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Queens Chronicle

Closure plans cause concern

Patrons say the Holliswood, Rosedale postal branches are always busy

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Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:39 pm, Thu Aug 18, 2011.

Armado Cisnaro visits the Holliswood Post Office six times a month to send letters and packages to his family in the Philippines. He said the location is always busy and was saddened to discover Monday that it is slated for possible closure.

“This place is very useful,” he said. “If they were to close it, where are we going to go?”

Forced to compete with the Internet and the advent of email as a faster method of communication, coupled with the fact that businesses have been spending less money to send out advertisements, the United States Postal Service has lost billions in recent years.

In order to cut costs the USPS is considering shutting down nearly 3,700 branches including five in Queens — Holliswood, Rosedale, Astoria, Rockaway Beach and Arverne.

Other attempts to save money like instituting a rate hike or cutting Saturday mail delivery have been denied by regulators and lawmakers.

An agency spokeswoman did not respond to several requests for information.

The Holliswood location at 197-33 Hillside Ave. is what the Postal Service calls a finance station. It functions much in the same way as a regular branch, selling stamps and money orders and sending letters and packages, except that there are no letter carriers. The next closest location is the Hollis main branch, which is four blocks away at 197-40 Jamaica Ave.

Ernst Lespinasse of Jamaica, who was standing on line waiting to mail a package, said the Holliswood station is an important part of the neighborhood. “It’s very convenient,” he said. “I don’t see how they are losing money. There are always people here. It’s very busy.”

Perhaps the only people more stunned than the customers were the postal employees themselves. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, workers at Holliswood said they had read about the possible closures in newspapers just like members of the public. No higher ranking postal officials explained the decision to them or told them whether they would be transferred or lose their jobs all together.

“They didn’t tell us anything,” said one worker.

“They told us not to say anything,” chimed in another. “But I’m saying something because I need my job.”

The employees said they serve about 300 customers daily, many of whom are elderly, do not use the Internet or send email, and can’t travel farther away.

“A lot of people don’t like to do things online,” said one worker. “They don’t want to put their information into the computer and have someone steal their identity.”

Workers at the busy Rosedale Post Office at 145-06 243 St., which is also on the chopping block, heard about the closures through the media and were uncertain about their future.

“I was very surprised that my post office was on the list because they didn’t mention anything to us about it,” said one worker. “They didn’t inform us of anything.”

“After we had found out, the next day the manager had come in with a newspaper article with the list of the names and she had our names highlighted,” said another employee. “She had gone to a meeting earlier that morning and came in with the newspaper article and she showed it to us and that was pretty much it.”

The Rosedale workers said they had been with the USPS for several years and took the job because it offered security, good wages and benefits. “I am very shocked and concerned because the last time they closed down post offices they sent a lot of people three or four hours out of their way to try and keep their jobs,” said one of the employees.

Customers waiting on line at the Rosedale location were also surprised by the news. Marjorie Henry said that with all the people out of work since the recession, it was “shameful” to make cuts that jeopardize peoples’ livelihoods.

The nearest post office to Rosedale is the Springfield Gardens station, which is 1.5 miles away at 218-10 Merrick Blvd.

Michael Soriano, who works for an auto body shop and was mailing packages of supplies as he does nearly every day, said that he would be negatively affected if Rosedale closed.

“Certain customers from out of state, they want certain car manuals and parts so I mail it to them,” he said. “Today, I only have three pieces but sometimes I have 10 or 15 pieces.

“If the post office closes then I’m just going to stop mailing stuff because I’m not going to pay to send things through FedEx, UPS or any other company because it is out of my way.”

Arthur Brown, who was buying stamps, said many foreign nationals live in the neighborhood and often send packages and letters back home, while one woman, who identified herself only as Verita, said it’s unfair for the USPS to blame the Internet for its money woes when the government so often promotes use of the web. Indeed, right near the desk where she was addressing her letter, there was a sign reading “Change your address online at USPS.com.”

Customer Abraham Hyatt was more optimistic about the closures than most. He said if people pray to save the Rosedale station, it will be spared. “It will happen,” Hyatt said. “Jesus never goes back on his word. He says if you ask anything in my name believe it shall be done, so I don’t have any doubt that this post office is going to stay.”

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) who represents the area where the Rosedale station is located will be having a public event in the near future to generate support for the post office at the city level, his spokesman, Michael Lopes, said Tuesday.

Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) said he sent a letter to the postmaster general asking that the Holliswood station, which is in his district, not be closed, but hasn’t received a response.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said several constituents have contacted his office about the possible closures within his district — Rosedale and Arverne — and beyond. “They have utilized these services for years and they are concerned about what will happen if they close,” Meeks said Tuesday. “Some of them work at the post office, so there are job issues on top of that.”

Although the USPS does not receive taxpayer money, the agency has told Meeks that it will have a public comment period in the near future on the closure plan. Meeks said he will express his position in writing that the stations not be shuttered and hopes to organize a town hall-style meeting to give the community a chance to speak to USPS officials in person.

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