In recent years, the Upper West Side has been besieged by bank branches, with countless TD Banks and Citibanks, Chase Banks and Banks of America gobbling up once-vibrant street corners, the dull gleam of their ATM screens casting an eerie glow on the empty sidewalks late at night.
There has been hand-wringing, there have been outcries, there is even a zoning ordinance that prohibits banks from having storefronts wider than 25 feet. And unlike the cancerous spread of Duane Reades across every corner of our fair city, which for all their colonial tendencies offer a certain languorous refuge for the stressed city dweller, no one can quite understand what is driving the bank branches’ spread. Aren’t we always told that people are doing more and more banking online? Other than withdrawing cash from the ATM, how often do most of us really visit the bank?