Queens Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked about a long-awaited ramp for Jackson Heights’ historic post office, located at 7802 37th Ave., during her questioning of the newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
At a hearing of the House Oversight Committee on Monday, Aug. 24, Congress members pressed DeJoy about reported disruptions of the United States Postal Service following his appointment by President Donald Trump in June. During her time, Ocasio-Cortez added one question regarding part of the 14th Congressional District (which includes Jackson Heights).
“We have written the agency several times regarding accessibility for a ramp in our historic Jackson Heights post office, and I would greatly appreciate a return correspondence to make sure that our disabled and elderly constituents can get access to the post office,” she said.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez just urged Postmaster DeJoy to install a wheelchair ramp in the Jackson Heights USPS.
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) August 24, 2020
On her Instagram story, Ocasio-Cortez wrote that she was glad she was able to squeeze in the question.
“We can work on both the big stuff and the small stuff — because they both impact our lives a lot,” she said.
Calls to build an accessible ramp — for the elderly, disabled and individuals with strollers or other equipment — for the post office are not new. Jackson Heights residents have asked for the ramp for years.
Some residents have brought up the idea that because it is a landmark building, there might be issues in getting a ramp approved. But a spokesperson for NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission said the agency doesn’t prevent owners from making changes; they just work with building owners to “ensure that planned changes are appropriate to the character and style of the building.”
If a ramp is proposed, the building owner must apply for a permit so they can review it. The spokesperson added that LPC promotes accessibility and have regulations for building owners to follow.
Councilman Daniel Dromm, who represents Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, told QNS he too has tried to work with USPS to make the building accessible.
“Jackson Heights residents need and deserve a fully accessible post office,” said Dromm. “I have pleaded with the United States Postal Service to make the building accessible for years. I toured the Jackson Heights post office with the Flushing Postmaster General and former Congressman Joe Crowley, and highlighted the concerns older residents and people with disabilities have raised. I even offered to allocate city capital dollars to build a wheelchair ramp. Unfortunately, USPS said it could not accept the funding because the building is federal property.”
Ocasio-Cortez’ spokesperson Lauren Hitt told QNS they first sent a letter to USPS advocating for the ramp in October 2019, noting that the nearest accessible post office is .6 miles south of the landmark Jackson Heights post office.
They heard back from the postal agency in November, and were told that individuals can use the back entrance of the facility.
Dromm was told the same when he asked for the ramp.
“I am very disappointed by the USPS’ years of inaction and hope that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy heeds our call to make the Jackson Heights post office fully accessible,” said Dromm.
Hitt said they followed up with USPS’ response by stating it is “discriminatory” to ask community members to use the back entrance of the post office, but did not hear back from the agency’s leadership at the time.
In February of 2020, the congresswoman followed up again and has yet to receive a response, which prompted her statement during Monday’s hearing.
In preparation for Monday’s hearing, following months of reports and calls from Congress members that USPS’ new leadership is placing new policies that may negatively impact the federal institution, Ocasio-Cortez’s team sent out a survey to NY 14’s constituents.
The survey asked how the Trump administration’s new USPS policies have impacted their lives.
She received more than 70 responses, including delayed delivery of time-sensitive legal documents, medication that hasn’t arrived in over a month, lost packages from small business owners who rely on the service, and absentee ballots that never showed up during the primaries.
Ocasio-Cortez also advocated for the addition of $50 to the H.R. 2, or the Moving Forward Act, an infrastructure and transportation bill that passed the House in June and is now in the Senate, awaiting a vote.
She said she was inspired to add the funds to increase accessibility at post offices in historical buildings after being inspired by the local activism in the Jackson Heights community.
When asked whether they believe the ramp will be installed in the near future, Hitt said they’re “hopeful.”
USPS could not offer comment in time for publication.