Bronx locals angered over sale of historic postal building

January 29, 2014

Felipe De La Hoz/WSN

Bronx residents, along with social and political activists including Gallatin literature professor Steve Hutkins, are rallying in an appeal to the US Postal Service to stop the sale of the historic Bronx General Post Office. This post office serves New York’s 16th congressional district, the poorest congressional district in the United States.

Hutkins created a blog called Save the Post Office in 2011 to raise awareness of the thousands of post offices being shut down across the country. He updates this blog regularly with posts about office closings and efforts made by citizens to prevent closings, the latest about the Bronx post office.

Hutkins said post offices are under attack, and he wants to preserve them as public services.

“All across the country they’ve identified post offices they wanted to sell and the Bronx is just one of them,” Hutkins said. “They claim that these facilities are too big and people aren’t using them anymore.”

USPS spokeswoman Connie Chirichello said the Bronx GPO is too large and is costing the USPS money.

“We are looking to relocate our retail and post office box services into smaller commercial space in the same ZIP code vicinity as the present location,” Chirichello said.

Chirichello said relocating will lower costs and make more money than consolidating the current facility would.

“Eighty percent of the public polled say they would rather shorter hours at the post office if it will help keep the office, however, relocating post offices with as much excess space as the Bronx GPO benefits the efficiency and viability of the postal service in the community,” Chirichello said.

Hutkins said there are more important issues at hand, including the possible inconveniences for residents if the office is relocated. It is not certain whether the new facility will employ letter carriers and parcels to operate directly out of it.

Additionally, the building is a registered historic landmark, as are the murals on the building’s interior. Hutkins expressed fear that the public will no longer have access to this art if the building is sold.

“The Bronx post office has some of the most famous murals painted in New Deal post offices in the whole country,” Hutkins said.

The USPS is currently under investigation for their procedures in selling historic buildings.

Last March, Rep. José Serrano of the 15th District of New York requested an investigation by the inspector general into the sale of the Bronx GPO to determine whether the USPS followed the correct historic preservation laws.

The appropriations bill, which is passed annually and determines how much government money can be spent each year, was unveiled on Jan. 13 and called for the USPS to suspend sales of historic buildings.

“I understand the USPS has a serious revenue problem and is trying desperately to bring costs in line with outlays, but selling off historic properties to the highest bidder without following the appropriate procedures is completely unacceptable,” Serrano said in a press release posted on Jan. 14.

The report from the inspector general is still pending, but Chirichello said the postal service will continue with its plans to sell the building and is considering offers from possible buyers.

Hutkins said there is little information released on why certain post offices are being closed over others.

“It’s just one of dozens and dozens that they’ve looked to sell over the past couple years and there are many more to come,” Hutkins said.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Jan. 29 print edition. Mimi McCann is a contributing writer. Email her at news@nyunews.com.

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