USPS offers solution: Some improvement, some skepticism

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The U.S. Postal Service has responded with information that might help the Zip code confusion.

The silence was approaching the deafening stage.

But finally the United States Postal Service has responded about  improving mail delivery on Shelter Island. USPS service manager Randy Sauber has offered residents and business owners a solution he hopes will put an end to confusion about the reason some have experienced serious problems.

Mr. Sauber met with Islanders at an April 10 meeting at Town Hall to hear about their problems with mail delivery, but has been silent about solutions until now.

At issue is the fact that for those who get their mail at in the Heights Post Office, many mail order lists have been cutting the word “Heights” from the addresses. The result has been automated systems “self-correcting” and changing the ZIP code from 11965 to 11964. That’s the appropriate code for those with Center post office boxes. Shelter Islanders have the option to use either post office address regardless of where they live.

The confusion has affected all types of mail, including letters sent from the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security and Medicare, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and may even be responsible for names of long-time Island residents being dropped from voter registration lists, according to Wade Badger, Shelter Island poll chairman from the Suffolk County Board of elections.

Going forward, Mr. Sauber advises that those who get their mail at the Center Post Office continue to have it addressed to Shelter Island, NY 11964. But for those whose mail correctly is meant to go to the Heights Post Office, the way to get around the mailing lists that have too few spaces to accommodate Shelter Island Heights is to have the mail addressed to “Shelter Is Ht, NY 11965.”

That’s what Island resident Patricia Shillingburg did to get corrections made by one of her banks, according to Congressman Tim Bishop’s aide, Oliver Longwell. It was Mr. Longwell who organized the April 10 meeting on Mr. Bishop’s behalf.

“Ms. Shillingburg’s actions seem to be the direction the residents should go if they fall into this criteria,” Mr. Longwell said.

Ms. Shillingburg told the Reporter that all three divisions of Capital One with which she deals have taken care of her problem.

At the same time, she said she sent a certified letter to Brian Shea, chairman of the Board of Pershing Advisor Solutions, a company identified as a major supplier of lists to various mail order companies, to request that its lists be corrected. Mr. Shea has a house on Shelter Island, but has been non-responsive to Ms. Shillingburg’s letter. Nor has he responded to calls from the Reporter made to his company or his home. The Reporter did receive one call from a person at Pershing who said she knew nothing about the company’s list services operation.

Ms. Shillingburg said simply that her letter to Mr. Shea was “ignored.”

Not all problems revolve around the lists being unable to include the word Heights. Vincent Novak reported that when he recently tried listing his shipping address using both the street address and Post Office box number in the Center, he received a notice from the company indicating his address wasn’t recognized and offering the following alternatives: Shelter Island, Middle Island NY 11953; Shelter Island, Southampton, NY 11968; and Shelter Island, Southold NY 11971.

“Cancelled the order instead,” Mr. Novak said, deciding that there was no way he was going to receive the requested item.

Barbara Warren, who took matters into her own hands after problems multiplied including her husband’s driver’s license expiring with no notice from the state DMV, wrote the Postmaster General. She also spoke with local postmasters on Shelter Island.

“I haven’t had any more issues to my knowledge,” she said, crediting local postmasters with doing their best to transfer mail that may reach the wrong branch.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen any improvement,” Town Councilman Peter Reich said. He is among those who has credited the two Island postmasters with correcting a lot of the problems to help him receive mail through his post office box in the Heights, despite his house being located in the West Neck Harbor area. He has complained in the past about packages being mis-addressed and even, in one case, was told by a company that he should double check his address since it wasn’t recognized by the database.