Post office says Downtown return will be quiet

By Elizabeth O’Brien

The post office says it will deliver fewer headaches than the community expects as it prepares to reopen its facility on the corner of Church and Vesey Sts. in the summer of 2004.

The Church St. post office has been closed since Sept. 11, 2001, when it sustained serious water and other damage during the terror attack. While the community has been eager for its return, many have worried that it will add more disruption to the three blocks facing the World Trade Center site’s north side. There is already massive construction work with the rebuilding of 7 W.T.C. and the renovation of 140 West St., which was also damaged on 9/11. The temporary PATH station and a pedestrian bridge on Vesey St. are also being built right outside the post office and the other two building projects.

“I miss that post office a lot,” said Catherine Hughes, who lives a few blocks away, adding, “My concern is the cumulative impact” of the construction “because people live here and work here 24 hours a day.”

But a post office spokesperson said that the restoration and the operation of the post office should have very little effect on the community. Workers are currently in the last stages of “environmental demolition” of the building’s insides, a process involving gutting the interior, said Pat McGovern, the spokesperson. After that project is completed in the fall, workers will begin restoring the building’s facade, which is expected to take a year, she added.

While some community members anticipated that the bulk of the city’s postal operations would shift to Church St. as the main Farley post office in Midtown is converted into a new train hub, most of Farley’s functions will move to the Morgan processing center on Ninth Ave. and 30th St., McGovern said.

In addition to retail windows, the restored Church St. post office will house a small number of offices and the postal inspection service.

“They keep the mail safe,” McGovern said of the inspection personnel.

This department was actively involved in the postal anthrax scares during the fall of 2001, McGovern said. The inspection service had offices in the Church St. facility before 9/11, said David Ng, a spokesperson for the department, and about the same number of personnel will return. Ng said that Church St. would not become a central area for handling potentially hazardous mail, despite the presence of the inspections unit.

There will be less mail processing at the Church St. post office than there was before 9/11, McGovern said. This is because its mail sorting operations moved to Midtown after the terror attack, and that arrangement is working out well. So there will be fewer trucks passing through the Church St. facility than before, McGovern said. She could not specify the number of trucks that will stop at the restored post office, but said that no additional truck platforms would be constructed.

Even so, the city Department of Transportation said it was considering temporary measures to alleviate traffic just north of the trade center site and behind the post office building. One such measure would involve allowing two-way traffic along the stretch of West Broadway between Church and Vesey Sts., said Lisi de Bourbon, an agency spokesperson. De Bourbon said officials had not yet decided when they might activate this option. She declined to comment on any other traffic proposals under consideration for the area, except to say that the agency is not considering a traffic circle at the intersection of W. Broadway and Greenwich Sts., as some community members had heard.

Whatever the solution, many community members would welcome some relief from what is expected to be a massive, sustained upheaval of their neighborhood.

“It’s tight,” said Judy Duffy, assistant district manager for Community Board 1. “Everything is happening in that one little quadrant.”

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