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Postal plan saves Buffalo facility; William Street center may remain open indefinitely

The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday announced plans to close 229 mail processing facilities over the next two years under a plan that could preserve its once-threatened Buffalo facility for years into the future.

Detailing a plan laid out in brief last week by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., the Postal Service announced the closure of 140 processing centers in the next year, with 89 to follow in 2014. Postmaster General Patrick R. Donohoe had told Schumer the Buffalo center on William Street would be safe for at least the next three years, but Thursday's announcement makes clear that the facility may remain open indefinitely.

"After going back and taking another look, the USPS finally saw the light and realized that closing this facility would be bad for Buffalo workers, bad for the USPS and bad for business," said Schumer, who spoke with Donohoe again Thursday just to make sure the Buffalo operation will not be shuttered during either of the next two rounds of closures.

The plan announced Thursday differs from the Postal Service's earlier proposal in that the number of closures shrank from 252 to 229.

And while the Postal Service only announced locations of the 140 facilities that will be closed by 2013, it detailed a policy change that saved the Buffalo facility, which employs 700.

Starting in 2013, the agency will tighten its delivery standards to only guarantee overnight within local areas.

That's a less severe tightening than would have happened under the earlier proposal, which would have ended overnight delivery in Buffalo, given that the region's mail would have had to be shipped to Rochester to be processed and then back to Buffalo -- a task that would stretch delivery to two days.

The Postal Service plans to further tighten its overnight delivery standards in 2014, but not enough to end overnight delivery within major metro areas.

The Postal Service previously contended it could save money by closing the Buffalo facility and moving its operations to Rochester.

But Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, led the fight against that notion, arguing that there's no way the Postal Service could save money by sending all metro Buffalo mail to Rochester and back again.

The plan announced Thursday also delays the closure of some facilities that had been targeted for shutdown this year.

Processing centers in Utica, Plattsburgh, Staten Island, Rockland County and Suffolk County will be shuttered in 2013 under the plan.