Volume 74, Number 26 | October 27 - November 03 , 2004

With fewer boxes and pickups, going postal less often

By Hemmy So

The National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 300 has started a grassroots campaign to restore full postal service to certain areas in Manhattan, including areas below 14th St. and north of the Financial District, after a series of recent postal service cuts.

According to the N.P.M.H.U., the U.S. Postal Service has already removed over a dozen collection mailboxes in various areas. In the East Village’s 10003 zip code alone, 19 boxes have been removed, according to union representative Wilfredo Delgado. Additionally, the Postal Service has reduced service on remaining mailboxes, dropping from four daily pickups to one pickup at 1 p.m. or two pickups — at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. — Delgado says.

In Downtown-area zip codes, cuts in collection service are up to 75 percent, according to the mailhandlers union. According to the union, collection service was cut 50-75 percent in zip codes 10002 (Lower East Side), 10003 (East Village), 10009 (East Village/Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town), 10012 (Central Village), 10013 (Tribeca/Chinatown) and 10014 (West Village and Meat Market). The union says collections were cut 25 percent in zip codes 10010 (Gramercy) and 10011 (Chelsea/ Union Sq.).

N.P.M.H.U. members have hit the pavement to inform local residents and businesses about the issue — about which the union claims the Postal Service failed to inform the public. Thus far, their efforts have included visiting local community boards, posting flyers in small businesses, sending a signed petition to the Postal Service and talking to Congressional representatives’ offices.

The issue was most recently discussed at the Oct. 19 Public Safety and Transportation Committee meeting of Community Board 3, which covers one of the most affected areas, zip code 10003.

The committee unanimously approved a motion to support full reinstatement of postal services. If the C.B. 3 board approves the motion at its monthly meeting on Oct. 26, which it is likely to do, C.B. 3 will send a letter in support of postal service reinstatement to N.P.M.H.U., the U.S. Postal Service’s main office in New York and congressional representatives including Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer and Congressmembers Nydia Velazquez, Jerry Nadler, Carolyn Maloney and Charles Rangel.

Constituents on the West Side in Community Board 2 have also felt the impact of service reductions. C.B. 2 District Manager Art Strickler said that over the past couple of weeks, the board’s Bleecker St. office has received numerous phone calls and complaints about reduced pickup times.

“No one told us, no one asked us,” Strickler said about the service cuts. Because no one has lodged a formal, written complaint to the community board, Strickler said that C.B. 2 has not taken any action with respect to this issue. C.B. 2 has been referring residents to Congressmember Nadler’s office because the Postal Service falls under federal jurisdiction, he said.

According to Postal Service spokesperson Pat McGovern, however, the Postal Service does in fact inform congressional representatives of any service changes in their areas via letter. Changes in pickup times are also posted on the mailboxes themselves, she added.

In addition to censuring the Postal Service for failing to notify the public of service reductions, N.P.M.H.U. also claims the cuts are affecting postal workers’ ability to process and deliver mail in a timely manner.

In a telephone interview, Delgado said that the removal of mailboxes and peak pickup times (traditionally the 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. pickups) also worries union members because it might lead customers to other carrier services such as United Parcel Service or Federal Express.

“In the long run, it’s a manpower cut,” he said. “It’s another step to privatization of a public service, which we’re opposed to.”

McGovern said that postal service cuts resulted from regularly conducted density tests on mailboxes. Density tests check how much mail a box contains at pickup time. If a box has fewer than 25 pieces of mail upon pickup, the Postal Services deems that pickup time unnecessary. Density test results can also lead to removal of a mailbox.

“If we’re not getting those 25 pieces in those boxes and there’s another box not far from there, it doesn’t make good business sense to maintain that box there and send someone four times a day,” McGovern said.

Currently, the 10003 zip-code area has 63 regular and express mailboxes.

First-class mail volume has suffered decline since 1997, largely due to customers’ use of e-mail and online shopping resources. But McGovern explained that the Postal Service has also used the Internet to provide different services to its customers. For example, it offers “Click-N-Ship,” a program that allows customers to print stamps and labels online.

The Postal Service spokesperson also noted that customers who don’t choose to utilize Internet options can visit their local post office or leave mail with any mail carrier for delivery.

But Mayra Cappas, chairperson of the C.B. 3 Public Safety Committee, expressed her concerns about such an option for elderly and disabled residents. If forced to visit the post office, some would have to cross busy, major streets like Forsyth and Houston Sts., Cappas noted. “It poses a threat to that particular population,” she said.

Though the N.P.M.H.U. is spearheading the campaign to restore full services to affected areas, it has also received support from its two sister unions, American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers.

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