Elected officials press Bronx postmaster to fix longstanding mail service problems
The United States Postal Service has finally reached a conclusion that residents have known for years: mail delivery here stinks. Now the USPS is promising to do something about it.
“For years we have suffered from misdelivered mail, from bad customer service, from standing on lines for over two hours in our Southern Boulevard office,” said Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr. at a community board meeting two weeks ago. “They heard our cries, and they agreed to have an audit.”
The audit, performed by the Federal Office of the Inspector General, focused on post offices in nine different locations: the Bronx General Post Office, Hunts Point, the Boulevard, the Hub, Morrisania, Mott Haven, Soundview, Tremont and West Farms. And it found that residents’ complaints were right.
“There are always a lot of people here and long lines,” said Jose Zambrana, 61, about the Southern Boulevard station. “I’ve waited an hour and a half to be attended. There are five or six people working, but only two of them attending customers.”
According to the April 2017 audit report, customers spent an average of seven minutes or more in line, waiting a maximum of up to 56 minutes. Customers picking up packages faced even longer wait times, waiting anywhere from 12 minutes to two hours.
The report also found that mail was not always delivered on time at the nine stations under review, mainly because parcel route carriers did not have access to many buildings, while foot route carriers had access through non-postal keys provided by the building owners or managers.
The audit also noted that in many cases, the buildings are to blame for undelivered mail. Some carriers were unable to deliver mail because the buildings had damaged or unsecured mailboxes.
The analysis of the complaint data found that 10 percent of customer complaints were not resolved in a timely manner, including complaints about undelivered packages, inefficient package storage methods and station personnel failing to send final notice notifications to customers for mail stored at the station.
But the post office’s New York District management has promised to fix the problems.
Xavier C. Hernandez, the corporate communications specialist at the USPS, said that management will start to engage with customers more directly, expand training for staff, revise the package storing/retrieving systems in-house, and attempt to cooperate with building managers for full access to mail delivery.
The plan includes: purchasing parcel lockers, conducting on-site reviews, adding service specific retail customer services lines, adding a mobile payment option, holding “meet and greet” sessions with customers, monitoring wait time in line, and notifying station management when wait times are too long.
“These concerns, we’ve been having for a very long time,” said Community Board 2 District Manager Ralph Acevedo. “I’m really happy that the councilman was able to get this audit in place. It’s a victory for everyone.”
The audit results come after years of resident complaints, phone calls and letters sent by the community board and as of last year, Salamanca’s office. According to Ryan Monell, legislative and communications director for the councilman, the office has been in frequent communication with the Bronx postmaster, and has requested that the USPS provide better training for its retail employees and mail carriers. The office is also working on a solution that will provide older buildings and public housing buildings with safer delivery methods for packages. Salamanca is also compiling a list of landlords who are not complying with mail standards, and will inform landlords that they need to comply. In the coming weeks or months, the office hopes to have a proposal for a bill that would fine landlords who don’t abide by postal standards.
“We intend to be very proactive and hopefully are able to create progress and change sooner rather than later,” said Monell.
The Office of Congressman Jose E. Serrano is also working on solving these issues. According to Ramon Cabral, deputy district director at the congressman’s office, Serrano’s office is looking at ways they can help move the USPS’s correction plan along — including creating federal legislation — based on the audit’s recommendations.
Salamanca is scheduled to meet with the postmaster this month to review the progress. And Serrano’s office has an internal staff meeting scheduled for next week to discuss the best solutions for the issues found in the audit.
“The USPS has taken an approach in trying to see how they can fix these issues at a broader sense, and we’re happy that they’re doing that,” said Cabral. “Just also know that this is going to take some time, so folks should feel free to reach out to us if they need help with post office issues.”