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USPS Workers Downplay Impending Sale of Chelsea Post Office

By Mathew Katz | February 28, 2013 8:44am

CHELSEA — Postal Service workers appear to be downplaying the agency's controversial public push to sell a historic Chelsea Post Office, even though a spokeswoman said the building would still be sold.

A public notice outlining the potential closure of Old Chelsea Station, at 217 W. 18th St., was taken down last week. Workers at the facility also told community members and a reporter that the sale was off, with one even adding "there's no way that the building will ever be sold."

Longtime resident Dianna Maeurer, 58, who helped sound the alarm about the sale, said her postal carrier told her that the building was taken off of all real estate listings earlier this month.

"However, I think we all need to be vigilant as perhaps the Chelsea Post Office told this to their workers to defuse community upset," she said.

But USPS spokeswoman Connie Chirichello said that there has been "no discussion" about putting the brakes on the sale after widespread outcry from public officials and neighbors who said they were given no notice about the plans.

The building was built in 1937 and was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Both neighbors and elected officials found out about the sale based on a lengthy letter, written to the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which was posted in the building's foyer.

The conflicting messages from the Postal Service and its employees come in the wake of a Feb. 6 letter to Postmaster General Pat Donahoe, in which local elected officials slammed the agency for its "lack of internal clarity on the sale of Old Chelsea Station and the way in which its sale came to the attention of our offices and our constituents.

"In addition, when our offices contacted USPS for further clarification on what was happening, we were provided with inaccurate and conflicting information," the letter continued.

Representatives from several elected officials said they had also heard rumors that the sale was off, but could not confirm them.

Chuck Zlatkin, the legislative and political director at the New York Metro Area Postal Union, said he had seen similar intentional confusion when the Postal Service tried to sell other buildings, including the Bronx General Post Office.

"What they’re trying to do is meet their [public notice] requirements without, really, a good faith effort to involve the community," he said.

"You see, they have a town hall meeting that they don't invite the town to," referring to the short notice given for a meeting about the Bronx sale.

Chirichello said that a public meeting on the sale is planned and will be scheduled for "the very near future."

The building would likely bring in a good sum for the cash-strapped Postal Service, with its prime Chelsea location surrounded by new and upcoming condos. Old Chelsea Station's sale piqued interest in real estate circles: over a dozen agents emailed DNAinfo.com New York asking where the building was listed after DNA broke the news about the post office's closure.

But for Maeurer and others, closing — or even downsizing — the building would take away an important hub for the community.

"We feel that the rug is being pulled out from under us," she said, adding that the USPS' dueling messages were no surprise.

"I don't think it's disorganization, it's misinformation."