USPS fights back against ‘fishers’ with new mailboxes

Two of the new mailboxes at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street are considered higher security due to a slit for inserting mail rather than a pull-out handle. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Mailbox fishing, a type of theft aimed at stealing checks that can later be altered, has just gotten harder.

This is because the United States Postal Services is currently in the process of replacing 5,000 mail collection boxes throughout the city with higher-security models. Xavier Hernandez, a spokesperson for the USPS, said the project is being done in coordination with law enforcement agencies.

The main difference between the old boxes and new is that there is no longer a pull-down handle, but a narrow slot where letters can be inserted and dropped. Areas throughout the five boroughs that are considered “high needs” because they have been popular targets for theft, have been getting their mailboxes replaced first.

The USPS can usually tell when their collection boxes have been tampered with, because they are scratched up or have glue inside or in some cases, evidence of someone having tried to pry off the fronts. Hernandez declined to share which neighborhoods were considered high-need, explaining that thieves have managed to exploit that information. Tips on suspected theft have come from the NYPD, postal employees and customers who call if they believe they’ve had a check stolen.

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Mailman arrested for assault on Saturday

Columbia Care Medical Marijuana Dispensary on Monday afternoon (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested a mailman for assault in the East Village on Saturday at 3 p.m. after he kicked a door at the East 14th marijuana dispensary and allegedly hit an officer when police tracked him down nearby.

Thirty-year-old Daniel Jean was attempting to deliver mail to the Columbia Care Medical Marijuana Dispensary at 212 East 14th Street around 2 p.m., Gothamist reported on Sunday. Jean allegedly got into an argument with a security guard, who told him he wasn’t allowed in the building.

Police said that Jean and the guard got into an argument and the guard told him he could give her the mail but he allegedly refused. He left but returned shortly after and gave the mail to someone else, then left the dispensary again. He allegedly returned to the building a third time and kicked a door, prompting the security guard to call the police. The district attorney’s office said that the damage to the door and lock prevented the door from being able to open.

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Letters to the Editor, Dec. 15

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Shout out to a great mail carrier

During this busy holiday season, I would like to send a shout out to our great mail delivery person. Her name is Liz and she delivers mail to five buildings in ST. Living here for 26 years, I have never met or had the pleasure of meeting a terrific gal like Liz. She is always pleasant, friendly and extremely attractive and adds a flair to her uniform with a decorative hat, pin or something that will not make her look like every other USPS mail carrier. She has only been with our building about two years but I truly want to go on record about her great work ethic and personality that always makes my day when I run into her distributing the mail.

Now during the holiday season, packages are abundant and her good attitude doesn’t change, even though some days her route and pick up which is on 23rd Street, do not bring her down, and make her day much longer. Also, at holiday time, she posts a great card near the mail boxes, which is cheerful and fun, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Mother’s Day, et al.

I hope tenants who live in the buildings that this sparkling gal Liz covers are aware of her many qualities and appreciate how lucky we are to have her in our domain. Keep up the great job, Liz, and thank you from all of us who have gotten to know you and appreciate your efforts on our behalf.

Ruth Metz, ST

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Letters to the Editor, Oct. 22

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Sick of Ave. C looking like Swiss cheese

A reader sent this letter to Town & Village last Tuesday about traffic problems during ongoing work along Avenue C. A response from the DOT and Con Ed follows.

Avenue C has been torn up for over three weeks, between at least 20th Street and 14th Street. I assume this is done by the DOT but I’m not certain of it.

In any case how can any responsible agency be permitted to tear up a major access road (this stretch serves as both means of entry and exit for the East River Drive) and leave it in the condition of a veritable mine field? It’s beyond reason. Traffic is slowed to a crawl and vehicles are swerving left and right to avoid major pot holes, exposed sewer covers and gas vents. (On what had been a level street to begin with, I traverse the area daily and there were no issues with this street.) Vehicle and pedestrian safety are severely compromised.

One evening last week, Con Edison employed the use of traffic cones and security guards on both 16th and 14th Streets to secure parking for their employees on the Stuyvesant Town perimeter. I believe this was done due to the congestion caused by no parking on Avenue C. Is this legal? And to top it off, that same night DOT (?) was tearing up the intersection at 14th Street and First Avenue.

What’s going on here? Why is our neighborhood being taxed so severely by poorly coordinated city services and an out of control power company? If street work is necessary, fine. Tear it up as needed but don’t leave it in this condition for weeks (months?) at a time.

Demolition/tear-up should not be permitted unless the repairs are to be made immediately. Is this so contractors can start as many jobs as possible and then get back to them when they see fit? Who is responsible for this? The public is not being well served.

Name withheld, ST

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Package pileups continue in ST/PCV

A package pileup at 441 East 20th Street in late September gets photographed by Susan Steinberg, president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association.

A package pileup at 441 East 20th Street in late September gets photographed by Susan Steinberg, president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association.

By Sabina Mollot

For over a year, residents in some buildings in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper have had to deal with their lobbies being subjected to package pileups.

Rather than deliver packages directly to tenants’ apartments, the boxes have been left to pile up into small towers in lobbies, in some cases, tenants have said, creating a fire hazard when the boxes obstruct the doors from being able to fully open.

Additionally, last week, Susan Steinberg, president of the Tenants Association, told T&V that this situation didn’t look like it was going to change any time soon.

Last Monday, Steinberg said as she was about to leave a building in Peter Cooper, she caught up with a UPS driver who informed her that door deliveries were “always a courtesy.”

After complaining about the package pileups, Steinberg said the driver explained that the volume of packages has gotten so high that, “We can’t do it anymore or we can’t finish our rounds.”

Steinberg added that she was told at a past meeting with CompassRock that management has spoken with the different carriers about this issue. But since that hasn’t seemed to help, the Tenants Association will be bringing up the issue with management again.

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Mailboxes locked for July 4th

By Sabina Mollot

Last weekend, an eagle-eyed reader of Town & Village contacted the paper after noticing that a mailbox on East 23rd Street had been locked, unavailable for use, as was another mailbox, on East 20th Street.

We reached out to the U.S. Post Office, to ask for the reason for the locking, and if other mailbox locations were also affected, and if so, for how long.

In response, agency spokesperson Congetta Chirichello, said this was a temporary safety measure for July 4th.

“During special events such as parades and events where thousands of people are anticipated to be in a particular location – designated collection boxes are sealed at the request of the NYPD,” Chirichello said.  “Each year during the 4th of July Fireworks is one of the special occasions when this happens.”

The mailboxes were locked after the last pickup on Thursday, July 2, and were “unsealed” on Monday, July 6 upon the first mail pickup, with normal collection resuming after that.

Chirichello added that it was done as a precautionary measure with mailboxes that need to be sealed or in some cases temporarily removed for a few days determined by the USPS after being informed of the path for a parade or an event expected to be attended by thousands.

The NYPD didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Letters to the Editor, Apr. 30

Apr9 Toon Cyclone

Why was mail dumped in wrong building?

Today, Saturday, April 25, dozens (literally dozens) of pieces of mail addressed to tenants of 435 East 14th Street were dumped in the lobby of 445 East 14th Street. Most of the mail was rent bills.

I took all of it over to the lobby of 435, though I didn’t take all the magazines because I was running late for an appointment and there were a lot of magazines, too!

Anybody at 435 should regularly check the lobby of 445 because we get their mail quite frequently, though not usually as much as today.

Obviously, it was not our regular letter carrier working today because she is very careful. I wonder why the Postal Service is going down the toilet?

Maybe it’s time that PCVST set up some way of electronic rent payment (if it doesn’t already) because I’m sure this is not an isolated incident and some tenants may be late with their rent because the Postal Service (if you can call it “service”) is so bad around here.

Frances Clarke, ST

Town & Village called the Peter Stuyvesant Post Office three times on Monday and again on Wednesday to ask about this but the phone wasn’t picked up any of those times. An employee at a window said he’d heard about it and thought someone had forgotten to lock the mailboxes. An official spokesperson for the USPS didn’t respond to an email from T&V requesting a comment. A rep for CWCapital said it was a USPS issue and referred any questions to the aforemenioned agency. T&V also contacted Congress Member Carolyn Maloney whose case worker for postal issues, Sarah Belleas, asked that tenants who experience any mail problems contact her at

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Letters to the Editor, Apr. 17

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Tests failed students, not the other way around

The following letter, written by two public school principals last week, has been circulated around school communities in Education District 2.

Dear District 2 Colleagues,

Community School District 2 represents a richly diverse group of school communities and it is not often these days that we have an opportunity to join in a shared effort. Last week, and for several weeks prior, every one of our schools devoted hours of instructional time, vast human resources, and a tremendous amount of effort to preparing students to do well on the NYS ELA exams and, ultimately, to administering them.

Few of our students opted out, in part because we had high hopes, and, perhaps mistakenly, assured families that this year’s exam would reflect the feedback test makers and state officials had received from educators and families regarding the design of the test following last year’s administration.  Our students worked extremely hard and did their very best.  As school leaders, we supported teachers in ensuring that students and families kept the tests in perspective – they were important, but by no means the ultimate measure of who they are as readers, students, or human beings. We encouraged them to be optimistic, and did our best to do the same.  Frankly, many of us were disappointed by the design and quality of the tests and stood by helplessly while kids struggled to determine best answers, distorting much of what we’d taught them about effective reading skills and strategies and forgoing deep comprehension for something quite different.

On Friday morning, Liz Phillips, the principal of PS321 in Brooklyn, led her staff and her parent community in a demonstration objecting, not to testing or accountability, but to these tests in particular and, importantly, to their high stakes nature and the policy of refusing to release other than a small percentage of the questions.

By Friday evening officials were dismissing the importance of their statement, claiming that Liz and her community represented only a tiny percentage of those affected, implying that the rest of us were satisfied.  Given the terribly high stakes of these tests, for schools, for teachers and for kids, and the enormous amount of human, intellectual and financial resources that have been devoted to them, test makers should be prepared to stand by them and to allow them to undergo close scrutiny.

We propose that we hold a somewhat larger demonstration, making sure our thoughts on this are loud and clear and making it more difficult to dismiss the efforts of one school.  On Friday morning, April 11, at 8 a.m. we will invite our families and staff to speak out in a demonstration at each of our schools, expressing our deep dissatisfaction with the 2014 NYS ELA exam.  We are inviting you to join us in this action, by inviting your staff and community to join in helping to ensure that officials are not left to wonder whether or not we were satisfied.

Yours truly,

Adele Schroeter,
Principal, PS59
Lisa Ripperger,
Principal, PS234

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Soapbox: Why people go postal

Last Friday afternoon at about 2:30 p.m., I went to the Stuyvesant Post Office. The metal gate was down and a long message was taped to it indicating that they were closed in preparation for their move to the old Duane Reade on 14th.

No mention of when the new facility would be open for business.

Prior to this, no posters had been prominently displayed regarding the move. Nor was there a mailing to 10009 postal customers to let them know in advance when the switch over from one facility to another would take place.

Since the publicity months ago when the move had been announced, there had been no follow-up communication with customers.

I went next morning at 8:45 a.m. and joined a small line of people needing new post office box keys. The metal gate, still down, no longer had Friday’s notice. In fact, there was no notice of any kind. At 9 a.m., the gate was still down. At 9:03 a.m., a woman happened along and told us the new facility was open and that is where they were doing key replacements. Some of the folks had been waiting in line in front of the old facility since 8 a.m. and were angry that the original notice misled them.

At the “cozy” (read cramped) new site, only one woman was doing key replacement. Of course, because there was no sign at the old facility explaining that there would be no retail services, no mail pickup, no package pickup, etc., she was trying to answer all the customers who kept coming in looking for services not being offered and was starting to get frazzled and snappy.

After getting my new keys, I walked back to the old site where a small crowd had gathered, not knowing what was going on. I explained things to them, went back home to create two signs about the old site being closed forever and the new one opening at 9 a.m. Monday (February 24), and taped them up on the gate. By Monday morning, the signs were down and people were standing around looking at the metal gate, not knowing the status.

The lack of respect for postal customers seems to have been a hallmark of this particular post office for years, but there is no excuse for not taking simple measures that keep people informed.

If I can put up a sign, so can they.

The responsibility does not lie just with the manager of this branch. It should have been the responsibility of a higher-up to ensure that the public was well informed. In this, as in many other situations, a failure to communicate is a failing indeed.

Susan Steinberg
Stuyvesant Town

Meeting set to address planned closure of Peter Stuyvesant Post Office

Apr4 Post office vertical

Peter Stuyvesant Post Office
Photo by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

Last week, Town & Village reported that a public meeting would soon take place to discuss concerns over the planned closure of the Peter Stuyvesant Post Office in 2014.

This week, a date for the meeting has been set by the U.S. Postal Service and Community Boards 3 and 6 for April 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Campos Plaza Community Center.

Members of the public will also have the opportunity to submit written testimony, Sandro Sherrod, the chair of Community Board 6 said today. Testimony can be submitted through May 7. Originally the deadline was going to be April 20, but Sherrod said it was extended at the board’s request due to the fact that news of the closure has already concerned many in the community.

“There are a lot of older folks and limited mobility folks from Stuyvesant Town and this would present a hardship,” he said.

Even, Sherrod conceded, with the place’s infamous long lines and ornery employees.

“It’s a very inefficient operation there,” he said. “I’m always surprised at how long it takes to pick up my packages — never less than 20 minutes. But my neighbors are all talking about it.”

In response to the closure concerns, Connie Chirichello, a spokesperson for the USPS, said that although the location would be closing, a smaller center would reopen in its place somewhere else in the 10009 zip code. The USPS is looking for a 5,000 square foot center for customer service windows and mailboxes, while carriers would be rerouted to the Madison Square Post Office on East 23rd Street. This, the USPS said, shouldn’t affect customers in any way.

The agency said that it tried but was unable to reach a lease renewal agreement with the owner of the building, which is located between First Avenue and Avenue A. The lease is set to expire in February, 2014.

“We are not taking away service from the community – Delivery will continue as usual,” Chirichello said. “We are adjusting the amount of space that is actually needed to help reduce costs and at the same time make money. Customers will continue to see the same friendly employees they have come to know by name but only at the smaller post office. Customers will receive the same service they have come to expect and deserve.”

She also noted the need to downsize in space, since the entire agency has had to “tighten their belt not one notch but several.”

Citing some statistics, Chirichello noted that over the past eight years, the volume of first class mail volume has decreased 40 percent, while at the same costs have gone up for maintaining buildings, fueling up trucks, “and many of the high costs that affect all of us in our daily lives also affects business.”

As for where the station could be relocated, Sherrod said he didn’t have any ideas offhand. “I don’t think there are a lot of places in the area that are large enough,” he said.

He also added that he heard from the union that represents mail carriers that it was the owner who tried to renew the lease but that the USPS was the disinterested party.

The USPS will discuss its plans to move the Peter Stuyvesant station elsewhere at the April 22 meeting. The venue will be the Campos Plaza Community Center and gym at 611 East 13th Street (between Avenues B and C). This will be the second of two public meetings on this issue. The first meeting was held with the Manhattan Borough Board in March. Written testimony that’s submitted must reference the post office by name or location, the USPS said, and be sent to Joseph J. Mulvey, Facilities Implementation, U.S. Postal Service, 2 Congress Street, Room 8, Milford, MA, 01757-9998.