astoria's Alma Bank. Rios came to Queens to tout a grant Alma had received to lend to small businesses. She also visited the boro's Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

U.S. Treasurer Rosa “Rosie” Gumataotao Rios and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) visited Astoria’s Alma Bank to tout a $19 million grant the bank received from the federal government to lend to small businesses near its locations throughout the city and in New Jersey.

“We’re pleased to see Alma Bank putting that capital to work right here in Queens,” Rios said.

The treasurer and Crowley were joined by Alma employees, Astoria elected officials and Mike Rienzi, a businessman who received a loan from Alma Bank, as they made the visit to Alma’s central branch Monday morning at 28-31 31st St.

While the bank was beneath the rumbling of the N/Q line and not in the heart of Flushing, Rios said the bank exemplifies “Main Street.”

“It’s wonderful that now in this economic time there is funding available and that a community bank is working with residents to move this economy forward,” said state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria).

Alma Bank, which has 10 branches throughout the city and New Jersey, including offices in Astoria and Bayside, received $19 million in August through the Small Business Lending Fund. This fund, created through the Small Business Jobs Act passed in September 2010, gives money to community banks for loans to small business.

“Banks that understand the community are not the big banks,” Crowley said. “Banks that understand the community are the Alma Banks.”

Kirk Karabelas, chairman of the board at Alma, said that lending to small businesses has been a mission of the bank since the beginning. He pointed out that they have provided 14 new loans in excess of $3 million since receiving the grant and 26 loans are pending.

“We have money and we’re prepared to help you expand and help you grow,” Karabelas said.

Rienzi, president and chief executive officer of the Astoria-based Italian food importer Rienzi & Sons, said he believed the federal government was focusing on the correct direction with the fund.

“We’re on the right road for the country to go forward,” Rienzi said.

Crowley praised Rienzi in addition to Alma Bank.

“You exemplify in many ways what is right about our country,” he said.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said Rios’ visit is an example of how President Barack Obama’s administration is investing in economic recovery and that the federal government has a role to play in incentivizing banks that have begun lending.

“The government intelligently is investing in these types of programs,” he said.

Rios and Crowley also visited the Queens Chamber of Commerce at its office in the Bulova Corporate Center at 75-20 Astoria Blvd. in East Elmhurst

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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