mail boxed

No Stamp of Approval for Brooklyn Post Office in IG Audit

Customers wait inside Bushwick’s main post office at Broadway and Gates Avenue.
Customers wait inside Bushwick’s main post office at Broadway and Gates Avenue. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Mail that never arrives. Long lines. And overflowing garbage bins.

Those are just some of the more than 1,800 complaints against the Bushwick post office that were filed over a nearly six-month stretch last year, according to a recently released internal audit obtained by THE CITY.

“This is the worst place in America,” said Brian Kale, who has lived in the neighborhood for six years, as he waited to pick up a package at the post office on Broadway and Gates Avenue. “I usually mail stuff to the office so I can avoid coming here.”

So many residents complained about service at the location that Rep. Nydia Velazquez last summer asked the inspector general of the U.S. Postal Service to investigate, which led to the audit.

“I took time out of my work day to come here," said Brian Kale on a recent Friday. "If I came in tomorrow the line would be out the door.”
“I took time out of my work day to come here,” said Brian Kale on a recent Friday. “If I came in tomorrow the line would be out the door.” Photo: Ben Fractenberg

Federal auditors determined that post office staff did not always properly scan the mail due to “inconsistent management oversight and supervision.”

The audit also found that there were only 34 full-time regular mail carriers to fill 42 positions during a spot check last year.

Making matters worse, five of those carriers were not on street duty due to other assignments or were out on medical leave.

Residents lodged 1,833 complaints from March 20, 2018 to Sept. 19, 2018, according to the 13-page review.

The majority of the gripes were from customers asking about missing packages (1,235) and other mail (346), the review said. People also complained about postal service staff (200) and facility conditions (52), according to the report.

‘It’s not only Bushwick’

Union officials who represent mail carriers and clerks in Brooklyn said the issues are widespread.

“It’s not only Bushwick, it’s systemic, it’s across the country,” said John Murphy, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents approximately 2,300 workers in Brooklyn.

Union officials blame belt-tightening moves resulting from the USPS’ overall declining revenue, as well as poor management, for the customer complaints in Bushwick and at other spots in the borough.

The Postal Service’s total mail volume has decreased by 26% since 2008, records show. First-class mail, the most profitable product, has gone down by 35% over that same period.

The cash-strapped agency lost $1.5 billion over the first quarter this year, despite an ongoing increase in commercial package deliveries from online retailers like Amazon.

Post office executives say they have “taken aggressive management action to right-size our network and infrastructure,” according to a fact sheet published in January.

Bushwick’s main post office at Broadway and Gates Avenue has been flagged for substandard service by a federal audit. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

That includes consolidating 364 mail processing centers, slashing starting pay and benefits for mail carriers, and farming out station repairs to private-sector firms.

Labor leaders say mail carriers and clerks are frequently asked to work 10- to 12-hour shifts six and seven days a week, especially during the peak holiday months.

“The morale at these stations is below the bottom of the barrel,” said Tom McMenamy, president of American Postal Workers, Local 251, which represents 1,438 clerks in Brooklyn.

“They are working long days,” he added. “They are not cattle. They need a break.”

In 2013, the Postal Service created a so-called “non-career employee” job title to boost its regular workforce. Those workers are paid much less than their full-blown civil service counterparts and do not receive full benefits.

The turnover rate for four categories of those “temporary workers” was 42.7% in fiscal year 2016, according to a federal audit.

In Bushwick, the office is filled with approximately 20 of those staffers who handle mail delivery, according to Murphy.

“We have a recurring problem retaining entry-level employees,” he said. “They are mandated to work so many hours. It’s not a good deal.”

The staff shortage has forced other carriers to pick up extra routes and work extra hours, according to the unions representing those employees.

’Every station’ is short-staffed

Postal Service officials denied there was a staffing issue, arguing the station actually has 60 mail carriers “on the rolls,” the report says.

An agency spokesman cited that response and declined to comment further.

Union officials – who keep close track of their membership numbers – maintain the staff shortage is a big problem.

“Pretty much every Brooklyn station has a staffing issue, some are more acute than others,” McMenamy said.

Velazquez, a Democrat whose district includes the post office, said the audit shows what she has heard from constituents for a long time.

“This is a very insightful report and I’m going to keep pressing locally to see that the inspector general’s recommendations are followed and, I’ll be in touch with the Triboro District Manager as necessary to ensure the problems are remedied,” she said in a statement to THE CITY.

The audit recommended the Postal Service move more letter carriers to the station and retrain managers on proper mail-tracking procedures.

Still, customers say nothing has changed since the audit was quietly released in February.

“It’s really bad,” said Theresa Joseph as she waited in line on a recent Friday. “Sometimes you gotta wait for an hour or two… even for stamps. It’s just horrendous.”

Postal workers: We hear that every station has staffing issues. That can’t be easy. We’d like to hear more. What’s the state of your station and staffing? If you’re facing issues, what needs to happen? Tell us. Email us at workers@thecity.nyc or text/WhatsApp us at 718-866-8674.

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