03/12/14 8:15am

COURTESY PHOTO | Motoring to library.

COURTESY PHOTO | Motoring to library.

 

The Shelter Island Library will host a six-hour defensive driving class on Saturday, March 22 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This DMV-approved course is for drivers of all ages.

The cost of the course is $45 per person and is payable to the instructor on the day of the class. Registration is required; call 749-0042 or sign up at the circulation desk. Attendees should bring their own lunch or snacks.

05/14/13 4:31pm

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The USPS has finally responded to resident’s concerns over shoddy mail delivery.

In about 600 words a United States Postal Service official responded to some of the problems Islanders have getting their mail, generally deflecting blame to others and offering little in the way of solutions.

“As a courtesy,” the two Post Offices on Shelter Island monitor the mail for ZIP code inaccuracies and those with the wrong ZIP code are placed in a tray and hand delivered to the other post office to determine if it is “deliverable,” said the written statement issued by USPS spokeswoman Congetta Chirichello. “It is part of the exceptional customer service provided by employees on Shelter Island,” Ms. Chirichello wrote. “We can achieve improvement by working with the mailers and third party vendors to validate address information and improve the quality and accuracy of addresses.”

The response on Shelter Island from a number of residents who attended an April 10 meeting with USPS manager Randy Sauber was that the USPS response was inadequate and failed to address many of the problems they continue to experience.

“They didn’t say anything,” said Councilman Peter Reich about Ms. Chirichello’s statement. He has experienced myriad problems getting mail, often because of company databases that change his ZIP code in Shelter Island Heights because it doesn’t match his street address in the Center. He credits local postmasters with doing their best to send mail between the two Post Offices. But not all succeeded and packages were sometimes misdirected, again, because company databases changed address information.

“Sure didn’t learn much from this,” he said after reading the full statement from the Postal Service.

The internal software used by various company databases isn’t “within the scope of the postal service’s responsibilities,” Ms. Chirichello wrote. That software is “distinct from the USPS Address Management System database.”

Bob Fredericks, another resident who has had difficulty receiving First Class mail, said the only “positive” he found in Ms. Chirichello’s response was the affirmation that local postal officials would continue to redirect mail between the Island’s two post offices.

“Unfortunately, this is what I expected — basically, they can and will do nothing to alleviate the problems Shelter Islanders have been experiencing for years,” Mr. Fredericks said. He suggested the postal service create a direct liaison with government agencies — the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, the state Tax Department, federal Social Security and others — to try to correct the problems residents are experiencing.

“Nothing will be done until the next uprising of rancor toward the USPS,” Mr. Fredericks said.

Dan Fokine, who was the first to contact the Reporter about his difficulties getting a cell phone and construction supplies delivered to the Island, said, “The mail was never to blame, only a glitch coupled with laziness and disregard.”

Barbara Warren, who had complained about her husband having to spend hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew an expired license because his renewal notice had never reached him, said nothing in Ms. Chirichello’s response spoke to such problems.

“I feel the postal response does not offer any solutions to the issues we have,” Ms. Warren said. She also reiterated a fact she mentioned at the April forum with Mr. Sauber: the New York State Comptroller’s website that lists unclaimed funds has a surprising number of Shelter Island residents who are due money.

Patricia Shillingburg said some problems are initiated by other post offices used by senders and she also noted that Islanders have difficulty getting enhanced drivers’ licenses that can be used in place of passports for travel between the United States and Mexico, Canada and some Caribbean Islands. Islanders’ licenses don’t carry street addresses, and that’s needed for an enhanced license.

Mr. Reich said he would take Ms. Chirichello’s response with him next time he goes to the Department of Motor Vehicles, noting that her response to DMV mix ups was that it’s an issue for the DMV to resolve.

In Ms. Chirichello’s response, there’s no mention of Board of Elections problems, but Wade Badger, the Island’s poll chairman, said at the April meeting that he suspected the reason so many long-time residents have found their names removed from registration rolls is that cards confirming their polling places were returned to the Suffolk County Board of Elections as undeliverable.

Congressman Tim Bishop’s spokesman, Oliver Longwell, said he was discussing the response from postal officials with his boss and anticipated Mr. Bishop would issue a statement shortly.

Editor’s note: See seperate post for the full USPS response.

02/18/13 5:00pm

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | A U.S. Postal official has said she’s looking in to the mail controversy on Shelter Island.

Bet you didn’t know you could pick your own ZIP code.

You can on Shelter Island and in many small communities, according to Congetta Chirichello, a corporate communications specialist for the United States Postal Service. If you live in the Center and want your Post Office Box in the Heights, it’s your choice. One free box is provided for each customer or family because there’s no home delivery on the Island, she said.

But whether this arbitrary choice of Zip codes is adding to or is responsible for the serious mail mix-ups here is not clear.

Due to  several Reporter stories on the controversy, Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) has called for a special public meeting on the Island for next month. The mail problems include, among other things, retailers not acknowledging Island Zip codes and important first-class mail such as Department of Motor Vehicles and other government documents plus insurance forms not reaching residents but marked “return to sender.”

The congressman’s office provided an email address for Islanders to use to make their voices heard before the promised March meeting.

The email is [email protected].

Those who have had problems getting either packages or first-class mail should describe their experiences to Mr. Bishop via the email address. His office is working with Shelter Island Councilman Peter Reich to set up next month’s meeting to bring some clarity to the serious problems and to determine solutions.

A number of people do choose Post Office boxes outside of the area where they live. One resident speculated that someone who lives in the Center might think it more prestigious to have a Shelter Island Heights address. Others suggested that people choose one or the other when they first come to the Island because they’ve heard the service is better. And the jury is split among loyalists to each Post Office as to which renders the best service.

But even though some USPS maps show geographical lines for each ZIP code, there is no actual geographic split, Ms. Chirichello said,  confirming what the Reporter had been told by a local Post Office worker.

Ms. Chirichello said she’s familiar with the problem of ordering goods from companies when there is only a Post Office box number, but not a street address. But she said for the past year, the USPS has approved people listing their street addresses and simply putting their Post Office box number in parentheses.

That may help some who are experiencing difficulty ordering from certain companies, she said.

“I am gathering information from several sources regarding the issues customers are having,” Ms. Chirichello told the Reporter after receiving copies of stories that have been written about the problems in the last month.

Contact information for Congressman Bishop:

Special post office forum: [email protected]

Southampton Office
137 Hampton Road
Southampton, NY 11968
(631) 259-8450
(631) 259-8451 (fax)

Washington Office
306 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3826
(202) 225-3143 (fax)

Washington Office
306 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3826
(202) 225-3143 (fax)

01/28/13 4:50pm
United States Post Office logo

COURTESY PHOTO | The U.S. Postal Service is giving Shelter Islanders the silent treatment

Attention: Islanders. If your driver’s license or vehicle registration is nearing expiration and you haven’t received a renewal request, better check with the Department of Motor Vehicles. That also goes for insurance bills, and mailings from government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, Medicare and the Internal Revenue Service.

After several weeks of inquiries, the Reporter still has no response from the United States Postal Service about why some packages and first-class mail are failing to reach some Islanders, but it’s clear that it’s connected with problems involving Zip codes.

That little five-number code meant to make mail delivery easier is causing something of a nightmare for many Shelter Island residents and it’s not because local postmasters aren’t trying to live up to their motto to ensure tmail reaches its intended recipients.

There are many companies whose databases don’t recognize the 11964 and 11965 zip codes. Plus, many senders of first-class letters don’t recognize the proper zip codes or automatically change mail addressed using the Heights 11965 zip code to 11964. And many of the culprits appear to be government agencies.

At the request of the Reporter, Congressman Tim Bishop’s (D-Southampton) communications director, Oliver Longwell, has been trying to see how his boss might intercede on behalf of residents and business owners here. Still no word from Mr. Bishop’s office, however.

Inquiries to regional and national United States Postal Service officials has failed to elicit any comments while local postal officials are barred from making public statements about the confusion.

At issue are a number of problems:

• Since Islanders don’t have home delivery, shouldn’t its two Post Offices be allowed to grant “Enhanced Postal Services” enabling packages to be delivered to the Post Offices? They are, in fact, generally delivered and box holders get notices that packages have arrived. But that’s a result of informal practices at the two Post Officers, rather than policy.

• Why are there maps detailing the areas covered by the two postal districts that don’t coordinate with one another and in some cases show no zip code districts on the Island?

• Why are state and federal agencies unable to process first-class mail to residents in the two districts without problems and why are some changing Zip codes in their computer listings despite many attempts by residents to provide the correct Zip code information?

• What, if anything, can be done so Islanders can receive cell phones by mail? The Department of Homeland Security prohibits such mailings under the Patriot Act. Can’t something be done to facilitate such deliveries on an Island where there is no home delivery?

• Why do Islanders experience these difficulties with mail when residents of neighboring areas like Sag Harbor and Remsenburg, where there also is no home delivery, have no such problems?

• Why do some Islanders have to go to banks to get credit cards instead of receiving them through the mail?

These and similar questions are pending with regional and federal USPS officials who so far have remained silent after repeated requests for information.