Yesterday two of the country’s most significant historic post offices — the 1916 Berkeley post office and the 1935 Bronx GPO — came a step closer to being sold.
Mr. Tom Samra, USPS Vice President, Facilities, rendered his final decision on the Berkeley post office. The Postal Service will relocate retail services to a yet-to-be-determined location, and the historic building will soon be put up for sale. You can read his decision here.
At almost the same moment, the Postal Service filed a motion with the Postal Regulatory Commission to dismiss the appeal on stopping the relocation of the historic Bronx General Post Office, so it too will soon be on the market. .
Neither the decision on Berkeley nor the motion on the Bronx came as a surprise. The Postal Service will not be swayed from its plans to sell historic post offices. Postal officials have denied appeals on Venice, the Bronx, La Jolla, and other relocations, and postal lawyers have consistently argued that relocation decisions can be appealed only to the USPS VP of Facilities, not to the PRC. Community opposition doesn’t matter, the pleas of elected officials don’t matter, and legal arguments by attorneys and historic preservations don’t matter.
Appeals concerning the Berkeley relocation were filed by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, State Senator Loni Hancock, State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Post Office Collaborate, Ford & Huff Attorneys at Law, Save the Berkeley Post Office, the Gray Panthers of the East Bay, and approximately fifty postal customers. The appeals just didn’t matter.
At this point, Mr. Samra’s final decision statements are pretty much boilerplate. He reviews the concerns raised by the appeals, and dismisses each in turn. The impact on the community, he says, will be mitigated by locating a new retail office in a convenient location. Besides, as Mr. Samra reminds us, 40 percent of retail revenue comes from sources other than a post office, which presumably means that many people don’t need a post office to begin with.
Mr. Samra says that allegations that the Postal Service has failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and so on, are not relevant because it is premature to consider the requirements spelled out in these laws. The Postal Service has only decided to relocate the post office; it will deal with these other matters when the time comes to sell the building.
The bottom line, says Mr. Samra, is that the Postal Service’s financial condition requires it to take steps like selling the Berkeley post office, and that’s about all there is to it.