Sunday, May 29, 2011

East Haven, CT: A Tale of Two USPS Facilities

In the town of East Haven, CT (a suburb that is, remarkably enough, just east of New Haven), USPS had the incredibly stupid idea of attempting to close the Trolley Square post office, which is located in a strip mall in the center of town. This will have been one of only a few Consolidation 'Hit List' finalists that have been saved. Here's the scoop:

There were two post offices in East Haven. Well, two facilities: the Trolley Square retail branch at the center of town, and the East Haven Branch carrier facility, which is north of the Interstate. (They are both considered branches of the controlling New Haven post office.) A shows Trolley Square, and B shows the East Haven facility. [Update, 2017: The Google Maps code is no longer valid, and I have removed the map.)

Located at 151 Frontage Road, an address whose position is agreed upon by no two internet major mapping services, the East Haven facility was a remarkably difficult find for this seasoned post office hunter. Its exact position is, alas, within that little 'hook' that leads you to position B at the map above.

So, USPS planned to go all 'Wild West' on the town of East Haven and tell its residents that the town wasn't big enough for the two offices. Okay, it's most probably true. Thus they decided to keep the huge carrier facility and shove the retail operations inside, allowing them to ditch the small finance (retail) office. That's a common move around the country. Okay, but it's just a terrible idea. Let's see why.

In addition to making access to basic postal functions inconvenient for everyone, senior citizens would have been especially impacted by the move, which would have taken operations from a central point in East Haven across Interstate 95 and its service roads, to a remarkably inaccessible location with no sidewalks or direct public transportation access. In fact, the seniors protested, demonstrating how difficult it would be for them to access the facility. This story features a video. This letter by a Connecticut State Senator demonstrated continued support for the Trolley Square post office.

In the end, USPS decided to keep retail in East Haven and instead close its carrier facility. Essentially, everything stays the same for the customer but the carriers move elsewhere. Good, because it was always the logical thing to do! I wasn't able to find any sources, but it's my suspicion that carriers were moved to the New Haven Main Post Office, where I suspect a decline in workload made space available for the East Haven folks to move in. This September 2010 real estate listing shows the discontinued USPS facility. Visiting the location last weekend, I looked through the front door to see that the building was dedicated in 1991. A shame, I suppose.

Here is the Trolley Square post office:

Here is the East Haven post office / carrier annex, now abandoned. Unfortunately I couldn't discover the official closing date.

P.S. For more than two years, the Trolley Square post office has been inaccurately located on the USPS Locator tool: it is the 12th closest office listed to East Haven, CT, listed as being in New Haven, about 4 miles from East Haven. That's three pages of sifting for the proper location. Tsk.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Youngstown, OH: DPO'd & Tour

Youngstown, population 67,000, is the ninth-largest city in Ohio. A 'Rust Belt' steel town, its population peaked at 168,000 in 1950. A visit to the city in October 2009 showed many poor and declining neighborhoods, though some parts are photogenic as such.

Postally, Youngstown has a central Main Post Office and one satellite station in each direction therefrom: there's a North Side, South Side, East Side, and West Side Station. (Or, as you'll soon see, at least there was.) Youngstown also controls a couple of branch offices in nearby towns.

USPS discontinued Youngstown, Ohio's South Side Station on 3/12/11. It had a nice four-bar postmark and the clerk was philatelically aware. The MPO is nearly two miles away; the next-nearest office? Three miles.

The East Side Station was also recently discontinued, and by calling the Postmaster I just found out that its date of closure was May 20. The office was open only four hours a day and was especially photogenic. The clerk was witty, knowledgeable, and a pleasure to talk with. The post office was very well used when I got there, though most customers only bought one stamp at a time. The neighborhood was VERY poor and worn-down, and the mall this post office was in was otherwise abandoned, though there was a small grocery store next door.

There's no way the East Side post office made money, but I feel as though the community was unfairly picked on with this closure. I can't imagine how many of the neighborhood's residents will get to another post office. (The MPO is an as-the-crow-flies mile-and-some away, but much more in terms of driving or walking. Plus there's hilly terrain to navigate.) This was a shameful showing by USPS, in the author's opinion.

The North Side Station had a nice, unique metallic blue fa├žade. The West Side Station was unidentified in its signage, and had an antique feel inside. Overall, all Youngstown employees were knowledgeable and friendly.

That all said, here are photos! They were in my photographic early stages, so I tended to focus on the signage and place names more than the buildings themselves.

Youngstown, Ohio: South Side Station [discontinued March 12, 2011]

East Side Station [discontinued May 20, 2011]: Surrounding strip mall area

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

DPO'd: The Bronx, Part 2

In this post I showed two finance stations in the Bronx that got discontinued April 22: Oak Point and Crotona Park. Last week USPS announced the closing of another Bronx station, Van Nest. The small (and when I visited it, friendly!) office's last day will be July 1.

The Bronx, NY: Van Nest Station:
Photographed December 2009. This was another post office I made a special effort to visit since it was on the Consolidation 'Hit List'.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Philatelic News: Pictorials in the Berkshires

Announced in the Philately section of the most recent Postal Bulletin: Two post offices in western Massachusetts are hosting pictorial cancellations for 30 days. I visited both post offices the first week of this year.

Chester, MA

The quaint and photogenic town of Chester, along the banks of a small river that flows through a valley in the Berkshires, is hosting a postmark commemorating 170 years of railroading in Chester:

To mail for this postmark, send philatelic material along with SASE to the address above.

North Adams, MA
A great vacation spot in the Berkshires, North Adams was revitalized a decade ago when a consortium of curators decided to occupy the abandoned Sprague Electric factory and found the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). It's a wonderful museum with changing exhibits every year. A featured exhibit occupies a football field-sized factory floor room. I'm not a fan of all contemporary art, but this place is always worth it.

The North Adams post office is featuring a pictorial commemorating its 100th anniversary. Below, the office and the cancel, which can be mailed for by sending philatelic material and an SASE to the address listed.

See the resemblance? (Despite the fact that the postmark was drawn from a different corner of the building.) I particularly enjoy the old truck to the left and the new truck to the right of the building.

Fairfield, Ohio, the fantastic post office covered in this GP blog entry from November, is has its own pictorial beginning May 31.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Taste of Palm Coast, FL

Palm Coast, Florida lies about 20 miles south of St. Augustine on the state's northeast coast. There are three post offices (one classified, two contract) within its limits, though they are all branches of Flagler Beach. (Thanks, Kelvin.) Its 'main' [branch] post office is large with common modern postal signage, and a warehouse of carriers in the back.

The town maintains two CPUs. The Shell Contract Station lies in a gas station two miles from the Main Post Office.

The Hammock CPU at the Adult Education Center lies on a barrier island, and represents the island's only postal services for many miles. There was a $2 one-way toll to reach the CPU when I visited the office back in 2009.

Here's a map: A represents the Palm Coast Main Post Office and B is the Hammock CPU.

View Larger Map

Here are some photos:

Palm Coast, FL: Hammock CPU

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Grab Bag: Northeast New Jersey

I've been spending a lot of time in New Jersey lately; as such that's the subject matter of the bulk of my recent entries.

These photos were all taken one morning last month when I drove down to Philadelphia. They lie in the corner of New Jersey just off the southwest tip of Staten Island, New York. In fact, all four offices lie within this map:

Perth Amboy, NJ
The Perth Amboy post office dates from the early 20th century, and bears many artistic flourishes. Note the brickwork by the base of the flagpole, and the metal eagle (around which are the words United States Post Office). Inside are Art Deco light fixtures and wonderfully unique golden wall tiles. There are also nuanced little tile sculptures featuring airplanes and other modes of mail transportation.

Keasbey's post office was relocated in the mid-2000s, and a fire burned through the site of the former building a year after it moved. It only occupies the ground floor, but as new offices go, this one's fun to look at.

In the back of an industrial office park, Edison's Raritan Center post office can be difficult to find and is little known by the general populace, but very well used by workers nearby.

Fords: Common design for a mid-century office, but a nice one nonetheless. The signage font is a little more bold than most post offices of this character. That might be because the letters are plastic. If that is the case it might explain why the "0" fell off the ZIP code.

Monday, May 16, 2011

DPO'd: West Jersey P&DC

In the past I've mentioned in passing a couple of non-retail carrier-only facilities (annexes). However, this is the first time I've ever covered a non-retail processing facility on this blog. Last September 27, on my way to Cincinnati, I was told by a couple of post offices that it was the last day of mail handling operations the West Jersey P&DC [Processing and Distribution Center]. Unfortunately I couldn't visit it that day, but I was able to find its former site and take a photograph on Saturday.

Before its closing, 309 employees worked at the mail sorting and distribution plant in Whippany, NJ. It was not involved in the canceling of incoming mail, though it did process the mail for delivery in northwest New Jersey.

From this full article at Operations were to be consolidated: "While the Post Office has announced that 144 employees would be given positions at mail distribution centers in Edison and Teterboro, nearly 165 clerks and maintenance staff are unsure of their future, Dougherty said." Many employees would be reassigned, but others would likely leave the postal service for good.

This weekend, I found the sprawling complex deserted, with two postal (police?) cars occupying the parking lot, which otherwise had capacity for hundreds of vehicles.

West Jersey Processing and Distribution Center:

The sign reads:
United States Postal Service
West Jersey P&D Center
Whippany, N.J. 07999-9998

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What's in a name: Mount Tabor

Yesterday was a busy day: photographed 21 post offices and obtained the postmarks at 15. (To be fair, the rest were already closed and one was a carrier annex... and the other was a processing plant.) The highlight of my day in north Jersey was the Mount Tabor post office, which I arrived at at opening, 10 A.M. Saturdays.

There I found a lovely photogenic office, which shares a building with the local volunteer fire company. Inside are classic PO boxes and dark wood paneling. The office has obviously been around a long time. Waiting in line I came across a 21-year-old stamp collector / seller, who gave me a Mount Tabor postcard that I had stamped and postmarked. I ended up buying a few early 1900s philatelic covers from him outside.

Mount Tabor, NJ:

The coolest part of the Mount Tabor office was its sign. Look at it -- it's in the form of a stamp coil! A wonderful touch, and the type of local flavor I haven't been seeing enough of these days.

I've had an experience at (a) Mount Tabor before: Mount Tabor is a hill and park in Portland, OR. I visited it on a cloudy Saturday in March 2010, when I spent a few days in Oregon on the way to Hawaii. Here's a view from the top of the peak:

And a map!

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Nice Touch: Newark, NJ

I've posted two entries to the Nice Touch series previously. In those instances, I focused on exterior artwork on two post offices. A couple of weeks ago I noticed some artwork adjacent to the Washington Park Station in Newark.

(The Washington Park Station is open from 11-3 weekdays, and is on the Consolidation "Hit List". Unlike every other similar office in New Jersey, however, Washington Park and its other Newark Hit List cousin, Riverside Plaza, have not been officially slated for closure.)

Newark, NJ: Washington Park Station

New Jersey Transit maintains a light rail system in Newark [.pdf map here], and one branch passes right by the Washington Park post office. (You can see the tracks at the bottom of the photo above.) Adjacent to the post office is the Atlantic Street Light Rail Stop.

Here is a photo of what is effectively a giant postmark (complete with correct ZIP code) at the Atlantic Street station.

Looks like some old Parcel Post roller if you ask me!

One block away is Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, home of the Newark Bears and other local baseball teams. Also nearby are the Newark Public Library and the Newark Museum.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What's in a Name: Brooklyn

The author of the blog has been busy working full-time, working more hours, rectifying incorrect policies at some unnamed regional post offices, and preparing to move to Pennsylvania for graduate school later this summer. Hence why I haven't been posting much.

For this post, several post offices I've visited around the country, named Brooklyn.
Portland, OR: Brooklyn Station

Visited March 2010. One of 40 post offices I visited in five days in Oregon before flying to Hawaii. When I was there a lawyer was buying 40 panes of the Supreme Court Justices stamps.

Brooklyn, Wisconsin

The first post office photographed on my 2008 cross-country road trip! Most likely the first post office I have ever photographed, in fact. This office was closed by the time I visited it on a Saturday.

Brooklyn, Iowa

Visited, and photographed (rather poorly, I know), October 2008.

My family has long visited the Brooklyn Museum [of Art] in New York. Brooklyn, Iowa had the Brooklyn [Historical] Museum, and featured a venerable globe's worth of flags outside. Indeed, the town bills itself as a "Community of Flags."

Brooklyn, New York: General Post Office
February 2011. It's big. 'Nuff said. Capisce?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Found: A Postal Drive-Through

I finally found something for which I had been looking for a long time: an active drive-through stamp window at a post office. I had seen several instances before in which the window was no longer in use (notably in Fairfield, OH and a couple of sites in New Hampshire); but this is the first time I've documented such a site in action.

(Actually, that's not entirely true: I believe Laconia, NH's Lakeport Station does possess an active window; but I wasn't in the habit of documenting all the offices I visited at the time.)

I visited this, the Ridge, NY post office during a recent postal run in which I postally covered a large part of northern and central Long Island. In this photo, the pickup at the left side of the building is at the window, and the driver is purchasing stamps.