Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Is Your Post Office Being a Good Neighbor?

In many communities, the local Post Office remains a critical Main Street anchor. Often located in the heart of a community, it drives visitation and pedestrian traffic throughout the day. As a result, the condition of the local post office can play a significant role in how a district is perceived. Post Office assets are often imposing civic institutions. Maintaining these key assets and ensuring they have a positive impact on local business districts is often a key component of successful community and commercial revitalization efforts.

About a year ago we completed an assessment and corridor plan for Mermaid Avenue, in Coney Island, Brooklyn, funded by the New York State Governor's Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR) . Mermaid Avenue, the business district that serves this vibrant community, had been severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy and even years after the storm the repercussions were still being felt. A relatively low-income community, Mermaid Avenue had a few clear nodes of business activity that needed some TLC. Our plan, developed with architecture firm WXY, laid out a clear plan of action for the Alliance for Coney Island, the non-profit entity formed to manage, maintain and advocate for the area.

The Post Office along Mermaid Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Photo Credit: LOA
One key opportunity was the local Post Office, located immediately adjacent to one of the primary and most robust commercial nodes. The Post Office was clearly a destination driver in a community with very few options for secure package delivery. Yet the conditions of the building left much to be desired. Frankly, it was hard to even tell whether the Post Office was even open. Rusted gates over windows, graffiti, dead trees, litter, and weedy tree pits all contributed to a prevalent sense of insecurity for residents and visitors alike. While it is highly likely that some of these conditions were due to the storm, the opportunity for small scale improvements here was clearly evident. 

These kinds of partnerships with the local Post Office are not uncommon. In Jackson Heights, Queens, a local volunteer-led non-profit, The Jackson Heights Beautification Group, led an effort to improve the weedy, overgrown landscaping in front of the Post Office. Led by Len Maniaci, a long-time community advocate, environmentalist,  and former JHBG President, the group used volunteers to develop a design, and paid for both landscaping and a new irrigation system of the "curbside garden" that would ensure the survival of the perennials that are sure to have a big impact on the corridor. All for less than $10k.
The Post Office along 37th Avenue,
Jackson Heights, NY
Photo Credit: Len Maniaci 

The differences between these two Post Office assets could not be more stark. Clearly, community advocacy plays a role in advancing corridor improvement efforts. Along Mermaid Avenue, the Alliance for Coney Island is an excellent position to be that advocate and now they have a blueprint for action and a set of starting points from which to work. We are thrilled by their efforts and look forward to chronicling the implementation of the corridor plan over time, especially in partners with the Post Office.

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