Late last year, the Postal Service announced that it would not proceed with its controversial plan to sell the Old Chelsea post office at 217 West 18th Street in Manhattan. Now the Postal Service has decided it wants to sell the air rights above the historic building.
According to a letter to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreations and Historic Preservation dated August 14, the Postal Service says it is initiating a Section 106 consultation process under the National Historic Preservation Act. The letter says that “the air rights above the Property are slated for sale, which will transfer the air rights out of federal ownership.”
The Postal Service has already determined that there will “no adverse effect” from the sale because as part of the disposition of air rights there will be a protective covenant safeguarding the post office. According to the letter, “The covenant requires the future owner to submit rehabilitation, alteration, or modification plans for the interior and exterior historic character defining features of the Property to the NY SHPO for review to avoid potential adverse effects by ensuring consistency with the Secretary’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and applicable guidelines.”
The Postal Service used a company called Tetra Tech to evaluate the potential impacts. That is itself of some interest. Tetra Tech is the same company the Postal Service and its real estate broker, CBRE, chose to do the historic structure report on the Berkeley post office. As discussed previously on Save the Post Office, Tetra Tech has a long relationship with Richard Blum, until recently the chairman of the board of CBRE (and husband of California Senator Dianne Feinstein). It’s not exactly the company you would turn to if you wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.