Today’s news:

Postal service looking to compact operations to save money

By the end of September, the United States Postal Service could begin making plans to close some of its offices in Brooklyn.

USPS is currently evaluating stations and substations in the borough (with the exception of the main post office at Cadman Plaza), with an eye to reducing costs, according to spokesperson Darleen Reid, who said that over 3,000 other branches and stations around the United States, mostly located in urban areas, are now under review.

Reid told this newspaper that the review was sparked by fiscal issues, with USPS trying to bridge a large budget deficit, “With mail volume dropping, the postal service is in trouble and the public needs to know that,” Reid emphasized.

“Everything’s on the table,” she stressed, adding, “It’s important to know that our reviews are not finalized. That’s going to take months. We don’t plan on making any changes till our fiscal year ends, which is September 30th.”

Specifically, said Reid, USPS is trying to develop a strategy to deal with decreasing quantities of mail at the same time as high-tech equipment has enabled it to process more and more mail, more and more quickly.

“What we are trying to do is look at the space we have in the stations and branches and then look at the utilization of that space,” Reid explained.

Among the factors that USPS is considering in making the decision to eliminate certain locations are the degree of utilization, the volume of mail and whether the space is leased or owned, Reid explained.

The decision to shut particular stations, she added, “Shouldn’t have any impact on customers. Our goal is to continue to provide service to the public with no disruptions.”

However, Reid said that no postal facility would shut without a public review process. “There will be public notification for any office selected for closure or consolidation,” Reid promised.

Local legislators are already gearing up for a fight to preserve facilities in their districts.

Representative Michael McMahon, whose 13th Congressional District includes a swath of Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Bensonhurst, as well as all of Staten Island, said he was “fighting this on both fronts in the district.” Specifically, in Brooklyn, there are concerns that the Ovington station, in Bay Ridge, may be slated for closure.

“We have to be ever vigilant,” he warned. “The next step might be to cut a day or two of service. That would be unacceptable.

“There’s going to be a serious and protracted struggle,” McMahon predicted.

In central Brooklyn, too, legislators are on high alert. “I have received a number of inquires to my congressional office regarding the potential closing of post offices in and around the 11th District,” noted Representative Yvette Clarke, whose district runs from Brownsville to Flatbush.“I have contacted the U.S. Postal Service and was informed that they are currently performing feasibility studies.To date, no determination has been made.I will continue to closely monitor the process and stay in communication with the USPS to ensure that Brooklyn residents are not adversely impacted.”

Overall, mail volume has declined since 2006, when 213 billion pieces of mail passed through USPS. Among the reasons for the decline in mail volume are the economy, rising costs and increasing utilization of the Internet. As McMahon noted, “Every time someone pays a bill on line, that’s one less stamp, one less letter.

“The Postal Service is going to have to redefine itself,” he added, “and we in government have to work with them to do that.”

A total of 203 billion pieces of mail were processed by USPS in 2008, 4.5 percent fewer than in the previous year, and USPS is projecting a further decline to between 170 and 180 billion for 2009. In Brooklyn alone, mail volume is down 17.2 percent, said Reid.

Window transactions at post offices are also on the decline, according to information provided by Reid. It is for this reason that USPS is evaluation the possibility of closure or consolidation, according to the fact sheet Reid provided.

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