Postal Service ‘canceling’ Plaza office
“Return to sender, address unknown; no such number, no such zone” are lines from a 1962 Elvis Presley hit bemoaning the breakup of a relationship.
Fifty years later the lyrics could apply to the U.S. Postal Service, which is telling independent contractors throughout the country that they’re breaking off the relationship – and no matter how hard the contractors plead, it seems there’s little hope of reconciliation.
Bonnie Carpenter, who runs the small post office in the Algonquin Plaza at 290 South Plank Road in the Town of Newburgh, said that she and owner Robert Salese recently received an edict from Newburgh Postmaster Robert Dini: run the post office on a commission basis or else.
“Take that or you’re done,” she said she was told.
Carpenter said that the Algonquin post office could never survive going strictly on a commission basis. In addition, she said she was told they would have to buy all of the equipment used to run a post office, an expense she said could exceed $50,000. They also would have to agree to buy all the stamps and the stamp metering equipment without knowing what that cost would be.
When she complained to Dini, she said he told her that the matter was out of his hands. The edict had come from the top of the Postal Service organization and he didn’t have the authority to override the decision.
That decision supposedly includes all the contract post offices in the country, she said she was told.
Carpenter said that she has contacted Town Supervisor Wayne Booth, who, in turn, has contacted U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey. Others who have been contacted include U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth and State Sen. William Larkin.
Carpenter said, “I know he [Larkin] is state, but Larkin still has a lot of voice in this area.” She also said she believes U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer has been notified of the plight of the local post office.
Booth, during a Town Board meeting, said he plans to do everything he can to overturn the Postal Service’s decision. Town Clerk Andrew Zarutskie said closing of the post office will be especially painful to him since he played a big role in bringing the post office to the town in 1978 while a member of Congressman Benjamin Gilman’s staff.
“We wanted a full-fledged post office at the time and one of the councilmen said he couldn’t understand why they gave us a contract office instead,” Zarutskie said.
Sen. Schumer, Reps Hinchey and Hayworth and other officials have been fighting Postal Service plans to shut down the postal distribution center at Stewart International Airport, but their efforts appear to have been ignored to this point.
Jeff Lieberson, Rep. Hinchey’s chief of staff, said Monday that the congressman just learned of the Postal Service’s push on Friday.
“We’re reaching out to the Postal Service, hoping to get some kind of explanation” Lieberson said. “It seems like a cost savings move that is very questionable.”
Asked where renters of postal boxes at the Algonquin Plaza site might relocate, Carpenter said the possibilities are City of Newburgh Broadway and Liberty Street and Stewart. Regardless of where those customers go, they will have to change P.O. box numbers.
That doesn’t mean that Carpenter and the workers at the Algonquin Plaza site are going down without a fight. Petitions on a table in the middle of the room were collecting signatures in rapid order. During our short interview Monday morning, the petitions grew by 15 or 20 names.
“We have more than 500 so far,” she said, noting that several customers had volunteered to take petitions throughout the community to add to those urging a change of heart by the U.S. Postal Service.
The Algonquin post office staff is a four-person operation, said Carpenter, who is an 18-year veteran. She said she started working at the post office just one day a week and the job just grew. Others on the staff are Linda Kadian: 12 years; Tom Scully: eight years and Donna Presler, five years.
All of them will be out of work as of June 29.
To add insult to injury, Carpenter was told that the Postal Service will pull out all of the government-owned equipment June 22.
“Why can’t you wait one week?” she said she asked the postmaster, only to be told that it would be impossible to delay the action.
One of Carpenter’s customers asked her what kind of severance she will receive.
“No severance,” she replied. “I’ll have to go on unemployment.”
Dini was unavailable for comment on this story on Monday. He reportedly is recovering from surgery and will be away from work for several days.
Closing of the post office deals another blow to the Algonquin Plaza. On Jan. 6, a fire destroyed half of the stores in the mini-mall. Only a fire barrier on the post office’s side of the Plaza kept the fire from destroying the entire structure.
By ALLAN GAUL