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Winter Postal Woes Tip of Iceberg, Old Irving Park Neighbors Say

By Patty Wetli | April 15, 2014 1:15pm
 Old Irving Park residents say issues with mail delivery run deeper than winter weather-related woes.
Old Irving Park residents say issues with mail delivery run deeper than winter weather-related woes.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

OLD IRVING PARK — After an unusually harsh winter in which mail delivery was disrupted across Chicago, the Postal Service has committed to a return to normalcy by Saturday, Cody Lowe, an aide in the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-5th), said at Monday's meeting of the Old Irving Park Association.

"Service has been getting better," said Lowe, who serves as the congressman's postal case worker.

But residents of the 60641 ZIP code — the most problem-plagued in Quigley's district, Lowe noted — said "normal" service isn't anything to write home about either.

"I went there one day and there were no stamps," Barbara Cohn said of the neighborhood's main post office, the Irving Park branch at 3319 N. Cicero Ave.

"I've tried to send international mail on three separate occasions and there were no forms," said Cohn, a 22-year resident of Old Irving Park. "I went to Jefferson Park, and there were tons. I have to drive all the way to another neighborhood to send mail."

Though Lowe and Mary Ann Levar, Quigley's district director, were on hand to talk about steps being taken to correct spotty delivery service that occurred in January and February, residents told the pair that this winter's issues were just the tip of the iceberg.

Clutching cups of decaf coffee to warm their hands, nearly 30 neighbors braved the cold and snowy weather to share their tales of woe.

Jan Soule said she put a vacation stop on her mail service — and received an email confirmation of her request — only to have all her mail delivered in her absence. More egregious was the arrival of her husband's paycheck in late 2013 — postmarked 2011.

"When we call, they say, 'What aren't you getting?'" she said. "Well, we don't know. I don't know what else we aren't getting."

Wendy Jo Harmston echoing a sentiment expressed by many of her neighbors.

"Our individual mail carriers are good people," Harmston said. But "serious problems" have existed at the Irving Park branch for years, she said.

A candidate in the recent race for 40th District state representative, Harmston had volunteers hand deliver her fliers to homes rather trust bulk mailing — a wise decision given that she said she just received on Friday campaign materials that should have arrived before the March 18 primary election.

More general complaints made by residents regarding the Irving Park facility: a lack of supplies, "filthy" conditions, rude treatment by postal employees, long lines to pick up packages and a staff ill-equipped to handle complicated international transactions and passport processing.

"The looks I get there trying to buy stamps ...," said Anna Zolkowski Sobor, president of neighborhood association. "I've given up complaining."

"What I'm gathering from everybody here is, 'This is the last place I want to go,'" Levar said.

Lowe, who said the number of complaints about service to individual households has slowed to a trickle in April, urged residents to contact him with specific issues. He, in turn, will pass those problems along to the Postal Service with the full weight of the congressman's office.

"All of the inquiries I've filed have gotten positive results," he said.

Added Levar, "The more complaints Cody gets, the more we'll see patterns. Keep communicating with our office."

The 60641 ZIP code is split between the districts of Quigley and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4th). Residents of the 5th District can contact Lowe at cody.lowe@mail.house.gov.