Downtown Express photo by Patrick Hedlund
Councilmember Tony Avella and State Sen. Daniel Squadron, left, joined a rally outside the Soho post office Wednesday.
Message sent to post office: Keep Soho branch open
By Patrick Hedlund
About 75 Soho residents joined with local activists and elected officials to protest the planned closing of the Prince St. post office on Wednesday, the same day crowds queued up to mail their tax forms by the April 15 deadline.
The United States Postal Service announced recently that it would be shuttering three post offices in Manhattan, as well as scaling back 24-hour service hours at the main branch on Eighth Ave. in order to close its budget deficit. .
Union leaders, State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Councilmembers Alan Gerson and Tony Avella, and two Council candidates, Margaret Chin and Pete Gleason stood with sign-waving Soho Alliance members outside the post office’s entrance on Greene St. to press for action.
“The fact is, if we can’t afford post offices and we can’t afford local services, we don’t have neighborhoods in the city of New York anymore,” Squadron said. “And that is not OK.”
Clarice Torrence, president of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, explained that if not for postal employees drawing attention to the closures, the issue might have gone unnoticed.
“It’s the union that let the community and the politicians know what the plans were,” she said, adding that her father used to work at the Prince St. location. “The postal service didn’t notify anybody — they deal in the dark.”
The two additional post offices set to close are in Columbus Circle and Upper Manhattan.
There is currently a bill before Congress that would provide financial relief to the U.S.P.S. by allowing it more flexibility with its fund for retired health benefits, and the union is urging residents to write to Congressmember Jerrold Nadler — whose district covers the Soho, Columbus Circle and Farley locations — to co-sponsor the bill.
“We are working to try to meet with the post office to establish why they didn’t inform the community that the post office was going to be closed, [and] why they didn’t inform our office and work with us,” Erin Drinkwater, a Nadler aide, said at the Prince St. protest. “We are hoping that together we can come to an agreement and get this post office to remain open.”
“Not only do you have to have your post office, but we have to have some sort of commercial rent control in this city so that services and mom-and-pop businesses are protected,” said Avella, who is also a candidate for mayor. “But the bottom line is, you need to be able to determine what services you have in your own neighborhood, and we’re here to say the post office must stay.”
There was some question among protesters about the landlord’s role in the closing — Apple took over most of the original post office for its flagship New York City store, forcing postal operations to the rear of the building — but Torrence and Alliance president Sean Sweeney said the blame lies with U.S.P.S.
“This is the post office trying to screw Soho, it’s that simple,” Sweeney said. “We were screwed when Apple moved in. Nothing against Apple, but we lost our post office. So we had the worst congested post office in the United States here. So what do they want to do? They want to make it worse. I think the worst post office is better than no post office.”