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Leaders go postal over closures

Deputy Borough President Aurelia Greene and Community Board 7 district manager Fernando Tirado slammed the United States Postal Service at a public hearing on Wednesday, September 23. USPS plans to close seven Bronx postal stations: Botanical, Clason Point, Crotona Park, Hillside, Melcourt, Oak Point and Van Nest.

“We’re deeply concerned,” Greene told the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) at Fordham University.

The seven endangered postal stations represent 17 percent of Bronx postal stations, Greene said. USPS handled 4.5 less mail in 2008, and has attributed the shortfall to the Internet and the economic recession. But the Bronx is wrong for consolidation; it added 59,253 residents between 1990 and 2008, Greene said.

The PRC is an independent watchdog appointed by the President and the Senate. It held the public hearing in order to better understand the USPS consolidation process, not to weigh in on Bronx postal station closures, PRC Commissioner Ruth Goldway said.

Bruce Grygus, a New Jersey based USPS consolidator, explained the process. Grygus refused to comment on Bronx closures. Greene and Tirado addressed Bronx concerns nonetheless.

The Bronx is a pedestrian-oriented county, Greene said. Its postal stations are widely used and are the heart of its neighborhoods. Six of the endangered Bronx stations are at least a half-mile away from another postal station.

USPS should have consulted the Bronx, Greene said. Is USPS unaware of the construction boom near the Melcourt station? she asked.

Tirado argued against the closure of the Botanical Garden station on Webster Avenue. Bedford Park is high-density and low-income, Tirado said.

There are two senior centers and three senior housing complexes near the Botanical Garden station. Low-income seniors travel to the station by foot.

If the Botanical Garden station were to close, those seniors would need to use the already crowded Fordham station on E. 188th Street, a half hour hike or $4 bus ride roundtrip. The USPS has suggested that Bronx residents use the Internet to process mail. But the Internet is unaffordable to some Bedford Park residents, incomprehensible to some Bedford Park seniors, Tirado said.

USPS has six years left on its Webster Avenue lease, Tirado said. USPS has already stated that it plans to retain the Botanical Garden station staff. So how does USPS plan to save money? Tirado asked.

Rose Hill Apartments manager Annelen Madigan echoed Tirado. Rose Hill Apartments is a senior and handicapped housing complex on Southern Boulevard in Bedford Park.

The northwest Bronx is hilly, Madigan pointed out. Rose Hill residents subsist on $895 a month, on average, and cannot always afford to ride the bus. Only two Rose Hill residents are Internet users, Madigan said.

She and members of the Bedford Mosholu Community Association present at the public hearing also alerted the PSC to the issue of money orders. Bedford Park has no bank. Check cashing stores charge exorbitant fees, so Bedford Park residents flock to the Botanical Garden station to buy money orders.

Madigan addressed the white elephant in the room. Is the Bronx slated for seven closures and Queens only one because the Bronx is poor? Madigan asked.

Goldway promised that no closures would occur prior to Friday, October 2 and said that the PRC would push USPS to reveal its consolidation criteria. But when Madigan visited the Botanical Garden station recently, she heard staff confirm that it would close on Friday, October 2.

“It sounds like a done deal to me,” Madigan said.

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