POST OFFICE MAY CLOSE MORE BRANCHES

Lansingburgh, Coeymans New Scotland Avenue posts on list of those being eyed

CAROL DEMARE STAFF WRITER WITH WIRE REPORTS
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A number of area post offices made a list of buildings being studied for possible closure, and, again, Albany could get hit.


On Tuesday, the Postal Service released a list of thousands of local post offices that could be closed in a cost-saving measure. The cash-strapped agency lost $8 billion last year.


On the list are Academy station on New Scotland Avenue, the Capitol office in the Capitol Building and the post office in Empire State Plaza, all in Albany, as well as Lansingburgh and North Hoosick in Rensselaer County and Coeymans Hollow and South Bethlehem in southern Albany County.


In Albany, the Pine Hills station post office closed April 30, making it the third post office to be shut down in the city this year. Also closed was the Patroon station on Broadway in North Albany and Delaware station on Delaware Avenue.


At the time of the Pine Hills closing, postal officials suggested residents could use the Academy station on New Scotland Avenue, now on the list, or the Fort Orange station on Central Avenue, apparently still safe.


Most of the roughly 3,700 offices that face reviews are in rural areas. Officials said they would look into alternate service, such as offering postal service in businesses, town halls or community centers.


A review doesn't necessarily mean an office will close. The service announced in January it was reviewing 1,400 offices. So far, 280 have closed and 200 have finished the process and will remain open. As more people conduct postal business on line, on smart phones and at shopping areas, the need to maintain nearly 32,000 retail offices diminishes.


Postal service is destined to change, spokeswoman Maureen Marion said. "It becomes very clear, not just to us but to our customers, the basic elements of postal service, getting a stamp, sending a simple package, you don't need a post office building to do that," she said. Postal kiosks will become a trend.


"Technology is changing things, she said. "People are willing to step out of line at a post office and do things at home on the computer or buy stamps at an ATM or at a grocery checkout."


For example, she said, 85 percent of what a local post office does is sell stamps. "We don't need the building to do that. It is a change of the footprint of the post office and how this all works out at the end of the day, we still have to find out." Now, there are more than 100,000 locations to get stamps, "and we are looking to do more," Marion said. In Syracuse a kiosk was moved into a Hallmark Card store in a mall, and "omigosh, it's like reinventing the wheel," Marion said. "You can buy a gift, put it in a box and send it from the kiosk."


Reach Carol DeMare at 454-5431 or cdemare@timesunion.com.