We have no choice in the sale of buildings

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As this paper and most other news organizations have reported, the U.S. Postal Service is in a financial crisis that necessitates the passage of comprehensive postal reform legislation to return the organization to sound financial footing now and for the future.

In the meantime, the vast majority of the steps the Postal Service has taken to reduce operating costs over the past several years have been transparent to our customers. Mail delivery performance remains strong, and we’ve enhanced our products and services, including package-tracking capabilities.

One initiative that has gained some attention is our efforts to sell some Post Office buildings with historical significance. Why would we do this?

Property disposals are one of the tools the Postal Service has traditionally used to increase revenue and decrease costs. Each facility’s size, location, costs and revenue, as well as the operations housed there, are taken into account. If the facility is too large for our needs and too costly to maintain, we need to sell it, even if it is an historic property.

When it comes to these actions, it is important to know that the Postal Service strictly adheres to all federal laws, rules and regulations pertaining to the sale of historic properties.

What’s more, the federally appointed Advisory Council on Historic Preservation was recently asked to submit a report to Congress on how the council can ensure that the Postal Service complies with the National Historic Preservation Act. The Postal Service has met with the council and provided documents to assist them. We appreciate their efforts to ensure the process remains strong, and we invite them to discuss any issues raised during the development of their report with Postal Service leadership in Washington, D.C.

All our stakeholders can be assured that the Postal Service, the roots of which date back to 1775, respects and values the rich history of this nation, which is why we carry out effective preservation efforts in buildings we continue to own.

We also ensure that these historic buildings are in better condition because of the covenants and easements in place for the future when we decide to relinquish ownership. In some instances, purchasers of historic postal facilities engage in preservation efforts that exceed those previously undertaken by the Postal Service.

Tom Samra is the facilities vice president of the U.S. Postal Service.

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  • James Massar

    Mr. Samra is lying because if “the Postal Service strictly adheres to all federal laws, rules and regulations pertaining to the sale of historic properties.” then a judge would not have halted the sale of the Stamford, CT Post Office by the Postal Service because the Postal Service had violated the laws regarding how they conduct sales. This occurred back in the Fall of 2013 and the sale is still halted.

  • Harvey Smith

    How does a public official like Mr. Samra sleep at night after telling these lies? Communities and their elected officials across the country, including Berkeley, have been snubbed by the USPS. The USPS is not carrying out its public trust for maintaining stewardship of the buildings and art work that have been paid for by the American people. The financial “crisis” of the USPS was manufactured by the G.W. Bush-era Congress and could easily be corrected. However, those who wish to privatize the USPS operations, both in Congress and within the organization itself, keep spreading these and other fictions rather than develop solutions which benefit the public and preserve our historic legacy.

    • Mel Content

      The financial “crisis” of the USPS was manufactured by the G.W. Bush-era Congress and could easily be corrected.

      The Postal Service has been losing money for decades offering a service that is becoming increasingly obsolete in an age of cheap and instantaneous electronic communication. To blame the finiancial problems of the USPS all on George Bush is simply childish and idiotic.

      • Harvey Smith

        What is “childish and idiotic” is making statements without the facts. Yes, there is a decrease in first=class mail due to electronic communication, but also due to the internet is an increase in package mail.

  • Mr Samra is completely misleading in his statements. The meetings held this week by the American Council of Historic Preservation (ACHP) provided clear evidence that the USPS is NOT following appropriate regulatory processes when conducting the sale of historic post offices. To date, the USPS has not been a good steward of historic properties (just look at the condition of these facilities) and they have entered into covenant agreements that are sorely lacking to ensure preservation of these assets into perpetuity. There is evidence from prior and current transactions occurring here in Berkeley, the Bronx, Stamford CT, La Jolla CA, Sommerville MA, to name just a few. Hundreds of these historic public assets are threatened and, in many cases, so is the “New Deal Era” artwork that embellishes their walls. Furthermore, the USPS is disregarding a Congressional recommendation to postpone these transactions until the work of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the ACHP is concluded. Just this week they have announced that offers for the sale of The Bronx were due and sale of the Sommerville MA post office is moving forward. A week ago the USPS snubbed the recommendations of the OIG regarding issues of reporting, transparency and dual agency conflicts with their brokerage agreement. Instead of looking at alternative to keep an operating post office in these buildings and outleasing or entering into public/private partnerships for use of the excess space, the USPS is discarding these historic American assets and giving them to the private sector. These buildings and the art therein were paid for and are owned by the American people. They should stay in the public domain.