[Update] Queens postal center to remain open – for now

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Queens elected officials gathered with workers, residents and community leaders to protest the postal facility's possible closure. THE COURIER/Photo by Steve Mosco
Queens elected officials gathered with workers, residents and community leaders to protest the postal facility's possible closure.

Elected officials joined union representatives and several community leaders to deliver a clear message to the United States Postal Service (USPS) — don’t even think about closing Queens’ distribution center.

And for now, it seems the USPS got the message.

Just days after State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Congressmember Joseph Crowley led a rally to protest the impending closure of the Queens Processing and Distribution Center in Whitestone, the Postal Service acquiesced and struck a deal to freeze all postal closures until May 2012.

“This is good news for Queens, and for the country. Hundreds of families in Queens can breathe a sigh of relief, but only temporarily,” said Stavisky. “We will continue to fight for a better alternative. Revamping the Postal Service should not require laying people off and hurting local businesses.”

In a plan that Stavisky called the “wrong decision at the wrong time,” the Postal Service announced earlier this month that it would “consolidate” Queens’ distribution center with another in Brooklyn. Stavisky said that this action would force residents and businesses who patronize the facility to travel to Brooklyn’s processing center — over 13 miles and hours of traffic away.

Officials also said that closing the facility will cost Queens over 1,000 jobs in mail handling, mail carrying, clerk jobs, maintenance workers and drivers. Local businesses would also feel the pinch, as many generate business from their proximity to the plant.

“The USPS plan is flawed. Their study has been rushed and is deceiving,” Stavisky said. “We can’t afford to be hemorrhaging jobs in this economy. We need time to find alternative measures that would not be as catastrophic for Queens.”

Crowley added that taking away jobs is not the kind of Christmas present the borough was expecting, so this reprieve is a welcomed – if temporary – holiday gift.

“The simple fact is we need more jobs in Queens, not less,” said Crowley.

The American Postal Workers Union, the Queens Chamber of Commerce and several civic associations were also on hand at the December 9 rally. With the announcemnt of the closure freeze, it seems the USPS heard the calls for more public comment time.

According to those in attendance at the rally, the USPS has yet to release the contents of its feasibility study — which the Service used to determine the need for closure. But Stephen Larkin, executive vice president of the American Postal Workers Union, said the USPS is ignoring the facts.

“It’s our concern that the level of distribution of mail to Queens, specifically people who are waiting to pay bills, rent and mortgages, are going to find an increased delay,” he said.

This reprieve gives Queens elected officials more time to do the work necessary to keep postal service in Queens.

“While this decision does not mean our postal facilities are in the clear, it does allow for more time to seek alternatives to help USPS meet its financial obligations,” said Crowley. “I understand the Postal Service has a bottom line, but balancing its books on the backs of Queens’ and Bronx families is not the answer.”