People going postal over 14th St. P.O. closure plan

Photo by Jefferson Siegel The Peter Stuyvesant post office on E. 14th St. is scheduled to close next February.
Photo by Jefferson Siegel
The Peter Stuyvesant post office on E. 14th St. is scheduled to close next February.

BY JEFFERSON SIEGEL  |  More than 100 people packed a town hall meeting Monday night to voice concern over the proposed relocation of the Peter Stuyvesant Post Office. The current E. 14th St. facility is scheduled to close in February 2014.

Joseph Mulvey, facilities implementation specialist for the U.S. Postal Service, did little to quell the anger of locals demanding specifics. His opening statement, “We are proposing the relocation of the Peter Stuyvesant Post Office,” prompted calls of “Where?” from several in the audience. Mulvey continued to hedge, at one point admitting there was available space within a tenth of a mile in either direction of the current location. It would take more audience demands of “Where?” before he finally divulged, “333 E. 14th St. seems to be available.”

That address, a block west of the current post office, is a former Duane Reade drugstore across the street from the Fire Department’s Ladder 5 stationhouse.

Mulvey’s own question, “Is that an acceptable location to the community?” was met with a resounding “No!”

The audience’s mood escalated from agitation to anger as plans for postal services were grudgingly revealed. As Julius Caesar divided Gaul into three parts, the Postal Service proposal would send current services at the Stuyvesant P.O. to three other locations.

The storefront at 333 E. 14th St. would offer retail services, such as stamp sales and P.O. boxes. The carriers who sort and deliver mail to homes and businesses would be moved to the Madison Square Station, on E. 23rd Street near Third Ave. Large parcel services would operate out of the F.D.R. Station at 54th St. and Third Ave.

Georgina Christ, an East Villager for 42 years, suggested, “Are they going to walk their carts down here [from 23rd St.], because that doesn’t seem to be very cost-effective. That’s just ludicrous.”

“This is devastating to this community,” City Councilmember Rosie Mendez said, voicing alarm at the proposal. “As it is there are long lines — it’s a well-utilized post office in the area.”

Mendez was especially concerned for the neighborhood’s many seniors who get medications in the mail and would have to travel to pick up packages that don’t fit into their building’s mailboxes.

“Either way, you’re talking about having to take a bus,” she said. “Either way it entails traveling.”

Councilmember Dan Garodnick, a Peter Cooper Village resident, echoed her concerns.

“This post office is providing a vital service to the residents of Stuyvesant Town all the way down to the East Village and Lower East Side,” he said. “If they need to move one door or a couple of doors over, we’re open to that, but the services must continue.”

The situation of Eve Cusson, who has lived on Avenue C for 43 years, typifies the problem facing the community.

“I have a grandson in the Army in Kuwait and I’m constantly sending him packages,” she said. “Where else am I going to send them from?”

Valerie Heinonen, who has lived on Avenue C since 1977, was outraged, saying post offices mirror our society.

“Post offices are a sign of a democracy,” she declared, “as are libraries, public housing and public schools, all of which are being sold out from under us.”

Joseph Hernandez, who grew up in the area, leaning on his cane, looked at Mulvey and warned, “We always find out the truth on the Lower East Side.” Hernandez was right, although it took almost two hours for Mulvey to finally reveal, in detail, how the current situation evolved.

The building’s landlord, whom Mulvey would not identify, told the Postal Service he had other plans for the two-story structure. The current lease, set to expire in February 2013 was extended one year, to February 2014.

The parties could not reach an agreement for the current location. Despite the audience’s demands, Mulvey refused to reveal the current rent.

After a 15-day comment period from the public on the proposed relocation, a postal headquarters facility manager in Washington, D.C., will review all the comments. Next comes a window for appeal of any decision.

“What month were you going to notify the community of the impact?” demanded Jonathan Smith, president of the New York Metro Postal Union. “Where are you going to find better property than the best you already have?”

As he did for most of the town hall, Mulvey sat patiently listening. Gigi Li, chairperson of Community Board 3, who moderated the meeting with Sandro Sherrod, chairperson of C.B. 6, and Councilmember Mendez, said community members have till May 7 to submit their comments to U.S.P.S.

In order to deal with its soaring debt, the Postal Service plans post office closings nationwide. In New York City it has proposed closing five branches; one in the Bronx and four in Manhattan, including the Stuyvesant branch and the Old Chelsea branch, on W. 18th St.

Built in 1951, the 56,900-square-foot building on E. 14th St., between First Ave. and Avenue A, and the land underneath it have a reported market value of $8.1 million.

Comments, which must include the name Peter Stuyvesant Post Office, can be sent to: Joseph J. Mulvey, Facilities Implementation, U.S. Postal Service, 2 Congress St., Room 8, Milford, MA 01757-9998.