DUMBO is rapidly becoming a real Brooklyn neighborhood: it has restaurants, convenience stores, new condos, street construction, and controversy over development projects. But DUMBO doesn’t have the one thing that would make it official: a post office.
That could change very soon. The USPS has been looking for space to set up shop, and soon, DUMBO-ites (DUMBOers? DUMBOnions? Or just plain DUMBOs?) will be able to buy stamps, weigh packages, and do all those other postal things that currently require schlepping up a big hill to the main post office on Cadman Plaza East.
The planned DUMBO mail center will be a “full-service Automated Postal Center,” according to the postal service. In layman’s terms, that means it’s basically a giant postal vending machine. The APC won’t be manned by any employees, but it can do everything a regular post office can — except dispense money orders — and it can be open 24 hours a day.
With no postal workers to get disgruntled!
The APC would replace the “mobile post office” that serves the neighborhood by parking on Front Street for two or three hours most mornings. There’s often a line outside the window — and if you want to buy stamps in the afternoon, you have to make the hike up the hill.
“It’s been a nightmare,” said Bill Vitello, who works in the area. “Even buying stamps, it’s a pain in the neck.”
The USPS has been planning to put a post office in DUMBO for a year, according to a spokesperson, but the company first publicized its intentions known a month ago, when it took out an ad in The Brooklyn Paper seeking a lease on a 1,000-square-foot space. It doesn’t seem like the postal service will have any difficulty finding room, since you can’t swing a stick in DUMBO without hitting a “commercial space for lease” sign.
The major players, though, aren’t all that interested. Shaya Boymelgren, who owns the just-starting-to-be-inhabited Beacon Tower, said through a spokesperson that he wasn’t going to respond to the postal service ad. The David Walentas-owned Two Trees suggested that would-be tenants should call to inquire about a lease, not the other way around. And Alex Hurwitz, who’s developing the J Condo building, said he wasn’t sure he had space.
The USPS would not reveal which exact locations it was considering, but a spokesperson said the agency had received bids and was still weighing options.
The automated center could open by next year.
A post office will validate DUMBO’s existence in a way that all the upscale coffee shops in the world cannot. In the old west, towns needed post offices to connect to the outside world, and a town without a post office was nothing, not even a spot on the map. No one can accuse DUMBO of not being connected to the outside world, but nothing says “real neighborhood” like standing in a long line to be berated across a bullet-proof shield by a counter clerk for filling out the wrong “registered mail” form. Just ask the folks in Kensington!
It’s not just a symbolic step for the brand-new neighborhood. Without a full-service post office, DUMBO can hardly claim to be self-sufficient. Imagine buying a condo in one of the new, ritzy buildings that have sprouted up all around the two bridges, and then finding out that if you want some stamps, you have to leave the ’hood. It’s only a minor inconvenience, but if enough people have the same minor inconvenience, it becomes a major hassle.
And you don’t buy a $2-million condo to deal with hassles.
Harry Cheadle, a student at the Pratt Institute, is an intern at The Brooklyn Paper
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