B.P.C. seniors nearly go postal over online mail idea

By Julie Shapiro

The two-dozen seniors who gathered at The Hallmark in Battery Park City last Thursday were not an easy crowd to handle.

The topic of the meeting was the mobile post office that used to make a weekly stop at The Hallmark senior living center, until the U.S. Postal Service discontinued it several months ago.

It fell to Raschelle Parker, a marketing director for the Postal Service and about half the age of most of the attendees, to explain why the mail truck disappeared. But the angry group did not want to listen to her description of the Postal Service’s dropping revenue, as Americans turn to the Internet to keep in touch.

“Most people pay their bills online,” Parker told the seniors.

“We’re old people — we’re not online,” called out a white-haired woman sitting in the front row.

Another grumbled, “‘Most’ people? We’re not ‘most’ people.”

And that is precisely the problem in a neighborhood that lacks its own post office. While most people who live in northern Battery Park City trek across the West Side Highway to the post office at Church and Vesey Sts., that is hardly a viable option for many Hallmark residents.

“Especially if you have packages, it becomes a real schlep,” said Sylvia Hunter, 85. Hunter said she is relatively healthy and is able to make the trip, but by the time she walks all the way there and back, she’s used up a whole afternoon.

The mobile post office was a good solution, as it gave seniors the chance to buy stamps and weigh packages right outside their doorstep. But as mail volumes plummet nationwide, the Postal Service has reduced its staff and replaced some of its in-person services with automated ones, Parker said. With rising gas prices, the mobile units just got too expensive.

Ruth Kuperberg, 86, was not impressed by that explanation, especially because stamps go up in price each year.

“Why don’t you worry about how it’s going to be for us?” she asked. “We’re old people.”

Dissatisfied with Parker’s response that the Postal Service is a self-supporting agency that receives no tax dollars, Kuperberg grabbed her walker and left the meeting early, calling it a waste of time.

Sylvia Myer, 84, helped organize the meeting after collecting 200 signatures on a petition to reinstate the mobile post office.

“It’s disappointing,” she said afterwards. “I don’t think we’re going to get the response we’re looking for.”

But while Parker could not bring the mail truck back, she did offer several alternatives. The Postal Service will expedite the stamps-by-mail purchases of all Battery Park City residents, routing them through the Church St. post office rather than processing them centrally with requests from the rest of the city.

Joseph Perez, 90, was excited about ordering stamps he could use to write to his 10 grandchildren, and after the meeting he said he was heading up to his apartment to do just that.

As another potential solution, the Postal Service wants to put an Automated Postal Center in Battery Park City, which would allow residents to buy stamps and mail packages. The A.P.C. requires 150 square feet of retail space, and Parker said she had approached the Embassy Suites and World Financial Center to ask about sharing their space.

The most popular suggestion Parker made was for the seniors to buy “forever stamps,” which currently cost 42 cents but will rise in value whenever the price of stamps increases. Parker told the seniors to buy a roll of 100 now and to keep them for next year and the year after that, so they can save money in the long run.

“Till you die,” one elderly woman crowed, laughing.