Closing the old Setauket post office will overload the main East Setauket office and rob the community of one of its most charming institutions, according to the several dozen residents who attended a community meeting with local postal officials Thursday night.
The Setauket branch is the U.S. Postal Service will be reviewing for possible closure, one of only three on Long Island facing the same cuts. Officials cited increases in postal services achieved through third-party stores like UPS and FedEx stores, CVS, Waldbaums, and others that can provide similar services to that which the U.S. Postal Service currently provides.
"This post office is not merely an extension of a business," resident Tim Glynn said, "but it is the heart and soul of this community, a place where people come and meet one another and exchange simple greetings."
At the center of the debate is finances: postal officials said P.O. boxes at the Setauket branch were down to 40 percent occupancy, whereas other nearby post office hubs were faring better. In Port Jefferson, the occupancy rate for P.O. boxes is at 96 percent, while in the , the post office's occupancy rate is about 50 percent. The main East Setauket post office numbers were not immediately available.
"If everyone in the community rented a P.O. Box, that would be a different circumstance," said Jay Novellino, officer in charge at the Long Island district.
is in place until May as the postal service conducts surveys and research regarding each of those post offices; post office closures can't legally take place fewer than 60 days prior to the announcement of closure. In the meantime, the U.S. Postal Service initiated a study by to determine how the community uses the branch.
Frank LoCricchio, post office operations manager for the U.S. Postal Service's Long Island district, said revenue at the Setauket branch is down $20,000 over the past five years. However, he later responded to a resident's question by saying that the branch is still turning a profit.
Postal union officials, too, decried the that requires the postal service to pre-fund billions of dollars in future retiree benefits. They maintain that postal routes are already overloaded with the volume of mail to deliver.
After LoCricchio said the P.O. Boxes from the Setauket branch would be moved to the main East Setauket office without an interruption in service, community members immediately protested what they called inadequate parking at the main office on Route 25A.
"I would not use the East Setauket post office," said longtime resident Louise Koepchen. "It's too dangerous. There's probably more parking at the little post office. You built a bigger post office, but I think everybody's going to put up a mailbox."
Glynn, a member of the Frank Melville Memorial Park board of trustees, said the community had poured around $200,000 into renovating the decades-old post office to its current shape and its status on the National Register of Historic Places. He and his wife Kerri collected approximately 1,000 signatures on a petition sent to U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, D-Southampton, who wrote to the U.S. Postal Service in support of keeping the Setauket branch open.
The Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, which owns the building, charges the U.S. Postal Service $33,000 in rent per year for the building. That money, Glynn said, goes back into the community by way of the taxes paid on the property as well as through the park and programs themselves. However, he said, the park is in the process of grieving its tax assessment, and Glynn pledged to pass on any tax relief to the U.S. Postal Service should the grievance be successful.
LoCricchio said the U.S. Postal Service delivers up to 150 million pieces of mail each day, and that postal operations are not supported by federal funding – they are underwritten only by stamps.
"It is no secret that digital means of communication are already replacing first class mail," LoCricchio said. "Over the last few years, our customers' needs have changed dramatically."