It may be deja vu all over again for the U.S. Postal Service’s Whitestone Processing and Distribution Center, which now is scheduled to move most of its operations to Brooklyn by fall 2015.
There’s still a chance Congress could delay consolidation for another two years, but the Whitestone facility has been on the chopping block for more than two years and this time it could become a reality.
Located at 140-02 20 Ave., on the southwest corner with the Whitestone Expressway service road, the center has 1,015 employees. The USPS says most of the affected workers will be reassigned, many to the Brooklyn facility.
Postal unions and residents using the facility were notified June 30, yet even federal officials were unclear about the proposed change.
Whitestone is one of 82 USPS facilities slated for consolidation or closing around the country in a plan that is estimated to save the agency $865 million a year.
Connie Chirichello, USPS spokeswoman for the triboro area, said that with all other past consolidations, “we have been able to place impacted employees. Every effort will be made to reassign impacted employees when implementing ... the current consolidation plan.”
The announcement was met with opposition by elected officials and postal unions. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), whose district used to include Whitestone, said she is against the change and will oppose it as she did in the past.
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens), who represents the area, sent a scathing statement: “I am truly disappointed by the Postal Service’s decision to downsize its Queens Processing and Distribution Center. These cuts will be devastating for so many families already struggling to get by and it is unconscionable for the USPS to balance their books on the backs of working class New Yorkers while compromising their service for Queens residents.
“We need to find an alternative solution to the financial hardships of the Postal Service and it is time for my Republican colleagues in Congress to stop dragging their feet on real reforms that can responsibly address the issue.”
Postal unions, too, have vowed to block the changes. “We will make this fight a nationwide campaign and ask all Americans to stand up and fight back,” said Debby Szeredy, executive vice president of the American Postal Workers Union.
“Now the delays in mail delivery will become even longer, damaging services to individuals, small businesses and mailers,” Szeredy said.
She estimated that such things as package deliveries, bills and bill payments, election materials, absentee ballots, wedding invitations and letters will be adversely affected by the move.
Union President Mark Dimondstein called the action “a direct assault on service to the people of the country, on postal workers and on the Postal Service’s own network.”
But the USPS said with the closings and consolidations, the average time for a first-class piece of mail to reach its destination will increase only slightly, from 2.14 days to 2.25.
Postal workers, however, say it’s more likely it will take three to five days.
Crowley’s office said it had learned that a few operations will remain at Whitestone, so that the building will not be vacant.
The letter sent by USPS to its customers was done to give them six months’ warning of the change. It indicated that commercial mailers, and mail service providers who deposit bulk mail at such a facility should review their options. The agency has offered to help work out problems with “transportation and logistical requirements.”