NEW BEDFORD — The U.S. Postal Service has reaffirmed its decision to close the downtown post office.
In a June 23 letter to the mayor’s office, Tom A. Samra, a vice president of facilities, said there is no basis to set aside the initial decision to relocate the central New Bedford post office to a smaller building in another part of the downtown.
“This is the final determination of the Postal Service with respect to this matter, and there is no right to further administrative or judicial review of this decision,” he wrote.
Samra cited as reasons a significant amount of excess space at the Pleasant Street building and the potential revenue generated for the city by selling the 1915 Classical Revival structure.
The downtown post office in 2005 was named in honor of retired U.S. District Court Judge George Leighton, a New Bedford-born Cape Verdean-American jurist who rose from humble origins as a cranberry bog worker.
Since February, city, state and federal lawmakers representing New Bedford have tried to persuade the service to keep the post office open in the historic Pleasant Street building.
“We’ll continue to press the issue with our federal delegation and I know they see it the same way we do,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said Monday. “I just think it is a callous decision that ignores not only the historic significance of the building but also the important role it plays in the life of the downtown and its economy.”
“I will continue working with our federal elected officials to see if we can reverse this process,” State Rep. Antonio Cabral said. “If not, we can appeal to the Postal Service’s vice president of operations, and if they make a final decision we can appeal that.”
Cabral called the post office “an institution” in the downtown and said the idea to relocate it is “shortsighted.”
Mitchell and Cabral were backed by New Bedford’s congressman.
“I am very disappointed with the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to proceed with closing of the Pleasant Street Post Office in downtown New Bedford,” Rep. William Keating said in a statement. “As a former letter carrier myself, I fully appreciate the vital role and critical public service that the Postal Service provides in communities and New Bedford is no different. I will continue to fight for the preservation of USPS locations in our communities where they are most needed.”
The mayor and the city’s congressional delegation — U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey as well as Keating — wrote to the Postal Service in May citing the naming of the post office in honor of Leighton, whom Mitchell called “one of the highest-ranking Cape Verdeans ever to serve in the United States government.”
According to Samra’s letter to Mitchell, the closure process requires the Postal Service to seek ways to “avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse effects on historic properties.”
Samra’s letter also said the Postal Service will not halt operations at the Pleasant Street office until a replacement facility is ready. That spot would have to be convenient and suitable to customers, he wrote.