THE BRONX - A local finance professor is urging Bronx residents to tighten their belts as the threat of a recession looms.

"The consumer is at the heart of the American economy," says Manhattan College professor Charles Geisst. "Right now, he is not as healthy as he was about a year and a half ago."

Within a few minutes of trading Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 465 points, but rebounded to close at a loss of about 128 points. The rebound was due in no small part to the Federal Reserve's unexpected decision to slash a key interest rate by three-fourths of a percentage point ahead of its rate meeting.

A recession is defined as a decline in economic growth for six months or more. Geisst attributes the situation to the subprime mortgage meltdown.

"[Between about 2001 and 2006], the number of outstanding mortgages doubled," Geisst says. "It was easy money. There were low interest rates, so credit card companies and mortgage lenders made credit available very easily."

Geisst says many people who received the adjustable-rate loans can no longer afford them.

To survive the downturn, Geisst suggests consumers limit their spending, avoid major financial commitments and try to keep up with credit commitments.