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Postal Service Gives Customers 60 Days To Speak Up
by Thomas MacMillan | Jul 28, 2011 8:03 am
As the Postal Service sizes the Westville post office up for the chopping block, a would-be aldermen is trying to rally the neighborhood to save it.
The U.S. Postal Service this week announced that it will begin studying the viability 0f 3,700 post offices nationwide, to see which ones might be suitable for closure.
Three of those slated for study are in New Haven: the Kilby station on Washington Avenue in the Hill, the Amity station on Whalley Avenue, and the Westville post office at 95 Fountain St.
In response to that news, Westville aldermanic candidate Adam Marchand Wednesday issued a press release calling on his neighbors to “join me in supporting our local post office.”
“The Westville post office serves an important function in our community. Like the Mitchell Library or Edgewood School, our post office is an important public institution, and it offers services that add to our quality of life,” Marchand wrote. “Upholding institutions such as the Westville post office is an important role for elected officials, and it’s one of the reasons I’m running for the Board of Aldermen in Ward 25.”
Christine Dugas, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, said neighbors will have a 60-day window to offer public comment on the station closing, beginning in about two weeks. The service will also be holding “public town meetings” at each one of the locations under study, Dugas said.
The information gathered will lead to decisions in about six months on which offices will close, she said. There will be no closures before December she said.
This week’s news about the threat to Westville and Hill post offices was a reprise of a scare in 2009, when the Postal Service considered closing those and other stations. Last time, the Postal Service considered closing some 1,400 offices and ended up closing only 228, Dugas. The New Haven stations avoided the ax that time.
But this time the Postal Service is considering more than twice as many stations. It’s time for tough decisions, since the agency lost over $8 billion last year, Dugas said.
She offered some other numbers. Five years ago, the U.S. Postal Service handled 213 billion pieces of mail. That number is down to 176 billion. It’s still the largest postal organization in the world, “but that’s a big drop,” Dugas said.
In the age of email and online banking, more and more people are finding they have no need to visit the post office. “People under 30 almost never visit the post office,” Dugas said.
Most people who do visit their local post office are there just to buy stamps which can be purchased at many other locations, Dugas said.
In order to stay viable, the Postal Service is looking at a new model, away from “bricks and mortar,” Dugas said. “The new concept is the village post office.” Postal products will be sold at “approved postal providers,” which could include supermarkets, pharmacies, or any small business, Dugas said.
The Postal Service is also considering other cost-cutting measures, like five-day delivery, Dugas said. But letter carriers will still make deliveries by mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and by snowmobile in remote Alaska, Dugas said.
Meanwhile, some customers in Westville are already concerned that cutbacks have led to a worsening of services in their neighborhood. One Independent reader said he’s seen mail coming later and in lesser quantities in recent weeks.
At the Westville post office on Wednesday, the manager was away on vacation and no one else was authorized to speak.
Dugas said all the mail is still being delivered, regardless of any route changes in Westville. She said delivery times can vary if carriers retire or are transferred. She said it’s usually not an issue except in neighborhoods with a lot of seniors who expect the mail at a certain time each day.
“People just don’t like change,” Dugas said.
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posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 27, 2011 6:29pm
Although I hope none of the post offices have to be closed, of the three , I think the Westville one is the most important due to it being older, and located in an architecturally significant building as well as being much better connected to the surrounding urban fabric. Losing the Westville branch would create a pretty sizable void in the Westville Village to a more severe degree than in the other locations where the buildings are less significant and part of a coherent place.
I would trade all of the post offices on the chopping block for ONE DOWNTOWN POST OFFICE, that is not at YALE.
re westville: close it to cut the fat. library and the post office are too different animals entirely. library hours should be expanded. we can do without the post office!
posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on July 27, 2011 7:24pm
To that Indy reader who worries that mail is coming in lesser quantities: he or she is surely right. That is not the PO’s fault: it’s because there is less mail these days! Catalogue companies trust that we will find them online; people pay bills and bank online; people send email instead of personal letters. Some of this is sad; some is inevitable; but it’s reality. And the fact is that while I wrote in support of the Westville station last time, lobbied our state rep and our congresswoman, I think I’ll sit it out this time. We just don’t need as many post offices as in the old days. A kiosk inside one of our trust Westville businesses—the frame shop? the tennis shop? Manjares? Deja Brew?—could sell stamps and take packages for the postal service, much as the in-store post office at the drugstore on Orange Street does (or used to). If we’re going to spend tax dollars on that building, it could be a senior center, or an annex to the library, or a police substation…but we have to face that even if it survives the chopping block this time, it is not fated to be a post office for much longer. Sad as it is to say.
I love the Westville Post Office, but only for it’s architecture. Though I only live a few blocks away, I prefer going to the Amity station, where I can find parking (I’m usually mailing a package and don’t want to walk and carry it, sorry) Perhaps some significant use can be made of it for some other purpose.
Hall-Benedict lost its post office service desk and closed a few months later. I find it strange that the USPS is now planning to close more offices and says, at the same time, “But we’ll be opening desks in local businesses”—really? There’s a big difference between selling stamps and being able to handle packages and the other services one gets at a proper post office (passport related stuff springs to mind) and I can’t believe that pharmacies, groceries, etc. will be able to pick up that slack.
I agree with Bill that there needs to be a post office that’s centrally located in this city that isn’t Yale Station. I spent a fair amount of time in Yale Station this week, as it happens, and while I am generally a champion of the place, it is not sufficient. Not sufficient. I am being wildly polite, here.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 27, 2011 9:56pm
While its true that the traditional function of a post office has largely been replaced by email, online bill paying and basically the entire internet, online shopping has actually filled the void of those traditional functions. People need to send packages and sold items from Amazon, EBAY, etc and we still need post offices.
The real costs of the USPS is in home deliveries and mail kiosk deliveries in sprawling suburban areas. 50% of the cost for operating the USPS is accrued in the last mile of delivery. The development pattern of the post WW2 era is what is bankrupting the postal service, not the lack of demand for their service.
I also agree with Bill, that if all three could be given up for one centrally located one - that’d be great, so long as the Westville building could be used for another similar civic function such as an expanded library.
We have to be realistic- post offices must be closed. The “keep it open at any cost” attitude leads to the deficits we have at all levels of government. Either Fountain St or Whalley Ave should close. The post office will decide which is better for their needs.
What our alderman and other officials should focus on is what can the building be used for if the post office leaves? Maybe a senior center. The Fountain St building would be a more interesting building to reuse than the Whalley Ave strip mall structure.
I think that, of the post offices slated for closure, the most important one to fight for is actually the one in the Hill. Low-income people disproportionately rely on the mail for basic needs and services (e.g. checks), so it’d be a real shame to close the one that services a largely low-income neighborhood like the Hill in favor of one that services a higher income neighborhood like Westville. I get that there’s some significance to the Westville building, but building use can be converted. Access to basic services for low-income people, however has no substitute.
First, let’s behave like practical, sensible adults who understand the fiscal problems we are facing in our towns, states and our nation.
Second, there is a post office in NH that is not at Yale; it is the Brewery Street P.O. Third, the beautiful architectural building in Westville will not disappear, only its present function as a post office will. Maybe a great business will occupy the building. That is something sensible the political operative could scout for to enhance the financials.
“The Westville post office serves an important function in our community. Like the Mitchell Library or Edgewood School, our post office is an important public institution, and it offers services that add to our quality of life,” Marchand wrote. Mr. Marchand, do you really consider the Westville Post Office to be as important to our quality of life as the Edgewood School or the Mitchell Library?
“Upholding institutions such as the Westville post office is an important role for elected officials, and it’s one of the reasons I’m running for the Board of Aldermen in Ward 25.”
Clearly, Mr. Marchand, if this is one of the main reasons you are running for alderman, you do not have enough valid reasons to run. Political leaders should also be practical and informed people who help those they represent to fight for what is most important; politicians should also provide sensible leadership.
At a time of limited resources and increasingly high taxes, we need to make rational decisions about what is most useful and practical to fight for. We are all saying don’t take away this and that, but are we willing to pay for it all? Can we pay for it all? Having a library in our neighborhood is extremely important. Elected officials should be helping people to show greater appreciation for the library by using it more and by exploring more the great benefits it offers.
The mail carrier will pick up and deliver regular mail. We do not need a post office in every neighborhood. Do we want to be paying $1.00 to mail a letter? I don’t think so. Let’s use common sense and not fight just because it is politically beneficial to do so.
Of COURSE they have to cut out post offices. Except for overnight deliveries, soon snail mail will be a thing of the past, same as newspapers. It hurts my heart too to lose the nostalgia, but that’s life. What about sending a good ole Pony Express? Life goes on.
The Westville post office will most likely close. Now lets us think of a great way to use that building and preserve it. It is a new time now , lets reinvent it to modern times.
The Westville Village and Hill Post Offices are important to save. Both have good bus service within a few blocks (several lines), which can’t be said about most the other branches in the area. I’m glad that some of the NHI commenters feel that they can drive everywhere, but most people in New Haven do not have that luxury.
Perhaps organizer Marchand should be gunning for an appointment to the Board of Postal Governors? As far as the P.O. being an important public institution, is it a place where people meet, plan, and organize a better community? Never seen it myself! Surely the postal service is an important public service, but really now, is the bricks & mortar p.o. “an important public institution”? Maybe union organizers have more time on their hands than the rest of us, so they are lolling around more.
It’s time to let it go everyone. Let’s start closing some post offices - the whole USPS is costing us quite a bit of money, it’s been in the red for many years.
we should close the whalley branch. it’s far less attractive, not historic, and far less essential to the urban fabric than fountain st.
if you’re worried about parking on fountain, just wait a while: everyone seems to agree that the need for postal services is on a steep decline, so it’s only a matter of time before parking becomes easier, right?
I’ve had a P.O. box at Kilby Station for over 20 years. I walk there and get my mail every day. Everybody doesn’t have a car to drive, and living in certain “areas”,, your chances of having your mail stolen from the home mail box is quite high. My thoughts are,, if they close the Kilby Station, where will my mail go?? Where will I get another P.O. box. probably some where that I’ll need to take two buses to get to. I’m over 60 years old, not in good health, and don’t need to travel all over town for my mail. I also receive a lot of packages via the mail, to keep from having to shop in New Haven.
@md24, no, it isn’t (see from http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2011/pr11_091.pdf)
“A self-supporting government enterprise, the U.S. Postal Service is the only delivery service that reaches every address in the
nation, 150 million residences, businesses and Post Office Boxes. The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating
expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. With 32,000 retail locations and the most
frequently visited website in the federal government, usps.com, the Postal Service has annual revenue of more than $67 billion and
delivers nearly 40 percent of the world’s mail. If it were a private sector company, the U.S. Postal Service would rank 29th in the
2010 Fortune 500. Black Enterprise and Hispanic Business magazines ranked the Postal Service as a leader in workforce diversity.
The Postal Service has been named the Most Trusted Government Agency six consecutive years and the sixth Most Trusted
Business in the nation by the Ponemon Institute.”
If the NHR article is correct, Westville AND Amity are closing: “Included on the list are the Allingtown Post Office, 75 Farwell St. in West Haven, and three in New Haven: the Amity Retail Store, 1449 Whalley Ave.; the Kilby station in the Hill neighborhood, 369 Washington Ave.; and the Westville post office at 95 Fountain St.”
Hey John, I’m sorry, but I beg to differ. The USPS is not profitable. Yes, they make revenue. But they cannot control their expenses and this move to close post offices will help them, I assume:
@md24 : ok, but how do you reckon it’s costing “us” anything? Maybe I’m reading into your comment, but I swore I detected a bit of reactionary, “anti-big govt” rhetoric leaking in. Forgive me if I was mistaken, but there are far too many people out there who overestimate the burden of necessary public services on the federal budget and underestimate the cost of a lack of civic pride and infrastructure (not to mention tax giveaways…)
John, you were probably reading into it more than I intended to put there (those who comment in these types of things have a tendency to be a little polar, no?). But perhaps there was a small bit of me cheering for a government “agency” who is really thinking about their costs and trying to reign them in. It’s a good practice.
What I don’t know is who pays the bill when the Post Office keeps losing money? They’ve been losing money for years and it’s got to come from somewhere. Are they just deeply in debt with bonds? Who do they owe? Can they go bankrupt? My guess is that it’s the same situation as Fannie Mae (and Freddie Mac, et al) where the government would bail them out if necessary. So I’m sure the tax payers do share some of this - I just don’t know how much or how it works.
I find it hugely depressing that so many people this time around seem willing to throw in the towel over the possible closing of the Fountain Street post office.
The fact is that it IS a community resource, a focus of community life, which would be lost if it closes. American life deteriorates step by step.
I never have any trouble parking there—so maybe you have to walk an extra 100 feet sometimes—so what? Complaining about this is like driving ‘round and ‘round in the Stop and Shop parking lot for five minutes just to eventually get a parking space 50 feet closer to the entrance, rather than just parking the car, walking the 50 feet, and being done with it.
And I’m also able to walk to the Fountain Street building if I want to, and I do. I would NEVER think of walking to the Whalley Avenue station, even though, technically, it, too, is withing walking distance. Who wants to walk such an unattractive (and potentially dangerous) route?
And a bricks-and-mortar post office serves more than just as a place to buy stamps—you can also rent a box, send packages, receive packages you weren’t home to receive, buy a money order, apply for a passport, and choose to send mail certified or registered for things you need to have documentation for, to make sure they have indeed been delivered.
Yes, maybe USPS operations have to be consolidated. If so, this is a no-brainer—they should be consolidated at Fountain Street, while the strip-mall incarnation of the Whalley branch is allowed to wither.
What kind of community do we want, or not want, to perpetuate?
@md24—true enough re: the polarity of comments sections!
i appreciate what you’re after here: it is heartening to see this (independent) gov’t agency adapting to suit the times and to cut costs. (whether they will find that magic spot where customers’ needs/wants and cost coincide is, i suppose, what we’re ultimately talking about here.)
i’m really not sure it is the same as Fannie and Freddie, because the USPS is not subsidized by the gov’t at all and is not a Gov’t Sponsored Agency (GSE) such as those are. It’s also not in the business of securitizing a major cornerstone (and inherently speculative) sector of the economy, as were Freddie and Fannie. :)
one thing i will say is that somewhere i read that the USPS actually had a surplus in contributions to the federal pension system, which has led them to pull off contributions for a few years until they can figure things out. again, a good sign of an institution that is interested in getting their financial house in order.
i just hope personally that when push comes to shove, communities recognize the value that a functional AND historic place like this adds to the neighborhood. for my money, i’d rather see a few cents more on a stamp to preserve quality of life in the neighborhood, which is priceless, but that’s just me.
This is a civil rights issue:
Anyone who claims otherwise, policymakers included, is probably among the lucky few who can afford or are able to drive a car everywhere. I am astonished to see folks defending the proposed closure of these stations.
As the PO Box Holder points out above, post offices need to remain in walkable, transit-rich, diverse urban cores like the Hill and Westville Village.
To save money, close the stations in small towns and strip malls first before you systematically deprive the less fortunate of access to basic government services that any ethical person would consider to be a fundamental human right.
The “lower mail volume” I complained about was in reference to periodicals I subscribe to being delayed as well as days, such as last Monday, when the delivery was skipped altogether. I’m not a senior, but I work from home. And the difference between mail at noon and mail at six pm is that checks get deposited a day late and bills sometimes arrive a day after they’re due to be paid. Toss in the increased number of pieces being delivered to the wrong street or the wrong house and you have a serious downgrade in service quality from even a few months ago. Lower mail volume should make it easier to deliver a quality service, not harder. Sure, cut the personnel roster, but start by getting rid of the people who continually screw up. Then apply some logic to the way routes are designed instead of giving up all decision-making power to the carrier union.
As for which office to close, not only is Amity a more modern, energy-efficient building than the admittedly lovely but obsolete Westville station, and the personnel at Amity are far friendlier, faster, and more efficient, as well as giving out more accurate information on postal rates and regulations. All anyone ever gets as Westville is a lecture about following their arbitrary rules. The idea that they might be there to provide customer service has largely escaped their consciousness. If any post office anywhere deserves to be shut down, it’s Westville (and yes, it’s in walking distance for me, closer than Amity).
I would like the Fountain Street post office remain open and close the one in Amity if you must. There is no reason to have two so close to each other. I’veused both and feel Fountain Street has been part of the community for years and should remain. I can buy stamps at Stop and Shop if needed. I can’t mail a package there.
I hope the Westville Post Office will remain open because it is the one that many seniors and disabled residents can access by walking. Secondly, mail is still necessary for people without computers and access to email . Finally. The Fountain Street post office serves as a community Center and is an important part of Westville’s history in New Haven.
What is it with this Business Model for the postal service? It’s supposed to make money??? Like, what? education is supposed to turn a profit? Like the Army has to pay for itself?
The postal service is what we need a government for—to do the things we cannot do for ourselves individually. Like send a letter from here to Alaska: what would it cost to hire a private courier to do that? What would it cost me to build a road from here to Hamden?
Postal service is a collective need. We’re always going to need it (not everybody has a computer or an internet connection).
Let’s just fund the damn thing—as a people. We all need it in one way or another. We shouldn’t expect it to be profitable any more than we expect I-95 to be profitable.
If anyone remembers, THE PUBLIC did not even get any input into the downtown Post Office Closure at the Federal Building. Like so many restaurants, they shuttered their doors for renovations, never to reopen.
Let’s face it, like some many others, this industry is changing, and ultimately going to go back to your ‘general store’ type of operation.
In the near future, if people want to send mail, they will go to a nearby store that is in business for something else, like selling cigarettes and/or lottery tickets—maybe even marijuana, if things get really loose and desperate.
These stores will also sell government approved stamps, envelops, and packing materials. And to instill a sense of convenience and personal satisfaction, you will be able to weigh your package yourself, on an approved corporate scale.. Just pay the person at the register….. like you are buying self-serve frozen yogurt on a hot summer’s eve.
On a more realistic and tragic side note, I happened to run into my mail carrier yesterday, as she deposited four pieces of junk mail in my slot.
“Nothing Real?”, I inquired. “Wow, that is a giant bag of worthless crap you get paid to carry around.”
Smiling, she repied, “It’s a Job.”
the is a definite need for a post office in westville. walking distance for many residents who
don’t drive.plus all the business in the center.
closing it would be a big inconvenience.
The Westville post office has been running efficiently for many, many years; not perfectly, no, but so much better than any other on this side of New Haven at least. Mail delivery can be spotty when the regulars aren’t on duty. Give me Martha any day! Rather than remove this P.O. altogether, a five day delivery schedule would make more sense. It is central to this area both literally and figuratively. What else can we do to keep it?