2008-05-16 / Front Page

Locals Tell USPS, System Is Broken, Needs Quick Fix

By Miriam Rosenberg

The local residents came to talk about mail arriving late, about receiving other people's mail, and about mail not arriving at all.

Approximately 100 Rockaway residents showed up at a town hall meeting to tell United States Postal Service officials about the myriad of problems that they say have besieged the area's postal delivery system for years. For more than 90 minutes at the Town Hall meeting, hosted by Congressman Gregory Meeks, residents had an opportunity to ask what they considered to be long-overdue questions about the postal service on the peninsula.

"The objective of this meeting is to ask questions, get answers and create an environment where we can work together for better service," said Meeks at the May 2 meeting at Far Rockaway High School.

An extremely angry Democratic District Leader Lew Simon confronted the members of the postal service about various problems he has had with the postal system. They include mail sent to his office that is often returned "addressee unknown, return to sender;" his mail being found in a dumpster outside the Rockaway Park post office; and first class mail that he had sent to locals that was never received. Simon's complaints were a microcosm of the problems that were cited by other residents at the meeting.

Marcia Lloyd, who has lived in the area for 33 years, addressed the conditions at the post office branch at Beach 59 Street in Arverne. She complained that only one service window is traditionally open, resulting in long lines. In addition, Lloyd complained about the rudeness of the clerks, something that drew complaints from residents who use other branch offices as well.

"The woman manager there acts like she is doing you a favor. If they don't want to work, get rid of them," said Lloyd to applause from fellow residents. "The oldest form of communication is the postal service, and it is not working in Rockaway. [In March] I had a letter with my name, address, apartment number, town, street and zip code on it and it had 'return to sender, addressee unknown' on it."

In addition, Lloyd spoke about receiving other people's mail - a problem common throughout the area.

Walter Klimetz, the acting post office operations manager, drew groans from the audience when he blamed the problem on new carriers.

Meeks told the panel from the USPS the problem was overwhelming.

"It is not an isolated incident," said Meeks, whose office has gotten numerous complaints about the incorrectly delivered mail. The answer given for most of the complaints was to call the local post office.

"When you get someone else's letter call us," said Klimetz, who added a list of contacts had been given out before the meeting. "Now you have specific names to ask for."

Meeks argued, and shouts from the crowd backed him up, that getting through to the post office is nearly impossible.

Lily Burton, the Postal Service's Triboro District manager said that if a person couldn't get through to the local post office to "call 1-800-ask-USPS. They will document all complaints."

Meeks also urged all customers who call the post office with complaints to call his office as well. "I want to know, and we will be following up," said the congressman.

Julia Blair, the president of JMB Nursing Service, who employs more than 75 people, said, "I need my mail delivered in a timely manner. The staff shouldn't be looking for mail at four, five in the afternoon."

All mail, Burton replied, is delivered depending upon the address location on the delivery route. She suggested anyone wishing to know when his or her mail would arrive to call the local station, give them the address and request the delivery time.

Beverly Williams and her daughter Regina Bullock were previously tenants of the burned out building at 1056 Neilson Street. Williams, a 30-year Far Rockaway resident, had a post office box in addition to her Neilson Street address. After the February 2007 fire she tried to have all her mail forwarded to her box.

"I have no idea where my mail is," said Williams, who added she has renewed the forwarding order. "I'm getting other people's mail, but not mine." She added that when her insurance company hadn't received payments they contacted her daughter, who is her beneficiary, to say that her policy would lapse if payments weren't made.

Although Burton said the postal service would check her forwarding orders, she added that mail could not be forwarded to a post office box.

Bullock said she and other fire victims have been on an emotional roller coaster and shouldn't have to worry about the mail being forwarded properly.

"This is a unique situation and we need answers," said Bullock. "We shouldn't have to pay one dollar for forwarding."

Two solutions were offered. Bullock was told that the USPS was willing to write a letter for the fire victims to the bill companies to explain the mail situation. Klimetz said the post office was aware of the situation and was offering free post office boxes for fire victims.

The town meeting was so important to Abenike Cumberland that she actually postponed her vacation to attend. She talked about one of the most frequent problems with the peninsula's postal service. Cumberland complained that carriers do not attempt to deliver packages, even though residents receive notices saying attempts were made.

"There's a culture of poor service, not doing your job and blaming it on the customer," said Cumberland.

Once again, Klimetz said they were aware of the problem. "We're working on that problem throughout Rockaway," said Klimetz. "If it happens again, call us and we will have that package delivered to you at a time convenient for you."

About Simon's claims that mail was found in a dumpster instead of being properly delivered, Burton said, "We have referred that to the postal inspectors. The most important thing is the security and sanctity of the mail. Anytime there is a suspicion of someone discarding or throwing away mail, that is grounds for dismissal." Burton said each piece of mail is accounted for with an automated system that tracks it using a bar code. Once a week, any mail that is undeliverable is discarded and recycled.

If customers suspect they are the victims of mail theft or not receiving their mail they should call Steve Dolloff of the Inspector General's office at 212- 271-9846. Those concerned with identity theft should call the US Postal Inspection Service at 212-330-3900.

Other important names and numbers: Far Rockaway post office - Robert Lettieri, officer-in-charge, and Miquel Pedroza, manager of customer services, 718-327-1038; Arverne - Ralph Cadet, assistant manager of customer services, 718-634-9697; Rockaway Beach - Charles Norris, assistant manager customer services, 718-634-3791; and Rockaway Park - for the manager of customer services, 718-634-3897.

During the meeting it was confirmed that George Buonocore was still the Rockaway postmaster, yet he is on light duty due to medical problems. Following the meeting, The Wave spoke with Bob Trombley of the USPS public affairs and communications office.

Buonocore left the Far Rockaway post office for developmental duty last year according to Trombley. Following that, the postmaster developed some serious medical problems and was put on "a light duty administrative assignment."

"Mr. Buonocore is the postmaster of Far Rockaway, and when his condition improves he will return to his position as postmaster of Far Rockaway," said Trombley. "He is not making decisions in the running of the post office. That's what the officer-in-charge does."

Trombley said he was not at liberty to explain exactly what Buonocore's duties currently are.

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