Quarrel over mailboxes: Now they’re staying put

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It’s only been two weeks since the nation’s deputy postmaster general, Ron Stroman, admitted to lawmakers there were systemic issues when it came to mail delivery in the Bronx. But another elected official already has taken up arms against the U.S. Postal Service. 

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz issued a warning last week that some 200 Bronx mailboxes would be hauled off Oct. 8. And Dinowitz had every reason in the world to believe it’s true — the Postal Service stuck notices on each of the condemned boxes Sept. 6.

But don’t believe everything you read, postal officials said. Even if it was the Postal Service that wrote it. 

“No final decisions have been made with regard to these local collection boxes,” said Xavier Hernandez, a spokesman for the Postal Service in New York City. Instead, the organization will conduct a national review to find out which boxes are most frequented by customers, and decide from there which ones are going, and which are staying.

For now, however, any notices posted to the boxes were there in error, Hernandez said.

Dinowitz isn’t buying the Postal Service made a mistake. Instead, the Assemblyman believes officials backed off their initial decision to remove the mailboxes after he drummed up some negative backlash. 

“You intended to remove the mailboxes, so instead of lying about it you should say you wanted to do it and you thought better of it,” Dinowitz said. “They were zeroing in on the Bronx, and they were trying to eliminate services in the Bronx.”

Postal service issues in the Bronx aren’t new. In November, officials removed 124 mailboxes from Bronx streets without notifying residents or politicians. The reason, they said, was to retrofit the boxes to prevent “fishing” — a tactic used by thieves to steal valuable parcels from older collection boxes. 

But the mailboxes didn’t return for months — seven months, to be exact. And even then not all of them made it back to their old corners, Dinowitz said.

“They simply didn’t return some of them, so they were able to eliminate some of them in a very sneaky way,” he said. “I don’t know what is going through their minds on these things. Some people are less mobile than others. To have to go to a mailbox much further away, or go to a post office, is a hardship.”

It’s a hardship, Dinowitz said, that disproportionately affects older people who are less likely to pay bills or send other sensitive items online. 

The northwest Bronx isn’t the only place where communication with postal officials have been lost in the mail. Just two weeks ago, U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano publicly thanked the Postal Service for backing off planned service and job cuts — cuts postal officials denied were ever happening. It was at the same time Stroman promised U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel he would personally oversee fixing chronic service problems in the northeast, especially in the Bronx. 

Speaking of those promises made to Engel, Dinowitz said he planned to keep a watchful eye moving forward. 

“The fact that they intended to eliminate service after they said they were not going to eliminate service does not inspire a lot of confidence in me,” Dinowitz said. “There’s a few possible things: One is that whatever commitments they made they did not intend to live up to, or they just don’t know what is going on.”

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