More than 100 residents of a Northeast Washington neighborhood yesterday protested the impending closing of the community's only post office, saying the move was a threat to the area's future.
The U.S. Postal Service announced plans last week to close the small branch post office at 1016 H St. NE and open a larger facility seven blocks east in the new Hechinger Mall at 17th Street and Benning Road NE.
Angry residents stormed the one-room post office, many carrying canes in one hand and signs in the other with slogans such as "Keep H Street from Dying."
"Taking away the H Street Post Office is like taking away the anchor of the community. If people stop in the post office, more than likely they will be encouraged to patronize other businesses here," said Sandra Walker, cochairman of the Washington chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The newly organized Washington chapter has spearheaded opposition to moving the post office.
But according to Francis Briscoe, acting director of Customer Services for the District Post Office, postal officials have signed a leasing agreement for space at the mall. The move will take place sometime before the end of the summer, Briscoe said.
"At this point we are committed to relocating. It is in the best interest of our customers," Briscoe said. He said the move would provide post office customers with more space and convenient.
The move, some residents say, would inconvenience many of the community's elderly citizens. Nora Berry, president of the senior citizens council on Capitol Hill, said the move is a "slap in the face."
"It doesn't matter if we are taxpayers. The post office does not feel a need to provide us with services. It is not fair. There are so many senior citizens in this community. A lot of us can not walk that far to the mall or get a bus or drive. What are we supposed to do?" Berry said.
"It is a bad crossing to Hechinger's mall for senior citizens," said Barbara Jones, chairman of Washington ACORN. Many elderly persons would have to walk up a hill to get to the mall, or many senior citizens would have to walk over the steep H Street Bridge to use the main post office on Massachusetts Avenue NE, or they would have to walk at least five blocks to the Fifth Street and Florida Avenue post office, which is housed in a liquor store.
Jones said about 460 people do business at the post office between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., from purchasing stamps to picking up their Social Security checks.
So far, ACORN has received little if any support from Mayor Marion Barry in their fight to keep the post office open, Jones said. "We can't get the mayor to listen. He told us today that he was unavailable to come out here," said Sandra Walker, cochairman of ACORN.
Annette Samuels, the mayor's press secretary, said yesterday that she was unaware of the impending closing of the H Street post office, but that she would look into the matter today.
D.C. City Council members John Wilson (D-Ward 2) and Nadine Winter (D-Ward 6), both of whom represent the H Street area, have criticized the relocation of the facility.
Joseph Isom, chairman of the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said the group also opposes the move. "We will not give up," Jones said. "There will be a post office on H Street. These are the people who have made the city. Why put them to such an inconvenience?"