2008-04-25 / Top Stories

Meeks Calls For Changes In Rockaway Postal System

By Miriam Rosenberg

Many Rockaway residents parodied the traditional postal service motto last week, turning it into a local version that says, "Whether it's rain, or snow or hail or sleet or sunshine there is one thing Rockaway residents could always count on - trouble with the Rockaway postal system."

Many of them made that clear last Monday when they joined Congressman Gregory Meeks at a press conference in front of the Far Rockaway post office to voice their displeasure with a system they believe is badly broken, and needs repair.

"People talked about receiving bills late, which resulted in bills being paid late and that affects their credit rating," said Meeks. "Seniors are not receiving their Social Security checks."

Meeks pointed out some of the problems that can be found at the main post office in Far Rockaway as well as at its satellite offices throughout the peninsula. The congressman said that there is a lack of handicapped accessibility; that the carriers fail to deliver mail; that there is a continuous non-delivery or delayed delivery of critical mail, including checks; and that there is poor customer service in the post offices themselves.

"Somebody has to be answerable to the service these people are getting," Meeks told The Wave. "People are going to Lawrence and Inwood to mail letters. That's not acceptable."

The congressman also said residents have been, "acting as mailmen and getting mail to others. Mail has been found in the garbage. In the post office, there are long lines and unfriendliness [by employees]."

"I've been trying to remediate, but the post office has not been responsive," added Meeks.

The Wave spoke with some of those who joined Meeks at the April 21 press conference.

Valerie West, an executive for the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation, who lives in Far Rockaway, says that she receives her neighbor's mail almost constantly.

"Why do I have to deliver my neighbor's mail every day?" asked West.

Maria Gauntlet is the first vice president of the Tenant's Association at the Beach 41st Street Houses.

"A lot of my tenants are not getting their mail right away," said Gauntlet. "They leave slips [for packages] and the packages are not there [at the post office]. They claim to deliver something, and they never do that or we don't receive the packages but receive the bills."

Gauntlet even received an income tax return check that should have gone to a resident of the Redfern houses. She is also needs a ramp to get into the Far Rockaway post office.

"I cannot get up the stairs unless someone helps me with my walker," Gauntlet told The Wave.

"We own thousands of buildings and have to prioritize," said Bob Trombley of the USPS public affairs and communications office. He added that Congressman Meeks brought the ramp problem to their attention. "Technically, we are within the law since it is an older building and it was grandfathered in [when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed].

"We are looking to have it done as soon as we possibly can."

Meeks has been pursuing the post office issue since last year and has scheduled a Town Hall Meeting for next month.

Last April, Meeks sent a letter of thanks to John E. Potter, the United States postmaster general after the local postmaster, George Buonocore, was replaced in the wake of allegations of incompetence and the arrest of one of his top lieutenants. Meeks also asked that problems facing the local post office be addressed.

Since then, there have been reports that Buonocore has returned but is keeping a low profile.

"We don't know who is in charge and who is not in charge," said Meeks. "First we heard that Buonocore is gone, then that he's back, then that he's back but not in charge. I hope somebody can give that information at the Town Hall meeting." Meeks did say he received reports from the community that while Buonocore was not at the Far Rockaway post office the problems decreased.

The Town Hall Meeting is being held at Far Rockaway High School at 7 p.m. on May 2. Joining the congressman in sponsoring it are various elected officials from across the peninsula. Representatives of the U.S. Postal Service have been invited to attend.

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