There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with banks. (Why, we use one ourselves for the cash that we don’t keep in a hollowed-out dummy book.) But when banks start to appear cheek-by-jowl-by- cheek-by-jowl, they can drain a lot of life out of a street.
Richard Barth, executive director of the City Planning Department, elaborated: “Banks can have have a deadening effect... They can take away from pedestrian activity. They’re not 24-hour uses. In many cases, they’re no more than 9-to-5 uses. And they can potentially take up space” that could be occupied for arts, entertainment or retail purposes.
As a result, the new zoning restricts banks. They cannot occupy the ground floor of new buildings along 125th Street, between Broadway and Second Avenue, or the ground floor of new enlargements to existing buildings. They may, however, have an entranceway or lobby on the ground floor that leads to banking space on another floor. A limited amount of ground-floor space may be devoted to automated teller machines.
Why is 125th Street being protected and not the rest of the city? Commercial districts throughout Queens, for example, are seeing their small merchants being replaced by banks and no one at city planning seems to care. They must want them to "drain the life" out of our streets.