If you are a Bronx residents who swears there was a mailbox on your street corner until just last month, you can rest easy – you aren’t losing your mind.
The United States Postal Service is indeed removing the iconic blue mailboxes from Bronx neighborhoods, starting with Co-op City and other nearby neighborhoods.
The ubiquitous boxes are being modified for safety and security purposes to only allow small flat mail through a slot, replacing the small hinged door at the top of box through which mail is currently placed in the box.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service Office spokesperson Donna Harris confirmed the boxes had been removed from 10475, the Co-op City zip code, but said residents had nothing to worry about since the boxes would be replaced within a month of their removal.
The postal service is being tight-lipped about when boxes in any given neighborhood will be replaced while the process is ongoing, Harris explained.
“For the safety and security of U.S. mail carriers, we are not identifying the boxes,” she said.
Harris said that while the mailboxes are gone, residents can give their mail to letter carriers to deliver, or drop them off at the nearest USPS station.
In addition, any mail weighing more than 13 ounces must now be brought to a USPS post office to be mailed to allow postal workers to ask the mailer security questions such as whether or not the package contains flammable materials.
While postal officials insist the project is only affecting Co-op City for the time being, Bronx resident Alex Patanella said he has seen mailboxes disappear in other parts of the Bronx, most notably the University Heights area and Fordham Road.
He said the postal service officials were incorrect when they downplayed the inconvenience the move has caused.
“Tell that to the senior citizens who can’t get to the post office,” he said.
One high-ranking Bronx postal service employee who asked not to be named said the efforts are aimed at eliminating mail theft – a growing problem in the age of widespread identity theft.
The mailboxes are being replaced, the employee explained, because they have been targets of a tactic known as ‘fishing,’ in which a person drops an object covered in a sticky substance attached to a string into a mailbox and then reels it in and grabs whatever mail sticks to it.
Thieves have been known to target checks and money orders, and have been known to erase names off of these checks to cash them, the employee added.
All mailboxes throughout the entire Bronx, as well as the other boroughs, will eventually be replaced, the postal employee said.
He stressed that process may take a while, since there are currently just four mailboxes being converted at a time by just two employees at a southern Bronx post office.