2011-12-14 / Features

Post Office Closings Could Cost Jobs, Delay Mail

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO


Councilmember James Gennaro joins (l. to r.), Councilmember Dan Halloran, Assemblymembers Ed Braunstein, Grace Meng and Phillip Goldfeder, state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, Councilmember Joseph Crowley, Assemblymembers William Scarborough and Michael Simanowitz outside the USPS distribution center in Whitestone. The facility, which employs more than 1,000 workers, may be shut down as the USPS struggles with a major budget crisis. 
Photo office of Councilmember Gennaro Councilmember James Gennaro joins (l. to r.), Councilmember Dan Halloran, Assemblymembers Ed Braunstein, Grace Meng and Phillip Goldfeder, state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, Councilmember Joseph Crowley, Assemblymembers William Scarborough and Michael Simanowitz outside the USPS distribution center in Whitestone. The facility, which employs more than 1,000 workers, may be shut down as the USPS struggles with a major budget crisis. Photo office of Councilmember Gennaro Each day, more than seven million Americans visit the post office. But the volume of first class mail is declining and the United States Postal Service (USPS) lost $5.1 billion last year. On December 5 the USPS announced it will “move forward” with proposed service changes affecting next day delivery.

Right now, more than 40 percent of first class mail is delivered in one day. But in a continuing effort to cut costs and reduce its budget, the USPS plans mostly to end next-day delivery for first class mail by closing 252 of its 487 mail processing centers, including the Queens Processing and Distribution Center on 20th Avenue in Whitestone. The proposed closings would come in March 2012.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said closing the Queens Processing and Distribution Center could result in the loss of more than 700 jobs and “the degradation of postal services for Queens residents and businesses” in a December 1 press release. Nationwide, the move is expected to eliminate 28,000 jobs.

In a letter to U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahue on December 1, Marshall asked that he reject the recommendations of a feasibility study conducted in September that was intended “to determine if efficiency could be increased by consolidating mail processing operations currently performed at the Queens Processing and Distribution Center with those performed at the Brooklyn Processing and Distribution Center and/or the Morgan Station (in Manhattan)”.

Marshall said the conclusion that minimal impact on postal services would occur if operations transfer out of Queens was incorrect. “[It’s] hard to imagine how eliminating 700 employees and re-routing intra-borough mail and packages through Brooklyn would not at least delay delivery of first class mail and parcels,” she said.

Four days later, USPS confirmed those fears. “The U.S. Postal Service must reduce its operating costs by $20 billion by 2015 in order to return to profitability,” David Williams, vice president of Network Operations, said in the December 5 press release. While the proposal to move first class mail from a one- to threeday standard to a two– to three-day standard is not likely to affect mail going from New York to California, it will slow mail from Brooklyn to Queens to two days from one, Sue Brennan, a USPS spokeswoman, said. Mail could still conceivably be delivered the next day by properly preparing and dropping it at the destination’s processing center. The delivery time of newspapers and other periodicals would increase to two to nine days from the current one to eight days.

The volume of first class mail has dropped by almost 27 percent in the last three years and the USPS has proposed closing up to 3,700 local post offices. In addition, job cuts of 100,000 employees are part of the plan. Donahue is also asking Congress to approve five-day-a-week delivery.

“I am not unsympathetic to the fact that the USPS is attempting to achieve drastic budget cuts totaling billions of dollars,” Marshall said in her press release. “However, I believe that making major cuts in one of the world’s largest, most populous areas would be counterproductive and only compromise the USPS’s efforts to continue to provide high-quality services.”

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