BY BENJAMIN FANG
Five years before the Great Recession of 2008, when the market correction was happening, Maspeth Federal Savings president and CEO Thomas Rudzewick recognized the trend of problem loans.
A commercial appraiser by trade, Rudzewick, who worked for Cushman & Wakefield before taking over the community bank he grew up across the street from, adjusted Maspeth Federal’s underwriting policies to be more strict. They also lent on a more conservative basis, between 50 to 70 percent loan to value.
That foresight saved the community bank from the financial calamity many faced.
“We didn’t have any losses,” Rudzewick said. “One of the few banks in the nation without losses.”
But local residents, homeowners and small businesses were still in trouble. People couldn’t make their mortgage payments, and it was affecting their livelihood.
Maspeth Federal, founded in 1947 as a savings and loan association, decided to step in. They were one of the first banks to institute a forbearance program to give borrowers a chance to get back on their feet, and then work out a way to catch up on payments.
Rudzewick says putting the community first has been part of Maspeth Federal’s philosophy since its inception. Rudzewick’s father, Kenneth Rudzewick, coined the phrase, “We treat you like family.” The younger Rudzewick said they still live by that creed.
“We really believe that we can help keep the fabric of the community together,” he said. “We’ll do those workouts when times are bad. And when times are good, we’ll help you add an addition to your house or help pay for your kids’ college.”
Rudzewick said many banks are claiming to be community banks, but few hold up to Maspeth Federal’s standards.
“No one really puts in their heart, sweat and tears into making the community better like we do,” he said. “It means community first.”
The bank organizes free community events regularly, from concerts and movie nights to their carnival coming up in September. They have put together the annual Memorial Day parade for decades and they host the town post-parade event in their parking lot. This past year, they brought in 75 troop members from USS Arlington to join in the celebration.
Maspeth Federal’s board of directors, leadership and staff take pride in constantly frequenting local businesses. They have built up those community relationships, whether it’s with Rosa’s Pizza next door or the local homeowner down the road.
“If you want a stable relationship and you want to ask those important financial questions, you know you can walk into Maspeth Federal,” Rudzewick said, “and you’re going to have a well-trained individual answer those questions.”
The community bank has also played a crucial role in helping small businesses survive and thrive. Using the same model, Rudzewick said businesses don’t just want to have a bank account; they’re looking to have a strong relationship with their banker.