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USPS Unveils Plan for Condos Atop Historic Chelsea Post Office

By Rosa Goldensohn | January 9, 2015 8:15am | Updated on January 9, 2015 4:58pm
 The station was built in 1937.
Old Chelsea Station
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CHELSEA — Chelsea’s about to get a special delivery: more condos.

The cash-strapped United States Postal Service plans to sell the right to develop an eight-story condo on top of its current West 18th Street post office, Old Chelsea Station, a representative announced at a Community Board 4 meeting on Wednesday.

Gregory Lackey, a realty asset manager for the USPS, outlined plans for a doorman building with an elevator and gym above the post office, which was built in 1937 and landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

The USPS will issue a request for proposals for the project later in January, Lackey said.

The USPS owns not only the old building but the right to build up to 83 feet above it, and can sell those rights to someone to build there or, potentially, to increase the height restrictions on a building elsewhere in the neighborhood, according to Lackey.

Under local zoning rules, the addition would be restricted to eight stories, Lackey said. The condo tower would be set back from the street, he said, to preserve the block’s character.

The post office would remain operational and all current services would be maintained, he said, though the plans do involve cutting into the current 41,600-square-foot space by “maybe 5 or 6,000 feet” to make room for the new condo lobby and potentially a gym.

The USPS unsuccessfully tried to sell Old Chelsea Station in 2013, but faced public outcry at the prospect of the closure. In the new plan, the USPS would hold on to the post office but a developer would own the new building on top.

“They’re the ones that are going to decide, ultimately, what is going to be built there,” Lackey said of the future developer.

Betty Mackintosh, co-chairwoman of the board’s Land Use Committee, detailed a list of eight demands from the community board for the new homes, including requiring 30 percent of the units be affordable housing and meetings with the community board for public input. 

Community members and politicians had decried the fact that news of the RFP was announced without prior consultation with the community. Lackey promised the board members that their input would be considered as the USPS drew up the RFP and said he would extend the time period for public comment.

“We will evaluate your comments,” Lackey said. “They will not be ignored.”

But Lackey said the USPS would definitely issue the RFP because they need the money.

“First-class mail is declining as people use the Internet and net-based operations,” Lackey told the meeting.

“The post office is looking for alternate sources of revenue.”

Lesley Doyel, co-president of Save Chelsea, told DNAinfo New York she was pleased that the USPS sent a representative and that he agreed to extend the period for public comment.

“We are hoping that it is a positive step in transforming what has been a confusing and murky situation into one of transparency,” Doyel said.