Shelter Island tackles lack of post office package delivery

Tracy Gibbs, of Shelter Island, picks up her Tracy Gibbs, of Shelter Island, picks up her mail and a package from the Shelter Island Post Office. (Feb. 21, 2013) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

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Shelter Island has a mystery about why some packages can't be delivered to their homes by mail and most everyone in the community has a theory.

And there are many, from a conspiracy to the Patriot Act, but most touch on the fact that no one there gets home mail delivery. All mail must go to a post office box, a practice not uncommon among smaller East End ZIP code communities like Shelter Island, which has two, 11964 and 11965.

To get to the bottom of the long-standing package delivery dilemma, the office of Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) is trying to set a date for a meeting next month with Shelter Island officials and a U.S. Postal Service representative. The congressman has also set up a web address -- SIPostOfficeIssues@mail.house.gov -- to accept complaints and suggestions for possible solutions.

Mostly everyone on Shelter Island seems to have a story about their problem with getting a package, or about someone's innovative way to solve the difficulty.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty tells of one man who wanted to get a package so badly he had it sent to a relative he was going to visit in Maine.

The Patriot Act theory was based on a fear that untraceable cellphones might be shipped to P.O. boxes for nefarious purposes, because they have no home address connected to them.

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But Oliver Longwell, a spokesman for Bishop, said that did not seem to be the case. The Patriot Act requires a physical address to open certain types of bank accounts, but not to get a package with a cellphone in it.

"We think it's something that has the potential to be an issue anywhere where there is no mail delivery . . . we think with two postal ZIP codes on Shelter Island, it makes the problem worse," Longwell said. "We're trying to explore a solution."

Shelter Island has two ZIP codes, although the precise boundary between them is unclear. Both are marked on maps as having "P.O. boxes only," as are parts of Wainscott, Amagansett, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton, South Jamesport and Robins Island.

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Congetta Chirichello, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service, said complaints about packages that are not delivered are reviewed by a special unit of the post office, but could give no specifics on the number of complaints or what kinds of packages might be involved.

In a written response, she said postal officials " . . . are genuinely disappointed when we learn we are unable to meet our customers' expectations."

She said customers who want to include a street address on mail could write it under their name and on top of the line with their post office box.

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