Bronxites Upset Over Proposed Post Office Closings
By Kinvelyn Guaba
The Bronx Journal Staff Writer
Bronxites are up in arms as the United States Postal Service plans to close down 17 post offices in the Bronx. This may keep Bronxites who are not able to access a post office from getting their mail on time. In addition, local jobs will be lost.
Bronx community activists say it is not fair for the Bronx to lose so many of it’s postal facilities due to what they describe as government greed. “It is an attack on union, workers and the community,” said Max Rivera, a retired postal worker who is now member of the South Bronx Community Congress.
Rivera does not understand why so many post offices are being shuttered “They want Obama to get involved,” Rivera said. “He’s talking about creating jobs but you want to eliminate 150,000 people? Where’s the logic in that?”
Rivera also said that the Bronx has the most housing developments. The population of the Highbridge section has increased over the years, with growing Caribbean and Latino populations. Many in these groups do not use the Internet to pay their bills online, but rather they go to post offices to get mail and they pay their bills by purchasing money orders.
Under the current proposal, mail will be sent to Manhattan to get processed to be sent back to the Bronx for distribution. Activists say that it will affect the elderly and hundreds of workers. In a statement Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said, “The Bronx can not afford such a considerable loss of jobs and commercial activity, and the federal government must seriously reconsider enacting any post office closure plan that would have a serious negative impact on Bronx communities.”
Diaz has been attending rallies to support the postal workers as well as the communities.
Bronxites are questioning not only why a lot of post offices are closing down in the Bronx, but also why a lot of them are in the Highbridge area of the Bronx. In contrast, Manhattan will have six closings.
Queens will have none, Brooklyn five and Staten Island just one.
New York City will see the largest number of post offices closed compared to the other regions in the country.
Many Bronxites who live near these 17 post offices will have to travel far to pay utilities. Community activists and elected officials have been fighting against these plans.
According to the postal service website, they have been studying areas that may not need a post office, due to area residents’ tendency of paying utilities online.
The postal service has been sending letters to the residents who would affected, informing them that their facilities may close if it is determined they are underutilized. The letter asks how often they use the facility, with nine questions that range from how often do they buy stamps to how often they mail parcels (answers: daily, weekly, monthly, twice a year, never.)
Several calls from The Bronx Journal for comment to the U.S. Postal Service were not returned.
Many Bronxites feel betrayed by the closings.
The Hunts Point post office, which was established seven years ago, is on the list to be shuttered.
“Certain things you have to go to a post office and ask for, you can’t always rely on a computer,” said Jason Evans, a 28-year-old Hunts Point resident. “It could be a race thing.”
“Of course it is not fair,” said Juliana Francisco, 43-year-old from Hunts Point. “I come here to buy money orders. How am I going to pay the rent?”
In the Melrose section of the Bronx, residents are worried their post office may be closing as well. “My mom, she doesn’t like to use the Internet,” said one young resident who lives on Melrose Avenue. “She says it’s complicated.”
Postal workers are also fed up at the fact that they will lose their job if this happens. Even the stations that will not be shutting down are devastated that they are still at a risk of losing their jobs due to seniority regulations. Many postal workers have been receiving either transfer or termination letters. This has been going on for about a year.
The people who have worked for 20 years or longer will be staying while the people that have been working for 10 years or less will be placed somewhere else, says a 55-year-old postal worker who asked not be identified for fear of retaliation. It may be a different city or state. Some workers may be forced to retire and supervisors are being demoted. Others will be overworked with almost nine-hour shifts a day due to the expected lack of employees.
“Yes, all of our customers are upset,” says the postal worker, who has worked for the post office as a window teller for 17 years. “That’s why we need this community to help us fight as well, not just us.”
There have been rallies that postal workers, Bronxites and elected officials have been attending to help save the post offices and to help the HR1351 Bill be passed.
The Bill HR1351 will allow billions of dollars to be used for pensions and health care for future postal worker retirees.
Postal workers are hoping that Bill HR1351 gets passed. The 17-year-postal veteran puts it this way: “If they don’t pass the HR1351, we may be in big trouble.”