Postal Service Official Tries to Answer Residents’ Gripes

The Long Island district manager of the United States Postal Service has confirmed longstanding problems with customer service at the Montauk branch, but asked residents for more patience as attempts are made to implement changes. 

Frank Calabrese, the executive in charge, wrote to Representative Lee Zeldin last week, summarizing the problems as hiring difficulties, inexperience of new employees, limited space, and the volume of mail. The letter was forwarded to some of the Montauk residents who had filed formal complaints with the congressman’s office in December after months of tolerating what they characterized as poor service.

The problems mentioned in the letter include mail being delivered to the wrong addresses or not at all, delays and damage to parcel deliveries, and days when no mail is delivered at all.

Mr. Zeldin responded, saying, “U.S.P.S. provides a critical service to Long Islanders, especially those in less accessible communities, such as Montauk. It is critical that local residents receive the postal services they need, and I will continue to monitor this ongoing situation as the U.S.P.S. Long Island regional management team seeks to improve service.”

Some postal customers who read Mr. Calabrese’s letter said they were grateful the district office had been pressed to issue some kind of response but they expressed continued frustration with being asked to remain patient. They also questioned some of Mr. Calabrese’s conclusions.

“I think they thought maybe they’d send us that letter and we’d all go, ‘Yay!’ ” said Melissa Berman, one of the Montauk residents who filed the formal complaint. “But this problem has been going on so long, and their best answer is it takes time to hire and train people? Really? That’s not making anything better. This has been happening for a couple years. . . . How much time does it take? It doesn’t seem to me they’ve figured out the big-picture issues. The service is still a problem now, even though there are far fewer people here in the winter.”

In the summer, especially, parcels at the Montauk branch could be seen outside overnight in large piles on the loading dock because there was no space inside. Even though it’s now the off-season, mail trucks are still making deliveries late into the evening and branch employees can be seen outdoors on the ramp long after dark, trying to sort and process items for delivery.

Numerous residents say they frequently get text or email alerts saying their mail or packages have arrived, but when they go to the post office they’re told the items are not there or they haven’t been processed yet. Montauk businesspeople also say they have problems getting payments or needed stock in a timely way.

There is also skepticism that another of Mr. Calabrese’s stated solutions — perhaps installing pickup boxes for parcels in the lobby so customers could get them without having to wait in line — is doable. How will that work when the branch is admittedly strapped for space?

“There is no place to do that,” said Richard Brown, one of the former Montauk carriers who retired. “They’d have to build another building to do that, and they’re not going to go to that expense.”

Mr. Brown was not among the residents who filed formal complaints with Mr. Zeldin, though his mail service at Camp Hero is spotty. But Mr. Brown said he continues to care about the mail service for all Montauk residents and questioned the claim that four months isn’t enough time for the carriers hired in September to learn their routes.

“It does take some time to learn, but four months? There’s no excuse. You either have it down by then or you’re never going to get it,” Mr. Brown said. “I’m only speaking to you because I’m concerned for the people of Montauk getting their mail. What we’re asking the post office is really simple: ‘Hey, just do the job you’re paid to do. . . . The job you’re supposed to do.’ That’s all. It’s really not that hard.”

In his letter, Mr. Calabrese expanded on the causes and possible solutions for the branch’s problems:  

• Hiring difficulty: “The Montauk Post Office has had significant changes to their staffing due to retirements and employee transfers to other offices. The demand to hire new employees on the East End of Long Island has been a challenge. . . . We have hosted seven hiring fairs on the East End to fill the vacated positions we have had over the past year.”

• Training problems: “All carriers assigned to a new route that they are not familiar with go through a learning curve. As of September, we have hired two full-time rural carriers and a rural carrier associate assigned to cover for a carrier on extended leave for the Montauk Post Office. As each of these new carriers gets accustomed with their route, they will become more familiar with the residents, as our past carriers had.” 

• Space problems: “The U.S. Postal Service has had a tremendous increase in the volume of packages we receive daily in most offices. . . . We understand that this is a year-round issue, and we are taking measures to process this increased volume for the Montauk Post Office. The back doors at the Montauk facility are too small for the large equipment that the parcels arrive on, so we are working on plans to process the parcels in another facility earlier in the morning and then transporting them to the Montauk office already sorted for the route. This will reduce the processing time currently spent by our employees on the dock.”

• Renovations needed: “We will also be installing a ramp at the back dock of the post office to allow access to our postal vehicles to ease the burden of our carriers so that loading and unloading can be done quickly and safely.”