By Ron Leir
The post office on Kearny Ave., known as the West Hudson Station, has been closed since Aug. 1 as the result of a plumbing mishap from the apartment above and now the U.S. Postal Service is considering shutting it down permanently.
Ironically, the action comes on the heels of the USPS’s Northern N.J. District Office renewing a five-year lease for the storefront postal station at 255 Kearny Ave.
On Aug. 20, Kearny’s main Post Office on Midland Ave. distributed a letter, from Maryanne Batten, manager of Post Office operations, to its customers saying that, services at the West Hudson Station were “emergency suspended” on Aug. 1 “due to the building being declared unsafe for human occupancy by the town of Kearny.”
That assertion, however, seems to contradict the notice posted by the town Construction Code Office which says that the first floor apartment is deemed unsafe to occupy. A separate hand-printed sign placed in the postal station window says the office is closed until further notice.
Jeff Murphy, a 26-year postal employee and shop steward for the N.J. American Postal Workers Union Mid-State Local, said the odor from the place reminded him of “the old Port Authority Bus Terminal [in New York] – it was like a punch in the nose. You could smell urine, feces.”
In the rear of the office, Murphy said, “water was running through the electrical outlets.”
As of last week, neither the town Construction Code office nor USPS spokesman George Flood could predict when – or if at all – repairs would be made that would permit the station to reopen – assuming the USPS desires to do that – although Flood said that the Post Office “has reached out to various companies” for repairs. The landlord didn’t return a phone message.
In the meantime, postal customers have been advised, in the letter from Batten, that they can now pick up their mail at the Midland Ave. facility, “located 1.3 miles away,” between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“No final decision to permanently discontinue the [Kearny Ave.] Post Office has been made; however, the West Hudson Station is being studied for permanent closure,” the Batten letter advised customers.
Elaborating, Flood said that Northern N.J. District postal officials initiated its discontinuance study Aug. 16 and they are expected to take 70 days to complete it. They’ll consider such factors as whether alternate services “are available at a convenient location,” and the volume of “foot traffic” handled by the West Hudson Station, Flood said. Stamps are sold at some local retail outlets, such as CVS, Shop-Rite and Wells Fargo Bank, he said.
At some point, the Batten letter says, the Post Office will invite the public to a “community meeting” – no date has been announced – at the Midland Ave. facility “to explain our plans and solicit your comments concerning possible alternate means of providing postal and other services.”
Under terms of the old lease, the Post Office was paying $23 per square foot for the approximately 1,100 square feet of space occupied by the West Hudson Station, which comes out to about $26,000 a year, according to Flood.
Should district officials decide to close the branch office, Flood said that the public can file appeals with the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission for its review. He said there’s no way to forecast how long those deliberations could take.