In an age where information can be sent instantly across the globe through the internet, the idea of relying on the U.S. Postal Service can feel almost comical.
Words like “snail mail” are tossed around to caricature the painstakingly slow process by which letters are sent through the Postal Service around the country. And in fact, almost everyone has some version of a horror story that ends in a package not arriving, or hours spent at a local post office.
But these are only half-truths. In fact, plenty of people rely on the Postal Service all the time. That ranges from young 20-somethings ordering books, furniture and — remarkably — food, to seniors who just want to pay their bills the way they have their entire lives.
That’s why U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel laid into the Postal Service on the House floor Sept. 9 in a last-ditch effort to goad the U.S. Postmaster General into responding to complaints he’s received about postal service in his district.
“My constituents are missing paychecks and have had their mail thrown away,” Engel said to his congressional colleagues. “This is disgraceful, and I am appalled.”
It seems, though, Engel’s minute-long speech did make an impact, according to the congressman’s spokesman Bryant Daniels. A few days later, Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman agreed to meet with Engel about his concerns in the Bronx.
“In the meeting, the postmaster said there have been a disproportionate number of complaints coming from the Northeast,” Daniels said. “We’ve been inundated with calls from constituents about issues they have been having.”
Stroman apparently admitted to Engel the problems at Bronx post offices were not simply the nature of “snail mail,” Daniels said, but they were signs of a systemic issue across the borough and the region.
Not only did Stroman address Engel’s issues, he pledged to make himself more available to the congressman to discuss progress in the Bronx and Westchester County.
That good news was accompanied by a statement from Postal Service spokesman Xavier Hernandez who said the agency has plans to expand service at six Bronx post offices, including its Kingsbridge branch at 5517 Broadway.
That includes Sunday package pickup services from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., not only in Kingsbridge, but also Cornell, Mott Haven, Parkchester and Williamsbridge.
That announcement came after another Bronx elected official, U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, put public pressure on the Postal Service, claiming there were plans to cut 120 jobs at post offices in the Bronx as a result of budget cuts — a claim which Hernandez flatly denies.
“Let me be very clear,” Hernandez said. “At no time were career employees in jeopardy of losing their postal employment, or Bronx customers facing any service reductions. Volume and revenue impacts how we can conduct our work, and we do review employee staffing and scheduling with those figures in mind.”
Apparently, however, not all problems were solved. Just as the Postal Service put out these fires, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz released a statement Monday afternoon lambasting the post office for plans to remove at least four public mailboxes, mostly in Kingsbridge.
Hernandez said he had no information regarding those plans, and couldn’t give an answer at the time.
It just means officials like Congressman Engel will have to keep a close eye on the Postal Service.
“We are not going to take our foot off the gas pedal,” Daniels said. “The service has been unacceptable, and the response has been unacceptable.”