The United States Postal Service is months into a major mailbox security undertaking in the Bronx, but the extended length of the project is a topic of growing concern by borough officials.
The USPS began removing the ubiquitous blue drop boxes from the entire borough this past fall to make them immune to fishing, a method of stealing mail from a mailbox by dropping an object covered in glue or another sticky substance into the mail slot and them pulling the mail out.
Fishing thefts continue to be a problem citywide.
More than $11,000 in checks were stolen from an East Harlem mailbox by someone using the method in recent months, according to various published reports.
The stolen checks were placed in the box by Boriken Neighborhood Health Center, who eventually caught on when vendors reported not receiving payments.
While most residents welcome the safety improvements, many did not welcome the inconvenience of losing their neighborhood mailbox, particularly during this past holiday season.
Making matters worse, residents were not provided with advanced notice that the removals would occur.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz for instance, who has been frustrated by the ordeal, claims the postal service has failed to answer his questions or provide a timeline for the mailboxes to be returned.
“This is a situation that could have been managed had my office and other elected officials been contacted and informed this would be happening,” Dinowitz stated on Friday, January 6. “We could have worked together to make sure people could still post their mail while these mailboxes were being replaced.
“Sadly, the USPS decided it was not important to keep us in the loop, nor did they seem to think this is important enough issue to address in a timely fashion.“
Suggestions that the postal service set up temporary collection stations in areas with no mailboxes have been implemented by the service, Dinowitz added.
Representatives from the USPS met with Community Board 10 on Tuesday, January 17 during a committee meeting to discuss the situation in Co-op City, said Board 10 chairman Martin Prince.
He said the representatives, led by U.S. Postal Inspection Service spokeswoman Donna Harris and Bronx Postmaster Lilliam Rodriguez, apologized for not being more proactive in their communication with Bronx officials and residents.
He said he was assured the situation was temporary.
“All the boxes will be returned,” Prince said.
Prince reminded residents that USPS mail carriers wiill pick up outgoing mail from residents’ homes until the mailboxes are replaced.
Harris confirmed that a borough meeting would be scheduled soon to discuss the topic and that the project was ongoing.
A representative from the office of Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. also attended the January 17 meeting.
Diaz’s spokesman, John DeSio, said the staff member requested a meeting between postal service officials and the borough board in the near future to get an update on the process and have questions answered.
“Mailbox fishing has become a serious problem across the Bronx, and my office looks forward to working with our community boards, elected officials and the United States Post Office to identify solutions that protect the integrity of our mail and postal system,” stated Diaz Jr. on Wednesday, January 18.