Bronx elected and union officials gave their stamp of DISapproval this week to the proposed sale of the borough’s iconic main post office.
They scored the plan at the only – and barely publicized – public hearing with no community input.
But an angry postal union said it intends to mobilize the community to keep the post office doors open.
They gathered inside the the lobby of the near 80-year-old Melrose headquarters on Wednesday morning, Feb. 6 to hear postal officials talk about the money-saving move to sell the four-story landmarked building on the Grand Concourse and 149th Street, with a $14 million asking price, while leasing 7300-square-feet of space inside to retain its retail operation there.
No mail disruption
The money-saving move would not disrupt mail service to the community, said USPS real estate specialist Joseph Mulvey.
“There are no plans to close this post office,” he told them.
The federal agency will relocate its 30 employees to other USPS offices, said Mulvey. The agency will also have to work with a future buyer in leasing space, who could turn down the request, forcing customers to commute to other post offices.
“Its loss would have severe implications for the entirety of the Bronx,” said Deputy Borough President Aurelia Greene, testifying on behalf of Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Javier Lopez, district director for Congressman Jose Serrano, called the move “shortsighted.”
Union officials blasted the agency for short notice of the meeting, which drew no community members.
“If you have a town hall meeting, you have to invite the town,” said Chuck Zlatkin with the New York metro Area Postal Union. “This is not the way to publicize a meeting to the public.”
In response, Community Board 4 said it is planning to hold an evening public meeting on the issue this month.
At the moment, there are no reported takers for the gray brick facility with arch-shaped windows at 558 Grand Concourse, covering the entire block from E. 149th to E. 150th Streets.
Built in the 1930s, the facility is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, meaning the exterior cannot be architecturally changed, including any potential hi-rise buildings from the roof.
It was once the epicenter of the borough’s incoming and outgoing mail, until the USPS diverted mail to the Manhattan general post office.
Since the shutdown of the service, the post office uses only 10% of the building’s 175,000-square-feet of space for administrative and retail uses. Maintaining the building has become costly for the cash-strapped agency, which lost $16.5 billion last year.
But Jonathan Smith, president of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, argued “there was no excuse to move the processing center out of its facility.”
There is also no excuse to remove 13 Walt Whitman-inspired mural panels by famed Depression-era painter Ben Shahn, said Colleen Heemeyer of the NY Landmarks Conservancy.
The public can still comment by mailing a letter to Joseph Mulvey, US Postal Service, 2 Congress Street, Room 8 Milford, MA 01757.
The 30-day comment period ends March 5. The public will have the right to appeal a final decision by the USPS.
Meanwhile, the union said it will be lobbying electeds and the community to fight the sale. “This is not a postal issue,” said Smith. “This is a community issue.”
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383