Residents of two New Hyde Park postal ZIP codes have learned the true meaning of snail mail.
In recent months they have complained of inconsistent and slow mail deliveries, resulting in days without mail being picked up or received. That meant missed medications, delayed tax payments, late bills, even lost wedding shower invitations, residents said.
An official from the district's postal service said the delays in ZIP codes 11040 and 11042 have been addressed and were the result of staff reductions, consolidated and longer routes, and weather-related injuries to carriers.
"We've had a perfect storm of issues," said Bob Guglielmo, postmaster for the U.S. Postal Service in New Hyde Park.
The number of district routes dropped to 45 this year from 53 last year, making routes longer, he said. Four carriers retired, and at least five were sidelined by on-the-job injuries, Guglielmo said.
The center has hired four carriers to reduce the workload, and is looking at restructuring routes so businesses receive mail earlier in the day. A restructuring late last year moved deliveries to later in the day for some local businesses, Guglielmo said, adding that before that the district hadn't "had major changes for close to 20 years."
Mail delivery has been sporadic since at least the beginning of the year, residents said, noting issues have improved considerably over the past few weeks.
Lewis Raher, 64, said deliveries earlier this year had been hit or miss. One day he received a single store sales brochure, but another day 20 pieces of mail. He said outgoing mail sat in his mailbox for two days before being picked up, and a check someone mailed to him arrived nearly three weeks late.
His wife's thyroid medication did not arrive before a scheduled vacation, he said.
"My whole life one of the things I never thought about was not getting your mail," said Raher, an area resident for 17 years. "You can't go for days without."
Residents last week said issues have largely been resolved. Local and federal officials, including state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth, have said they worked with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who contacted the postal service.
Hayley Stein, a New Hyde Park resident for 22 years, said she received a late notice from a store indicating the company hadn't received a payment from her. A fee was waived when she explained the issue, but her property tax submission to the Town of North Hempstead, she said, was lost in the mail.
She said she was surprised to be charged a late fee for roughly $50 from the town more than a month after she had sent it in. She said she ended up paying the fee.
Ryan Mulholland, a town spokesman, said in a statement that state law "provides no mechanism for a late fee refund to occur."
The U.S. Postal Service ended the 2013 fiscal year with a $5 billion net loss. Total mail volume was down to 158.4 billion pieces in 2013, from 159.8 billion pieces the year before, according to the agency website.
"The problem is there's a limit to what you can do with cost cutting," said Rick Geddes, an associate professor in the Cornell University Department of Policy Analysis and Management. "The postal service is caught in this crunch of declining revenues and rising unit costs. . . . There are not as many postal workers -- either delivery letter carries or people at the sorting machines -- and the process just moves more slowly."The U.S. Postal Service in 2013:
$5B net loss for fiscal year
7th consecutive year of net losses
158.4B pieces total mail volume, down from 159.8B pieces a year before
2.8B pieces fewer in first class mail, the service's most profitable product
$72.1B in operating expenses, a drop from $81B in 2012
12M drop in work hours in 2013 (1.1%)
$66B in operating revenue, up from $65.2B in 2012.
Source: U.S. Postal Service