Retail services will remain on Main Street

The U.S. Postal Service plans to move mail sorting out of the Beacon post office, although retail operations will remain.

Speculation on social media mushroomed this week after reports circulated that the Main Street facility was on a list to be shuttered. That’s not the case, said Mark Lawrence, a Postal Service representative; instead, the agency is implementing a cost-saving plan to move and consolidate sorting at regional centers.

A similar change occurred in Cold Spring; carriers drive to Mohegan Lake to sort and pick up mail, although retail operations continue in the village.

On Wednesday (April 5), Diana Cline, the president of the Mid-Hudson chapter of the American Postal Workers Union, said the USPS told her last week that Beacon is among nine locations to be consolidated in September within a regional sorting center in Newburgh, near New York Stewart International Airport. The other post offices that will be affected are in Orange and Ulster counties, she said. No Putnam County facilities are on the list.

Cline said the USPS has told the union it may downsize the Beacon post office from five retail clerks, including part-time employees, to one full-time and one part-time clerk. She did not know if the other staff would be reassigned; Lawrence, the Postal Service representative, did not respond to follow-up questions from The Current.

As part of a 10-year plan that it says will allow the indebted agency to reach financial sustainability, the USPS last fall opened its first regional sorting center in Athens, Georgia. Five more will open this spring, including one in Utica, Lawrence said. The centers will consolidate sorting of letters and packages from surrounding post offices to a central location, and will be located in buildings already owned by USPS that will be renovated into “modern and inviting workspaces.”

The USPS, which is funded entirely by postage and fees, says no employees will be laid off; no post offices will be closed; and post office box service and retail operations will be unchanged. Any movement of workers will be done in accordance with their union’s bargaining agreements, it said.

Beacon post office
The Beacon post office is located at 369 Main St. (Photo by Valerie Shively)

Steve Hutkins, a retired English professor in Rhinecliff who runs a national website called Save the Post Office, last month published a list of more than two dozen sorting centers believed to be opening before the end of the year. He cited a “notification sent to the unions” dated Feb. 28 of proposed sorting and delivery centers and “spoke offices,” including Beacon.

Hutkins, who launched his site in 2011 in response to reports that his local post office would close, also posted a letter addressed to the American Postal Workers Union from James Lloyd, the USPS director of labor relations, policies and programs, that lists more than 60 post offices nationwide, including Beacon, Fishkill and Wappingers Falls, as being “under consideration for conversion” to regional sorting centers in September. (Fishkill and Wappingers Falls are not among the nine that Cline said she was told will be consolidated in Newburgh.)

Lloyd told the union that the changes are designed to reduce transportation and mail handling costs. In addition, they would allow “for easier standardization and management of operations while improving building and operating conditions for employees.”

If consolidation occurs, Beacon postal carriers would drive to the Newburgh sorting center each morning to retrieve the mail for their routes. They would then drive their postal vehicles back over the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge to make deliveries.

Cline estimated that, including their commutes, mail carriers will drive 100 miles per day under the system. She noted that the standard delivery trucks do not have heat or air conditioning and are not typically driven faster than 40 mph.

“It’s going to be unsafe. Those vehicles are not cut out for that kind of driving,” she asserted.

Rep. Pat Ryan, a Democrat whose congressional district includes Beacon, said Wednesday that his office had heard from dozens of concerned residents.

“If Postmaster General [Louis] DeJoy thinks he can mess with the post offices in the Hudson Valley, he is sadly mistaken,” Ryan said. “His plan to force every mail carrier to travel daily to Newburgh places an incredibly unnecessary burden on our postal workers. I will keep fighting alongside my friends in labor to make sure every post office stays open and there are not any service delays for customers.”

Cline said the union has been told that packages at a consolidated center will be sorted by machine, while “flats” (e.g., periodicals and legal-sized envelopes) will be sorted manually, but not necessarily by the carrier responsible for delivery. She predicted that mail with errors in the address, for example, could be delayed because the employee sorting in Newburgh may not be familiar with delivery routes in Beacon.

That type of mail isn’t going to be delivered in a timely fashion “and it may not get to you at all,” Cline claimed. “That is where the customers are going to see [changes] on their end.”

Cline also said she was concerned about what might happen if the USPS plan, which it calls Delivering for America, does not realize the necessary savings. Could the Postal Service vacate its historic, 1937 building in Beacon for a smaller space?

When the postal workers’ union contract is renegotiated in September 2024, “I’m sure they’re going to close or downgrade offices,” she said.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics