Developer’s possible plan to building at Fresh Meadows post office in limbo

By Madina Toure

After U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) received a written confirmation from the U.S. Postal Service that it plans to renew the lease of a Fresh Meadows post office, a developer’s interest in replacing the site with one of two retail-office buildings is uncertain.

In a letter dated Feb. 18 to Meng, Zahava Colicelli, a government relations representative for USPS, said the lease, which is set to expire April 30, 2018, would be renewed unless something unexpected occurs that might affect operations.

“Of course, we knew that this would not be something that would be good for the community and so we reached out to the Postal Service, first by phone, and they confirmed that they were planning to renew the lease and then we asked them to put that in writing,” Meng said.

At the Jan. 21 meeting of Community Board 8’s Area 6 Committee, Jay Segal, a land use lawyer representing the Federal Realty Investment Trust, said the developer was interested in adding two two-story buildings to the Fresh Meadows Shopping Center on 188th Street between Horace Harding Expressway and 64th Avenue. Federal Realty has owned the shopping center since 1997.

One building, on the east side, would be where the post office is currently located, at 193-04 Horace Harding Expressway, and have 14,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor and another 14,000 square feet of office space on the second floor. The company said it was concerned that with the nationwide reduction in mail, the lease would not be renewed.

The developer also wants to put one building on the west side, with 7,600 square feet on each floor and a similar retail and office setup.

In a letter dated Jan. 14 to Marie Adam-Ovide, CB 8’s district manager, Segal said Federal Realty would not increase parking.

The company conducted a parking utilization study and found that at peak times, not including Christmas, about 15 percent of parking spaces are and would be unoccupied.

Maria DeInnocentiis, the committee’s chairwoman, who had reached out to Meng, said the plan was not yet a proposal.

Federal Realty would need special permission due to a 1974 amendment to local zoning laws that established a special planned community preservation district in Fresh Meadows, she said.

The chairwoman said the committee is against the plan, pointing out that parking spaces in the parking lot are well-utilized.

“It’s almost two separate issues,” DeInnocentiis said. “We want to make sure that we keep our post office in the community and we’re opposed to the development (Federal Realty plan) in Fresh Meadows.”

DeInnocentiis said elected officials such as Meng, state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) and City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) would be given more information if the plan were to become a proposal.

Segal said he was not aware of the USPS confirmation.

“I haven’t heard about it before and I’m sure the clients will have to assess it and figure out how to work with the post office,” he said.

Federal Realty did not respond by press time.

Meng said she would look into the proposed project after speaking with other elected officials such as Grodenchik.

CB 8 member Jim Gallagher, president of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association, echoed the parking concerns. “That parking lot gets filled very quickly on the weekends and stuff and we can’t afford to lose any more parking space,” he said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.