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Washington Heights Pols Left in Dark About Local Post Office Relocation

By Nigel Chiwaya | May 2, 2013 9:11am | Updated on May 3, 2013 10:14am

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The United States Postal Service is less than two months away from relocating an aging Washington Heights branch — but local politicians say notification to the community must have gotten lost in the mail.

The Postal Service plans to move the Riayan Tejeda/Washington Bridge Branch from its current location at 555 West 180th St. up the block to a new space at 516 West 181st St.

The relocation, first reported Saturday by watchdog blog Save the Post Office, has been in the works for more than a year. The USPS's leased facilities report shows the Postal Service entered into a 10-year lease for the new space in April 2012. 

The Washington Bridge branch has long been a sticking point for the community and agency. The feds threatened to close the Washington Bridge branch altogether in 2009, prompting protests from community members.

The new location is nearly finished. But despite the imminent move, notices have not been posted at the current location and several uptown politicians said they've been kept in the dark.

"USPS’ failure to inform our community about this relocation is a missed opportunity to turn the page, and I’m disappointed our neighborhood was engaged so late in the process," state Sen. Adriano Espaillat said in a statement.

In 2010, then-Postmaster General John Potter told Rep. Charles Rangel that the Post Office was looking at two new nearby spaces.

USPS spokeswoman Connie Chirichello said notifications about the move were made, but she did not provide details.

She said the new branch would not lead to a reduction of services.

"The new state of the art retail station will offer customers the services they now receive at the present location from the same friendly staff many customers have come to know by first name," Chirichello said.

Still, Espaillat, along with City Councilmen Ydanis Rodriguez and Robert Jackson, said they were blindsided by the move.

Espaillat's involvement with the Washington Bridge branch dates back to 2009, when he called for the Postal Service to keep the current branch open until a new location was built.

"I've asked the Postal Service to step up outreach before the new facility opens next month, and I'll continue to push for additional bilingual customer-service representatives, better maintenance for the Automated Postal Center, and the installation of a coin-operated vending machine for stamps," Espaillat added.

The new location will continue to be named after Riayan Tejeda, a Marine killed in Baghdad in 2003.