The grounds surrounding the Oyster Bay Post Office on Shore Avenue look so different that one might pass the colonial revival building completely before realizing they have walked too far. Not only is the chain-linked fence that once blocked off the lawn gone but the unkempt hedges are too. The lawn has been freshly sodded, and there are now flowering trees and planted beds, as well as a new irrigation system to keep the area green. There is also a brick-paved seating area with benches nearby. The area is so inviting that one might stop and sit for a while to enjoy the sunshine before going inside to buy their stamps.
The changes were made by the Oyster Bay Main Street Association as part of its new approach to choosing projects that focus on interconnected, smaller-scale renovations that begin in the epicenter of the downtown. The renovation’s price tag —$90,000 — was funded from OBMSA’s sponsors and local business partners.
The changes outside the post office fulfills the association’s second phase too, a commitment to expanding available green space and improving the aesthetic of the downtown.
“The hedging closed off the lawn before, so no one could walk on the grass or see the flagpole, which has historic significance,” said Meredith Maus, the executive director at Oyster Bay Main Street Association. “We have created more green space here, so people can sit and enjoy the downtown.”
The stone flagpole was created by Italian sculptor Leo Lentelli. The story goes that after the block of stone was put in place, Lentelli had a wood shack built around it and spent the winter of 1936 working on it. He included beautiful carvings of seahorses, dolphins, and shells on the flagpole which remain intact today.
The work was completed under the Treasury Relief Art Project – a New Deal arts program that commissioned visual artists to provide artistic decoration for existing federal buildings during the Great Depression in the United States, Maus explained. With the renovations, which included the removal of the chain link fence along the walkway between the post office and its neighbor, Sweet Tomato, people can now see the base of the flagpole up close.
Although it only took three weeks to finish the project, it had taken months to learn exactly what the community wanted. Former postmaster, Dioenis Perez, put a survey together which was sent to the community, Maus said. He was disappointed that he had been transferred to a Syosset post office before the completion of the project.
In an email to Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce President Alex Gallego, Perez said, “It’s been my pleasure and honor to work with the Main Street Association in finally getting this project completed for our historic Oyster Bay Post Office and the central focus of the Oyster Bay community. This now has to be the best looking post office in the country and the most welcoming in my opinion.”
A group of well-wishers gathered on July 27 in front of the post office to celebrate the changes, which also include the installation of decorative post lights and up-lights to highlight the architecture of the building and to keep the area bright, so it is safe.
Legislator Josh Lafazan, an independent from Syosset, was on hand to congratulate Maus. “A neighborhood becomes a community when stakeholders bring us together like Meredith Maus,” he said. “A community makes us who we are.”
Maus said future projects will focus on beautifying and improving the connectivity between Fireman’s Field and the rest of the downtown.