DNA reports: "The Old Chelsea Station at 217 W. 18th St., which was built in 1937 and landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, is on the chopping block, the USPS announced in a letter posted in the station." The building is for sale and will pass out of federal ownership--meaning it's going from public to private. Meaning, let's face it, luxury condos and upscale retail.
I remember, as a kid living way out in the sticks, mailing some of my depressing little poems to a poetry journal with a P.O. box at Old Chelsea Station. I didn't realize that name was a post office, and I thought that "Old Chelsea Station" was a train station, like Grand Central Station, and I imagined that the poetry editor somehow lived in this train station in the middle of New York City, which seemed very weird and wonderful. Later, when I encountered the post office for the first time, I realized that this is where all those poems of mine had ended up and not at a train station at all.
So I have this odd fondness for it. Also, the post office boasts some lovely bas-relief murals of animals in the forest.
Romy at Walkers in the City wrote about their artist, Paul Fiene:
"He had his studio upstate in Woodstock, New York, and the two panels, called 'Deer' and 'Bear,' are bas-relief cast stone covered in silver leaf, made in 1938 for Old Chelsea Station, which was built in 1935. I read that Paul Fiene had studied at the Beaux Arts Institute to Design here in New York, and that he won first prize in a life class in 1917. Then he won the Prix de Rome, which he had to decline because he didn’t have enough money to get to Rome to accept the prize, and I imagine that he must have been very disappointed. But he must have been very happy to get the commission to create two works of art to decorate this Manhattan post office. Imagining a post office built during the depression and decorated with money set aside for just that purpose having to close for lack of funds made me feel very sad."
If this P.O. goes, you and I might never see those bears and those deer again. They will become private property for those who can afford to enjoy them. And the community will lose a valuable public space.
People are fighting this sale. If you'd like to speak your mind about it, please do so at tonight's CB4 Full Board Meeting, 6:30 p.m., at Hotel Trades Council Auditorium, 305 W. 44th Street.