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Postal Service Agrees to Meeting on Chelsea Post Office Sale After Outcry

By Mathew Katz | March 20, 2013 2:24pm

CHELSEA — Chelsea residents will get to have their say on the sale of a local post office, after fears that the Postal Service would move forward on a plan to sell it without any public input.

The USPS will host a public meeting on its plans to sell off Old Chelsea Station, located at 217 W. 18th St., during an April 11 hearing at Chelsea's Fulton Center. The meeting came only after elected officials forced the issue with Postal Service officials.

However, some believe the USPS's overture to the community is too little, too late.

According to sources within the USPS, the agency hoped to fulfill its public meeting requirements by presenting plans to sell Old Chelsea Station during an early-morning Manhattan Borough Board meeting on Thursday.

The Borough Board, hosted by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, takes place Downtown and typically involves district managers and chairs of local community boards, and has low attendance by the general public.

"While this meeting is technically open to the public, Borough President Stringer, my other colleagues and I have conveyed to USPS that this in no way meets the definition of a well-publicized public meeting and by itself is unacceptable," State Sen. Brad Hoylman wrote in a letter to concerned Chelsea residents.

Critics said the process of selling off the historic post office has been murky at best, slamming the Postal Service for a lack of transparency throughout the process.

The USPS originally revealed plans to sell Old Chelsea Station via a densely worded notice at the post office's entrance, without informing elected officials. Many locals, as well as politicians and community board members, also had no idea that the plan would be presented at the Borough Board meeting.

"If this is a public meeting, when are they going to let the public know about it?" asked Dianna Maeurer, who frequently uses the Old Chelsea Station.

The USPS opened a 60-day public comment period on Feb. 19, meaning the April meeting will come just as the period is ending. Officials and residents have called on the agency to restart the comment period, to no avail. 

Chuck Zlatkin, the legislative and political director of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, said it's likely that the April 11 meeting won't change minds at the Postal Service, and it's likely the sale will go through.

"I think what will happen is once they've got [the Borough Board meeting] in their back pocket, they won't care," he said.

"They'll have this meeting on the record, and the clock will stop ticking."

The USPS did not respond to requests for comment.

The public meeting on the Old Chelsea Station sale takes place on Thursday, April 11, at 6:30 p.m. at the Fulton Center Auditorium, 119 Ninth Ave.