Ernesta Procope Blazes Trails in Real Estate and Insurance

From Storefront to Wall Street, Ernesta G. Procope Has Blazed Trails in Insurance and Real Estate

(Image: File)
(Image: File)

As the real estate market succumbed to a cyclical recession, Procope had to persuade insurance companies to insure her customers. She hired limousines and brought insurance executives from Manhattan to Brooklyn to show that properties in Bedford-Stuyvesant were valuable and insurable. “They didn’t know that Bedford-Stuyvesant had substantial, middle-class homeowners, blacks and whites, who needed and deserved coverage,” she said. “They were shocked.”

In 1968, Procope was influential in the creation of the Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan, when insurance executives, after the riots in the mid to late ’60s, started to pull out of urban neighborhoods en masse and began redlining minority neighborhoods. Knowing how that would hurt minority residents, she used her political influence and took this issue to New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and persuaded him to support legislation to make homeowners insurance available to all in the state.

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Undeterred in her quest to obtain bigger corporate clients, she put in a bid and won a community development program started by Robert F. Kennedy, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corp. It became the company’s first major commercial customer. But she didn’t stop there. As she went after corporate America, she won the account to insure PepsiCo and added companies such as Avon Products, Philip Morris, Time Warner, Tiffany & Co., and General Motors, plus government agencies and nonprofits that still remain clients today.

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