City Council member Mary Pat Clarke is so angry about a U.S. Postal Service proposal to close the post office in Waverly that she held a press conference there last month and publicly derided the plan, shouting, "Return to sender."
But that's what some north Baltimore residents are saying about the Waverly post office, 3000 Homewood Ave., which serves the Oakenshawe, Guilford and Abell areas.
The financially struggling Postal Service is recommending closing 3,700 post offices nationwide — including 41 in Maryland and eight in Baltimore — and laying off 120,000 workers in the face of an $8 billion budget shortfall.
But the Waverly post office is a debatable poster child. Critics say it's too out of the way, in a dead-end, hard-to-find area, and that the building is rundown and makes a bad impression. Supporters say it's needed in an area where a lot of people don't have cars and walk or take public transportation.
An informal survey of customers on Saturday morning, Oct. 2, found that most favored keeping it, but thought it was sorely in need of renovation and not the best postal ambassador..
"All those things are true, but it's still fine and it's a functional post office and I like having it in the neighborhood," said Nora Bucke, 33, of Hillen Road. "I would rather see it stay than go."
But the president of the Oakenshawe Improvement Association, Mark Counselman, wonders why Clarke and several other council members who joined her at the press conference are making such a fuss over saving the Waverly post office.
And Counselman said he's not alone.
"It's come up in conversation in the neighborhood," he said. "The only thing I've heard in Oakenshawe is a shrug. It's such a dump. And it's in such an incredibly inconvenient location."
To get to the post office from Oakenshawe, one must take eastbound University Parkway to 33rd Street to Loch Raven Boulevard to Gorsuch Avenue to Homestead Street to Homewood Avenue, a thinly populated enclave near a church and an apartment building. By contrast, westbound University Parkway becomes Roland Avenue, a straight shot to the Roland Park post office.
Oakenshawe resident Lynda Allen uses the Roland Park post office and said that unless one has registered mail to be picked up at the Waverly facility, "There's no reason to go there."
Allen also questions council members' priorities in fighting to save post offices.
"I think our City Council people have more pressing issues to deal with than what federal officials are going to do with our post offices."
Counselman said the Postal Service is in such bad shape financially that "something's gotta give. The whole system's going to implode."
As far as he is concerned, that makes post offices like Waverly's expendable.
"I think it's a reason to get rid of it," he said.
But Clarke maintains that the need for the post office far outweighs its condition and location. She said it serves a population of 52,530, making it the second highest post office service area in the city. That service population is more than five times the national average, she said.
"It is an operational center," Clarke said. "Yes, the U.S. Postal Service should be ashamed of itself at the way they have neglected that post office. It's a dead-end street. I understand all that. But where are you going to take that function? It's gotta go somewhere."
And if it's closed, that would mean "longer lines for everybody," Clarke said.
At the post office Saturday morning, opinions differed.
"It serves the purpose," said Richard Jenkins, 58, who lives in the area. But he said, "I don't think it's going to matter. They're going to close the ones with the least business anyway."
"I have no problem with this place," said defense attorney Stephen Kirsch, 60, of Phoenix, who has had a post office box at Waverly from the days when his office was in Charles Village. "The people are very nice."
But he also thinks that unlike his local post office in Phoenix, which makes money from people buying stamps and mailing packages, the Waverly post office is reflective of a less affluent area.
"There are a lot of people here who can't get around."
Marian Johnson, 66, of Waverly, said the York Road post office is closer to where she lives, but, "It's always packed full of people."
"It's convenient for me," said Chanelle Owens, 26, of Waverly. "It doesn't matter to me the look of it. I'm just coming here to drop off mail."
But Matt Nass, 47, of Waverly, took a sterner view.
"I definitely think it could use a more modern look if they're going to keep it," Nass said. He also said fixing it up would give the area a better image and create jobs.
"Like it or not, the whole area looks like a dump," he said.
Alan Klug agreed with all that, and said, "To be Christian about it, it needs a dressing up."
But he insisted, "This is a hub."
Klug, 75, of Timonium, owns the company Klug Uniform in Charles Village and has a P.O. box at Waverly. He said many business owners in the area use the Waverly post office.
"It's truly functional," he said.
"It's definitely not one of the more attractive post offices, which is an insult to the community," said Carol Serksnis, of Abell.
"But it is convenient."