Dozens of locals packed into the Willoughby Walk Community Center Tuesday evening to discuss plans for the Pratt Station Post Office at 524 Myrtle Avenue, which will soon close to make way for a new housing development.
Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Senator Velmanette Mongomery, the U.S. Postal Service’s Triboro District Manager, Frank Calabrese and Brooklyn Postmaster General Ed Roggenkamp were present to field questions from concerned meeting attendants – mostly elderly Willoughby Walk residents who said they would struggle the most when the station closes.
“It was not economical for the post office to shut down service in this area,” Jeffries said. “The challenge that we face, and part of what may have brought this situation out, is that in this area, we’re dealing with intense economic gentrification, and I’m confident that this landlord saw an opportunity to make more money. That’s a right in America, but a reality of the gentrification situation that we face [is] that even the post office is at risk of closing out.”
The developer Silverstone Property Group purchased all of the buildings on the block of the post office – from 504 to 524 Myrtle Avenue – last December, DNAinfo reported this spring. Representatives from Silverstone Property Group were not present at the meeting.
Both elected officials and post office representatives emphasized that they would do their best to find another suitable location for the post office – close enough for elderly locals to walk to – as the closest post office to Pratt Station is nearly a half-mile away, at 950 Fulton Street. “That’s something we’re all committed to doing,” Jeffries said.
“We need to negotiate much more with the owner and developer,” Montgomery added. “There is a space that Pratt University owns that we may be able to talk to them about. We don’t know at this point in time.”
But when Winifred Morris, a Willoughby Walk resident, asked Calabrese how much he has communicated with representatives from the Postal Service’s real estate branch – who were not present at the meeting – about finding a suitable location nearby.
“We’re not close with the real estate people at all,” Calabrese said. “They’re out there working with our facilities people who work in Connecticut.”
“The real estate people should have been here,” Morris told The Nabe after the meeting.
Some residents in attendance weren’t convinced that a suitable location would be found for a new local post office.
“It just might not be possible to find another space in the community,” said local resident Joe Gonzalez. “Everything is snatched up.”
Another resident asked whether anyone has negotiated with the developer, emphasizing that the post office and the Associated Supermarket, which was shuttered earlier this year, are necessities in the community that draw significant business from local residents and Pratt Institute students. “To me, it’s penny-wise and dollar-foolish, because I don’t see where it wouldn’t be an asset to him to have the post office here,” the resident said.
“It’s something I think Senator Velmanette Montgomery and I can attempt to communicate to the developer from the standpoint of persuasion, but of course, this is totally a private transaction as it relates to whatever the developer decides to do,” Jeffries replied.
Eleanor Cyrus, the chairperson of the Seniors and Retirees Committee at the Willoughby Walk apartments, told The Nabe she was pleased with the meeting, especially when she heard that the Postal Service and elected officials are working to find a new location for a local post office. “What’s important to us is somewhere nearby,” she said.
Other residents emphasized that the post office closure shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.
“President George Washington and the First Postmaster [General] of the U.S., Benjamin Franklin, said the most two important things in a country are the military and the post office,” Gonzalez said during the meeting. “And that is more important than some developer’s right.”