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Remarks by
Ricki Heifer
Chairman
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
before
Neighborhood Housing Services o f N ew Y ork City, Inc.

New York, NY
November 7, 1995

W e are here tonight because the word “community” has resonance for all o f us. I believe
that the finest description o f what community means comes to us from John W inthrop’s justly
famous sermon calling on his seven hundred or so fellow emigrants to create a “city on a hill” in
the new world to which they were sailing. I will not talk about a “city on a hill” tonight. We have
heard that phrase quoted too much and often out o f context in recent years.
It is earlier in the sermon where Winthrop sets out clearly and eloquently the ideals o f
community. Sailing on the ship Arbella in 1630, half way across the Atlantic Ocean between
England and Massachusetts, Winthrop called the passengers together. Among the things he said
to them were these words: “We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness,
gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other, make other’s conditions our
own, rejoice together, mourn together, labour and suffer together, always have before our eyes
our community . . . So shall we keep the unity o f the spirit in the bond o f peace.”
And Winthrop warned: “particular estates cannot subsist in the ruin o f the public” -- or to
translate that sentiment from early 18th century English into late 20th century American: The
welfare o f the individual rests upon the welfare o f the community — if the community does not
prosper, the individual cannot prosper, either.
To paraphrase one o f Winthrop’s contemporaries, none o f us is an island.
I
learned the meaning o f community growing up in Smyrna and Murfreesboro, Tennessee,
two small towns south o f Nashville, in the 1950s and 1960s. Smyrna had a population o f about
5,000; Murfreesboro, about 20,000. They were filled with real people -- not stereotypes. No one
who lived in tow n was a stranger. We may have been in different boats, but we all knew that we
were afloat on the same lake.




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I went to college at Vanderbilt University in Nashville -- on scholarship. I ’ll never forget
that one time when I was in college our banker in Smyrna called my mother to tell her that my
checking account had fallen below $25 and that she might want to put some more money into my
account because I might need it. N ow we were not important customers o f the bank -- far from
it. The bank had no large customers and my family would not even have met its median. But the
banker was watching out for me. That was the kind o f community in which I lived. My
experience was not unique, I am sure.
I f you visit small towns around the country it will strike you visually how central the bank
is to the community. Again and again and again, you see the same pattern in the town square: a
house o f worship, school, and bank. Upstate N ew York. There are nearly 400 banks in Georgia
alone — most o f them in small towns. In the Midwest, you find a small tow n about every twenty
miles -- the distance o f one day’s travel on a horse. In each o f those towns the same pattern: a
house o f worship, school, and bank ~ all preparing the community for a better future, if in
different ways.
In those small towns in which I grew up, I witnessed the contribution that banks can make
to strengthening the community —particularly where they work hand-in-hand with local leaders.
In small towns — and in large ones, too —bankers make things happen. By things, I mean
growth, development and prosperity.
I have lived in big cities -- Chicago and Washington, D.C. As a volunteer tutor in the
D.C. public schools, I saw the difference that stability and security can make in the lives o f
children — and the mark that instability and insecurity make on their lives, as well.
N o one appreciates the uniqueness o f N ew York City better than NHS — and no one
appreciates its unique community needs more. Since its creation, NHS o f New York City has
assisted more than 38,000 city residents. It has rehabilitated almost 3,000 units, conducted nearly
1,000 home-maintenance workshops, and made some 20,000 home inspections. Financially, it has
packaged or referred about $89 million in government rehabilitation loans and $41 million in firstmortgage loans. And it has prompted $890 million in private and public reinvestment. It has
helped make houses homes. Moreover, it has helped make neighborhoods communities. People
in a neighborhood live together — people in a community work together.
Working together is what NHS o f New York is all about. Just one good example o f that
is Fran Justa working with the FDIC New York Regional Office in training our examiners in
community development lending.
The accomplishments o f NHS o f New York are there for anyone to see, but Fran tells me
that the outlook for the organization is unclear. If that is true, we have a problem — not just Fran,
and not just the staff and board o f NHS —all o f us. Remember that John Winthrop — who
described the ideals o f community — also warned that “particular estates cannot exist in the ruin
o f the public” -- that the welfare o f the individual rests upon the welfare o f the community. I for




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one doubt that the financial center o f the world can long prosper within a community that does
not prosper.
Encouraging and promoting neighborhood self-reliance and educating people to help
themselves are among the many things that NHS o f New York does — and does well. W ithout
NHS o f N ew York, this city would be a poorer place — and not just in material terms.
W e are here tonight to acknowledge the achievements o f three people who have worked
hard to support community development -- Larry Lindsey, governor o f the Federal Reserve
Board; John Tamberlane, president o f the Republic Bank for Savings, and Deborah Wright,
commissioner o f the New York City Department o f Housing, Preservation and Development.
The word community certainly has a resonance for them.
I am honored to have been asked to speak on an evening when they are being recognized
for their commitment to community.
And I am especially pleased to be here to applaud the many achievements o f
Neighborhood Housing Services o f N ew York City and to express the hope that it will continue
to serve this community well into the future.
New York City is not literally the proverbial city on a hill —but the eyes o f the world are
upon it.
Let us hope the vision is rewarding.




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