BP slams Serrano on postal fight

Any buyer of the General Post Office on the Grand Concourse is bound to keep this iconic exterior, as well as interior murals, which have been landmarked on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
Photo by Aracelis Batista

South Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano isn’t getting any respect from the U.S. Postal Service.

His continued efforts to halt the sale of the landmarked Bronx General Post Office, essentially have been ignored by the federal agency selling the site.

And now the borough president is slamming the congressman – the highest-ranking Democrat on the congressional appropriations committee which funds the the U.S. Postal Service – for not doing more to stop the impending sale of USPS branch on the Grand Concourse.

Serrano praised the results of a report released Thursday, April 17 this week by the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that recommended the USPS suspend further sales of historic post offices until the agency ensures that it follows preservation guidelines.

But that report does nothing to specifically bind the postal service from stopping the sale of the General Post Office, according to a spokesman for Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“Attempts to stop the sale of this post office have been virtually useless,” said John DeSio, a spokesman for the BP. “And this report is too little, too late.”

Selling to high bidder

The General Post Office was listed for sale in January after months of community outrage. Both Serrano and Diaz were among the elected officials seething over the financially-struggling federal agency’s lack of communication with locals about the sale.

The USPS says it needs to close a $20 billion budget deficit by 2015.

But locals are concerned that the agency will sell the property to the highest bidder, even if the winning proposal is for a storage facility.

Serrano: I will stop it

Serrano is still claiming that he can stop the sale – and threatened to introduce federal legislation to do so.

“I urge them to comply with the recommendations in this report,” he said in a statement. “But in the meantime, I plan to introduce legislation that will ensure that no further historic postal facilities are sold until we can be sure the USPS has indeed implemented the recommendations of this report, and is following the law.”

But DeSio said that the borough’s president’s office has heard from several developers who bid on the site that a decision will be handed down “in a matter of days.”

“The sale is almost imminent, so I don’t know if legislation built now will have any affect on the Bronx,” said DeSio.

Post Office mum

The Post Office itself is remaining tight-lipped.

Spokesperson Connie Chirichello wrote in an email that the agency is “currently evaluating purchase offers and has not entered into an Agreement with a potential buyer.”

She added that USPS does not have a scheduled date for when they will close the deal. All bidders for the site would use the building without applying for a zoning change, she added.

That means the new tenant would not be required to answer to the community through the city’s formal Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP,) which involves going before the community board, borough president, city council and mayor.

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at bkochman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.
A new buyer would also be bound to keep historic landmarked murals inside the post office open to the public at least one time a month.
Photo by Aracelis Batista

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