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Family in battle for Emigrant Bank

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Harry Keaney

Emigrant Savings Bank, a New York institution that grew out of the needs of Irish immigrants of the early 1800s, has become embroiled in a bitter row between members of its family owners, the Milsteins.

Lawyers for Howard Milstein have served lawyers for his cousin Philip with a lawsuit that would remove him as president and CEO of Emigrant Savings Bank.

Members of the Milstein family have been feuding over various aspects involving their substantial real estate holdings. Now, Emigrant Savings Bank has become part of the fray, a source close to Philip Milstein confirmed to the Daily News.

Six members of the Milstein family are on the bank’s board of directors.

In addition to Emigrant Bank, the Milsteins also own expensive properties up and down Manhattan — for example, a parking lot at Eighth Avenue and 42nd Street that is valued at more than $100 million and that is now to be auctioned off as part of a legal settlement, as well as the Milford Plaza Hotel and the United Brands food corporation, now known as Chiquita.

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Emigrant, with branches in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens and Westchester, is the third largest savings bank in the state.

The bank has its roots in an organization called the Irish Emigrant Society, founded in the early 1800s. Indeed, for decades, officers of the society served as officers of the bank.

It was New York Archbishop John Hughes — an Irish American known as Dagger John — who had the idea of founding an institution to protect the savings of the growing numbers of Irish immigrants and to provide them with a reliable means of sending money back to Ireland. The archbishop invited 18 prominent merchants to talk about his idea and with their investments of $200 each, the outcome was the organization of Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, which was incorporated by the New York Legislature on April 10, 1850.

On Sept. 20, Emigrant Bank will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a special celebration in the New York Public Library.

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