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Bronx officials rally to save General Post Office

Bronx Times

Almost the entire Bronx Democratic caucus has joined in the fight to save the Bronx General Post Office.

In a joint letter written April 1 to the vice president of facilities for the Postal Service, a coalition of nine City Council members, ten New York State Assembly persons, six state senators and four members of Congress, blasted postal brass for fast tracking the sale of the iconic post office on the Grand Concourse in Melrose.

“Its loss would have severe implications for the entirety of the Bronx,” wrote Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., taking the lead in drafting the letter.

He said he was “appalled” over the barely publicized, and lone Feb. 6 public hearing at the GPO, where community residents were scant but postal union members abundant.

Diaz was especially peeved over postal officials’ perfunctory effort in reaching out to “community stakeholders, including elected officials,” instead sneaking in an inconvenient daytime hearing.

Indeed, early this month requests for an evening hearing by Community Board 4 went largely ignored, said District Manager Jose Rodriguez. And those who wanted to voice their concerns over the closure could only do so via snail mail. Email was not an option.

“When taken together (the hearing) seem designed to minimize public input during this important process,” read the letter.

And while the letter stated “no consideration of maintaining postal retail services” will remain, a spokeswoman for USPS maintains the federal agency will negotiate with the future owners in leasing the lobby space to continue its retail operations there.

Still, overlooking the needs of the public has been an apparent trend for USPS, which has a history of closing post offices with little public input. It recently closed a post office in Montana, giving post office workers only two days notice.

At the Bronx post office at the busy crossroads of the Concourse and 149th Street, any new owner would have to legally preserve the building, given its status as a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The massive building has been listed since the 80s on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, banning any changes to its exterior.

But preservationists are worried over the lack of protection for 13 Depression-era murals inside the spacious lobby. The paintings, crafted by famed muralist Ben Shahn and wife Bernarda Bryson, are deemed historical given their subject matter that chronicles the spirit of labor in America.

The post office has offered little explanation on what it intends to do with the murals, though an effort to extend the landmark status to the murals is underway.

The letter was sent during the appeal process for the post office, where anyone can mail a letter objecting to the sale. The process ends April 13.

Postal officials have maintained the sale is intended to fix the cash-strapped agency, which was $15 billion in the red last year.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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