Pols vow to fight Ovington Post Office closure

Pols vow to fight Ovington Post Office closure
Photo by Tom Callan

Bay Ridge’s elected officials have a few words for the United States Postal Service: we’re not licked yet!

The Ovington Post Office on Fourth Avenue is one of the 3,700 facing closure this year after the United States Postal Service announced severe budget cuts on July 26. But local lawmakers are fighting back, saying that plenty of residents still rely on good old-fashioned snail mail — especially Bay Ridge’s seniors, who make up approximately 20 percent of the neighborhood.

“Closing the Ovington Post Office would hit our senior citizens the hardest,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile. “For them, traveling two miles to the next nearest post office is simply not an option.”

Gentile called the Postal Service’s plan to close Ovington “counter-intuitive,” as the location makes almost $1 million per year and serves more than 500 customers a day. He and Congressman Jerry Nadler, whose district includes a large part of Bay Ridge, have both written to the Brooklyn Postmaster demanding that the Ovington office remain open.

Nadler is also concerned for the Brighton Finance Post Office in Brighton Beach, which, like Ovington, is far away from other post offices and is in danger of being shut down. Post offices in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Heights and Sunset Park are also on the chopping block.

But as the Postal Service adapts to the digital age and faces competition from email and lick and stick services like FedEx and United Parcel Service, it doesn’t see the need for so many local retail stores.

“Any mom and pop store could sell stamps for us,” said Darleen Reid, a spokesperson for the Postal Service. “Currently, 45 percent of transactions are done outside the post office.”

Indeed, Sakman Candy & Deli, located just a few stores down from the Ovington office, sells its own stamps.

“I’ve lived here for 20 years and people buy stamps here a lot,” said Shaleh Ali, who owns the deli. “There are big lines at the [Ovington office] and they have a nasty attitude. Why would you want to wait in a long line?”

But senior citizen Joyce Allison of Bay Ridge didn’t agree, saying that she and many others use the Ovington Post Office frequently. And if Ovington was to close, the nearest post office to Ovington, Sunset, is not only far away, but is also on the Postal Service’s hit list.

“It would be very, very inconvenient,” she said.

The manager of the Ovington office declined to comment, but Reid said that all of the 3,700 post offices on notice will be reviewed over a 138-day period, after which they will be told their fate. Factors like foot traffic, total revenue, and proximity to nearby post offices and other places that sell stamps will be considered. But such factors seem to discriminate against urban areas, where the problem isn’t proximity but population and lack of transportation.

The situation is similar to what happened two summers ago, when the Postal Service reviewed more than 3,000 post offices nationwide for the same purpose. Ovington was in danger then, but remained open.

“The Postal Service is trying to get out of the retail business altogether,” said Jim Musumeci, president of the American Postal Workers Union’s Brooklyn local, in 2009.

Bay Ridge is also home to a second Post Office, at 8801 Fifth Ave.