Mail mess hobbling first-class delivery

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COURTESY PHOTO | Mail mix ups continue on Shelter Island.

What started as a struggle to get packages delivered to box holders on Shelter Island — where there is no home delivery of mail — has escalated.

Some first-class mail from federal and state agencies, plus important documents from insurance companies, are being returned to senders saying the mail is undeliverable.

Town Councilman Peter Reich, who has been on the bandwagon trying to solve the problem for more than two years, weighed in on the problem Thursday.

In 2011, Mr. Reich wrote to Postmaster General Jack Potter pointing out that since there’s no home delivery on the Island, something needs to be done to ensure residents and business owners will receive packages and first class letters without delay. He pointed out he understands the U.S. Patriot Act’s restriction on delivering cell phones to post office boxes, but said there needs to be a solution since Islanders have no home delivery. What’s more, Mr. Reich wrote at the time, they should be able to get their bills for cellphone service without a problem.

“In most of the country, mail carriers can find one’s home in the middle of dozens of square miles,” Mr. Reich said. “It seems they should also be able to find one’s box in a 1,500 square foot post office,” he said. He copied that letter to Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), but has gotten no action from either the Postmaster General or the congressman.

David Draper, a Reporter contributor, noted some Zip code maps conflict with one another identifying where the boundaries of each of the Island’s two postal districts.

“The postal service’s own site tells me my street address doesn’t exist,” Mr. Draper said. “The maps seem to prove there isn’t a definitive ‘map’ in existence,” he said. “Every other Zip code has physical boundaries. We don’t.”

Island resident Bob Fredericks, in a January 17 letter to Reporter, pointed out he has informed the Postmaster General of problems getting mail from the Social Security Administration, Medicare, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Board of Elections and insurance companies.

“My address by government agencies is often ‘corrected’ by these agencies,” Mr. Fredericks wrote, “and sent to 11964 because of where we physically live, and as a consequence we do not get important or serious mail.”

Just this week, Mr. Fredericks visited the Center Post Office where he said he got an agreement that mail that landed there in error would be forwarded to the Heights Post Office. That’s something postmasters at both local post offices said they routinely do.

The situation on Shelter Island appears to be unique, at least in this area —  other communities with customers with Post Office boxes rather than home delivery report no problem with getting either packages or first-class mail. Oliver Longwell, Congressman Bishop’s communications director, after promising to brief the congressman on the problem, wrote in an  email to the Reporter Thursday afternoon : “I live in Sag Harbor in 11963 and mail is not delivered to my house so I have to have a PO Box. I’ve never had an issue, though.”

Local post office officials aren’t allowed to speak to the press and several inquiries to corporate communications have so far gone unanswered.