The Fire Island community of Cherry Grove is rallying to keep its tiny post office open.
Betty Faraci, the postmistress of the 10-foot-by-10-foot post office, said she hasn't received a contract renewal for her job this year from the U.S. Postal Service, causing fears that the post office itself -- open three days a week from May to October -- will be shuttered.
If the facility closes, Cherry Grove residents would have to take the ferry to the Sayville Post Office on the mainland for their mail.
Christine Dugas, a Postal Service spokeswoman, said there are "no plans" to close the Cherry Grove facility but would not comment on the status of Faraci's contract, citing employment law. Cherry Grove is a contract post office, where the USPS works with an independent operator to provide postal services, officials said.
Other regional post offices that have been threatened by closures include the Penataquit Post Office in Bay Shore, Reckson Plaza Station in Uniondale, and the post offices in Setauket and Northport. These facilities are still operating after community outcry over the proposed closures.
"Every year I get a contract. This year I haven't," Faraci said.
She said she was turned down for a raise by the USPS after the Sayville ferry fares increased, and hasn't received another contract in the meantime.
"I get so aggravated because I try to help the people here," said Faraci, 70, of Patchogue.
She's a retired postal worker who was hired to run the Cherry Grove station in 2011. "I love helping people. I know a lot of people here," she said.
Cherry Grove resident Kenneth Woodhouse has started a petition to save the post office, saying it's a vital part of the Fire Island community -- with its bright blue paint and bulletin boards, it serves as a de facto neighborhood center.
"It's our last human connection. When all else fails you can always write a letter," Woodhouse said. "And we all meet here at the same time. I like that regularity. Everybody stops by."
Diane Romano, president of the Cherry Grove Association, said the association has formed a committee to discuss ways to save the post office. She said not everyone in Cherry Grove has the means to go to the Sayville post office to pick up mail. A round-trip ticket to the mainland on the ferry is $16, but costs less if multiple trips are purchased.
"There are many people who do not come back and forth and they live on Cherry Grove. We have people who are retired, who are teachers and stay for the whole season," she said. "To need to get to Sayville to get your mail takes a lot of time and it's expensive -- it's a two-way ferry ride and then a taxi, or you take your car."
Woodhouse said he has written a letter to Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) imploring him to help keep the post office open.
Bishop said the USPS has assured him the Cherry Grove post office wasn't going to close.
"I think post offices all over the country are important, particularly in locations like Cherry Grove that are somewhat remote," he said.
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