SOUTH BRONX — Mail service in areas of the neighborhood are so "horrendous" and "discriminatory" that a local politician is calling on the inspector general of the U.S. Postal Service to do an audit to determine what's going wrong.
City Councilman Rafael Salamanca wrote a letter to USPS Inspector General David Williams on Oct. 17 asking him to audit service in 10 South Bronx zip codes, where incidents of late and lost mail have been rampant for years, he said.
The specific zip codes Salamanca requested Williams look into are 10451, 10454, 10455, 10456, 10457, 10459, 10460, 10472, 10473 and 10474, covering neighborhoods including Hunts Point, Longwood and Mott Haven.
"This is happening in a poor community. This doesn’t happen in Riverdale. This doesn’t happen in the Lower East Side," Salamanca said. "It’s happening in the South Bronx, and I feel that it is a form of discrimination."
Salamanca has met with several local postmasters over the past six years, including one this month, but very little has ever come out of the meetings, Salamanca writes in the letter.
He said he's tired of hearing excuses from post offices about new employees, subcontracted employees and employees who get paid on Friday and then do not show up to work on Monday.
"To be quite frank, I don’t really care about that," he said. "I want my mail delivered."
Angela Centeno, one of Salamanca's constituents, said she had a problem with her mail service after her husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer earlier this year.
Centeno's friends from Puerto Rico had sent her some guanábana leaf, which she described as an ingredient used to make tea that would help her husband cope with his illness. But the package came very late, and the guanábana had gone bad by the time it arrived, she said.
"When I opened it, everything that came in the package is no good. Everything," Centeno said.
USPS spokeswoman Maureen Marion listed several steps that the agency has taken to improve its service in The Bronx, such as working to add more indoor parcel lockers in the borough that would reduce the need for people to pick up packages at the post office and monitoring mail conditions to ensure that deliveries are made on time.
"Postal officials in The Bronx believe there has been measurable success in recent months," she said, "and we continue to move in a customer-centric direction."
In response to Salamanca's claim that the South Bronx was being discriminated when it came to post office service, Marion said: "I cannot say more strongly that the Postal Service expects all of our employees to treat each other, our customers, and the public at large with dignity and respect."
Bruce Marsh, director of government relations for the Postal Service’s Inspector General’s Office, said he had not yet received a copy of Salamanca’s letter and would have to see it before deciding whether to move forward with an audit.
“We take it seriously,” Marsh said, “and we would need to analyze and see what the issues are.”