By Lisa Rozner

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For decades, government policies denied African Americans access to credit, and according to the Federal Reserve Bank, white families in the U.S. are ten times wealthier than Black families.

As part of Black History Month, we’re highlighting one bank working to overcome inequities.

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Eleven years ago, Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor co-founded the Urban Upbound Federal Credit Union right across from the Queensbridge Houses, where he grew up.

It was a dream his father encouraged him to pursue.

“He said when you aggregate money and open up your own financial institution, you’re sending a message: I’m not waiting for people to build it for us. We’re going to build it for ourselves,” Taylor said.

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A rebuilding needed even decades after the discriminatory practice known as redlining, which started in the 1930s. The federal government deemed certain geographic regions and communities of color as “risky” financially, and marked them in red. Creditworthy borrowers were denied mortgages, home renovation loans and insurance policies, based on their race or where they lived, which prevented them from achieving personal wealth.

“Allegedly we don’t have that anymore, OK? But a young entrepreneur living in an urban track like Queensbridge, where we are now, has an idea, wants to start a business… He doesn’t have a business plan,” Taylor said. “Nine times out of ten, a retail bank is not going to touch that young man.”

The National Consumer Law Center says today neighborhoods that fell within once-redlined areas are more likely to have lower incomes, lower home values, and other negative economic characteristics. Studies show, compared to whites, fewer Black Americans own homes and are approved for car loans.

Taylor is now looking to close the intergenerational wealth gap by partnering with the nonprofit Community Capacity Development, or CCD, in the Queensbridge Houses, where he says the rates of poverty are highest.

CCD raised enough money to cover the $25 cost to open a bank account for each of the two dozen youths it employs who earn minimum wage.

K. Bain is the executive director of CCD.

“We really focus on enabling young people to see themselves as producers, owners, savers, investors,” Bain said. “We’re looking at budgeting, we’re looking at how do you purchase your first home?”

Prior to the program, 16-year-old Jordan Mendez says his mom would talk to him about saving.

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“She would tell me I’m spending too much. I gotta learn how to save, and I still wasn’t listening because I didn’t have nowhere to store my money,” Mendez said. “Now that I got the bank account, I learned how to save more.”

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“And how do you think it’s going so far?” asked CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.

“It’s going better,” he said.

The checking account is also a gateway to learning how the credit union can furnish loans in the future and build credit history.

“It makes me feel, like, determined,” said 10th grader Ja’nya Bohnham.

And at the bank, if students have further questions, there is free, unlimited financial counseling.

The National Consumer Law Center says increasing financial aptitude will also help them avoid predatory lenders as adults.

“So that they don’t have to resort to those reverse redliners. They don’t have to resort to the bad toxic loans,” said Stuart Rossman, the director of litigation at the National Consumer Law Center.

And now, as shareholders at the federal credit union, they have the power to steer their dollars and keep them in their community.

The goal for the program is to open 100 bank accounts for youth at Black owned banks across the city.

For more information about Urban Upbound Federal Credit Union, CLICK HERE.

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For more information about Community Capacity Development, CLICK HERE.