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Bayside rallies to save post office

Community leaders throughout Bayside are weighing in on the rumor that the local post office will close its doors on Bell Boulevard. Photo by Phil Corso
TimesLedger Newspapers

The U.S. Postal Service broke its silence Monday after unconfirmed reports circulated that Bayside’s post officewould be closed and moved to another location a few blocks away.

A USPS spokeswoman blamed the rumors on a “misunderstanding” even though U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) had released details of a plan Friday to shutter the post office near the Bayside Long Island Rail Road station.

In a statement, the spokeswoman said the Bayside post office is part of a review of the USPS system around the country.

“We are continuously observing postal facilities. It’s a healthy review of our resources that will best incorporate them into long-term plans for effective and efficient retail service,” the statement said. “It is prudent for us to look for ways to improve efficiency by making better use of space, staffing and operating processes. A lot of things are on the chalkboard.”

According to Ackerman, the plan calls for abandoning the post office, at 212-35 42nd Ave. and moving all operations to the annex building by Lawrence Cemetery, at 41-29 216 St.

“If this is what they are considering, and we have received no official communication to so indicate as much, then this clearly would be a consolidation of facilities and requires public notice, consultation and input,” Ackerman said. “That has not happened. We must insist that proper procedure is followed.”

The Postal Service had no comment on the growing rumors until late Monday.

The congressman criticized the Postal Service, adding that a potential increase in traffic and lack of parking near the new location could be a negative consequence for the surrounding community.

“Moving the Bayside branch from its prime spot in the middle of the area’s busy commercial strip to a remote and inconvenient location makes absolutely no sense,” Ackerman said. “Not only would this plan adversely impact the local residents and businesses who use this facility, but it could likely cause a further erosion in postal business since its customers may not trek to this out-of-the-way location.”

City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said closing the Bayside post office would be a huge blow to northeast Queens because of its location in one of the area’s busiest commercial strips.

“To make matters worse, the government has been less than transparent about this process. I didn’t even hear about the closure until a few days ago,” Halloran said. “To my knowledge, it wasn’t on any list of potential closings. The residents and business owners of Bayside deserve to have their voices heard before any action is taken.”

Retired Bayside businessman Jack Oshier and East Bayside Homeowners Association President Frank Skala have been part of a community resistance effort to keep the post office from closing. Oshier speculated the post office, whose lease expires July 31, 2014, may be choosing to relocate to the annex for lower rent costs. But the biggest problem with the potential new location, Oshier said, was its accessibility to Bayside residents.

“There aren’t any sidewalks along the cemetery down there. This place has to be handicap accessible,” Oshier said.

Community members gathered to discuss the post office’s possible closing earlier this year, not anticipating a possible decision until February 2013, Oshier said. Now, the post office may close as early as October.

Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece said he spent the last week trying to confirm or debunk the rumor, with hopes the post office would stay put.

“People define communities by their post offices,” Iannece said. “Taking Bayside’s away would be a foolhardy idea. Why leave that spot? People come off the railroad and go to that post office, within feet of Bell Boulevard.”

Iannece said he would be openly voicing his opposition to the plan in an attempt to help sway the post office from shutting down.

If the Postal Service issues a final determination closing a post office, the community can submit a closing appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission by visiting prc.gov.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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