WBEZ | post offices http://www.wbez.org/tags/post-offices Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Elderly expect brunt of postal closures http://www.wbez.org/story/elderly-expect-brunt-postal-closures-94620 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-05/photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The U.S. Postal Service announced that during the busy holidays it will take a break from a controversial plan to close post offices, but the issue is still stewing in some neighborhoods - especially among elderly residents.</p><p>Eleven post offices in Chicago are on the list of potential closures, nearly all on the city’s South and West Sides. Those are the communities where many say that older residents will bear the brunt of the hardship of having to travel farther to use a full-service postal facility.</p><p>Residents near those locations received letters over the summer notifying them of the proposal to close their local post office, and inviting comments. Dorothy Sumpter, a 73-year-old resident of the North Lawndale neighborhood, said as soon as she received the letter, she put the date of a public town hall meeting on the proposal on her calendar.</p><p>“People like me need the post office,” said Sumpter, “so that’s why I wanted to be in on it. I’m a citizen and I use every right that I possibly can.”</p><p>Sumpter uses the Otis Grant Collins Post Office, where revenue dropped $200,000 between fiscal years 2007 and 2010. Throughout the nation, post offices are seeing a decline in revenues and foot traffic, attributed to the shift to online bill-paying and correspondence. But Sumpter says she and many other elderly people like her aren’t part of the internet-using trend.</p><p>“I don’t feel comfortable using it,” she said. “I’m old-fashioned.”</p><p>Sumpter goes to the post office every week because she has a P.O. Box there, but also to buy stamps and mail her bills. She said she feels comfortable going there because it’s easy to access on foot and by bus, and she knows all the workers by name. If the Otis Grant Collins branch closes, the next closest post office would be in Cicero. “Which I don’t even know where the post office is in Cicero,” Sumpter laughed. “And I don’t really want to have to go over there just to go to a post office, because many times I can walk to the post office in less than 15 minutes.”</p><p>Sumpter said she fears that the elderly will become more isolated if they lose their neighborhood post offices, because many are less mobile to begin with, and sometimes walking to the post office is a crucial part of their social interaction and weekly exercise regime. Karen Schenck, Chicago District Manager/Postmaster, said many share Sumpter’s view.</p><p>“That was the largest concern. If you had to ask me what was the biggest concern of all the town hall meetings,” said Schenck, “was people were concerned about the elderly in their own community.”</p><p>The list of proposed closures came from USPS headquarters in Washington, D.C., said Schenck.</p><p>“Nobody took into consideration any other fact except for how much revenue,” she explained, “and if there was another post office within two miles close to it that could service the community.”</p><p>Schenck says the district office is now looking at population data to see how many elderly live near the post offices that may close. She says that’ll help them make a final decision. Schenck says of the 11 offices on the shortlist, some will be spared.</p><p>But concern for the elderly may be loudest in Chicago’s Chinatown. Of the zip codes where offices may close, Chinatown’s is the one with the greatest portion of residents over age 65, with several senior housing high rises in the immediate vicinity of the post office. Chinatown’s elderly also say they have an unique need - a place where people are bilingual.</p><p>“The employees, they don’t speak Chinese,” said 60-year old Harry Wong.</p><p>Wong is like many elderly Chinese immigrants in Chicago who speak limited English. He uses the Chinatown post office because if there’s a language barrier, he can turn to other customers in the store for help translating. That’s the reason that many elderly Chinese who live in other places will often bypass a closer post office to go to Chinatown’s.</p><p>Chinatown organizers have gathered hundreds of handwritten letters from residents to protest the potential closure of their post office. USPS is still accepting those comments, and says no post offices will close before March.</p></p> Tue, 06 Dec 2011 23:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/elderly-expect-brunt-postal-closures-94620 Could postal service woes threaten architecture delivered by FDR's New Deal? http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-09-12/could-postal-service-woes-threaten-architecture-delivered-fdrs-new-deal-9183 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-September/2011-09-12/usps.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-11/untitled shoot-037.jpg" style="margin-right: 15px; width: 300px; height: 400px; float: left;" title="">The U.S. Postal Service is in well-documented dire straits these days.</p><p>Postal officials are discussing closing locations and downsizing services across the country. In the Chicago area, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-07-27/news/ct-met-post-offices-close-20110727_1_closings-village-post-office-usps">14 sites</a> are being contemplated for closure. Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay the postman from his or her rounds, sure. But the writer of the motto had no way of seeing the other threats to the 236-year-old institution such as online bill paying, email and private package delivery services. The agency could <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/postal-service-warns-it-could-lose-10-billion-this-year/2011/09/05/gIQAQWEw4J_story.html">lose $10 billion</a> this year.</p><p>It wasn't always this way. The postal system was once as much of a sign of a modern America as were paved roads and electric power. And from 1933 to 1943, the old federal Public Works Administration, under FDR's "New Deal", built more than 400 new post offices across the country. The PWA post offices were real beauties, too: attractive, well-designed, modern. There were often beautiful murals and modern light fixtures on the inside. Stylistically, the buildings landed somewhere between Art Deco and Art Moderne--as streamlined and efficient as the service postal officials wanted customers to find inside.</p><p>Chicago landed a fair number of these new post office facilities. in 1934 alone, the PWA set aside enough cash to build 18 of them, including Stockyard Station at 41st and Halsted, seen in the photo here. And while the only potentially-endangered Chicago post office of this vintage is the Englewood Station at 63rd and Peoria (more on that later), one can't help but wonder what the future holds for some of these 70 to 80-year-old buildings here and across the country. How long can they survive with a landlord that loses $10 billion a year?</p><p>Let's take another look the Stockyards post office completed in 1936 and designed by Howard L. Cheney. It was built when the Union Stockyards stood across the street, and the entrance features well-done reliefs of an eagle on one side of the door and a steer's head on the other:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-12/untitled shoot-021.jpg" style="width: 219px; height: 326px; margin: 0px;" title=""><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-12/untitled shoot-031.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 326px; margin: 0px;" title=""></p><p>Here is the Englewood post office at 63rd and Wallace that postal officials are the thinking about closing. Serial killer H.H. Holmes' <em>Devil in the White City</em> house of horrors previously stood on the site:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-12/untitled shoot-019.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 312px; margin: 5px;" title=""></p><p>The Roseland post office at 110th and State is well-preserved, right down to its louvered window and that Buck Rogers-looking flagpole above the main entrance. It was built for $122,000:</p><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;<img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-12/untitled shoot-009.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 358px; margin: 5px;" title=""></p><p>The Roseland post office has a few fraternal twins around town, including this one at California and Medill in Logan Square. The entrance alone is worth the price of postage:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-12/untitled shoot-055.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 414px;" title=""></p></p> Mon, 12 Sep 2011 13:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-09-12/could-postal-service-woes-threaten-architecture-delivered-fdrs-new-deal-9183