Eight of 677 post offices set to close nationwide are in the Bronx, borough residents learned recently. Saddled with costly retiree health benefits and wounded by a decrease in mail, the United States Postal Service has announced its intention to consolidate. The eight Bronx post offices in danger are: Botanical, Clason Point, Crotona Park, Hillside, Hub, Melcourt, Oak Point and Van Nest. USPS handled 4.5 percent fewer pieces of mail in 2008, one of the largest decreases in history.
USPS has attributed the shortfall to the Internet and the economic recession but some Bronx residents argue that the borough needs its post offices more than ever. Bedford Park Mosholu Community Association member Barbara Stronczer is determined to prevent the closure of the Botanical post office, on Webster Avenue between E. 200th and E. 201st streets. Stronczer has drafted a petition.
“We’re very upset in the neighborhood,” she said. “We have two seniors centers. Soon we’ll have three. We have businesses. The post office is a vital resource.”
Stronczer has invited Bronx Postmaster Aracelis Osorio to attend the September meeting of the Bedford Park Mosholu Community Association. If the Botanical post office were to close, Bedford Park seniors would have to hoof it 15 blocks to the Fordham post office on E. 188th Street. Parking is non-existent on Fordham Road, Stronczer said. On Thursday, August 6, she had gathered 100 signatures.
“We’re aiming for 500 signatures,” Stronczer said. “We want [USPS] to reconsider.”
Plenty of Bedford Park seniors are Internet illiterate, Stronczer declared. Plenty of Bedford Park residents aren’t wealthy enough to access the Internet at home. The USPS has targeted the Bronx because administrators know that the borough is disenfranchised and expect no grassroots resistance, she said. Bedford Park resident Anthony Rivieccio agreed.
“I won’t dispute that [USPS] needs to make cuts,” he said. “But the [Botanical] post office is used. Go there any time after 3 p.m. and you’ll see a line out the door. People use the post office to send mail overseas.”
Community Board 7 land use chair Ozzie Brown disapproves of the planned closure. Brown recently led a successful campaign to rezone Webster Avenue for residential and commercial development. The condos of the future will result in new residents, residents requiring a post office.
“We’re looking for assets to be retained on Webster,” he said. “Not taken away.”
The Botanical Garden uses the larger Fordham post office but has agreed to stand with Stronczer and the rest, spokesman Karl Lauby said. Webster Avenue businesses like Garson Plumbing Supplies consider the Botanical post office essential, Noah Garson said. It has served Bedford Park since 1947. If the post office closes, Garson will stop using USPS, he said.
Employees at the endangered Bronx post offices will be transferred to the borough’s main branch. None will lose their jobs, USPS spokeswoman Darleen Reid-DeMeo said. The USPS will finalize its consolidation plan in a matter of months, Reid-DeMeo said. It expects more Bronx residents to use Automated Postal Centers, Stamps on Consignment, the USPS website and Stamps by Mail.