Newark apartment complex discovers there is no delivery without proper mail boxes

By Barry Carter | The Star-Ledger
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on July 14, 2015

Bertha Martin is a resident of Chadwick Village, a public housing complex in Newark that had not received regular mail service since February.

 

Bertha Martin was glad to see the mail carrier yesterday at Chadwick Village in Newark.

She and other residents of the 20-unit apartment complex have not had regular mail service since February and had grown tired of picking up their mail from the post office and the complex manager's office. 

"This is something that could have been taken care of way back," says Martin, a self-appointed problem solver.

It didn't, and here's why.

Chadwick Village residents moved out three years ago, when the Newark Housing Authority relocated families while the complex was renovated.

They returned – in February – to central air conditioning, bay windows and landscaped front yards with black wrought iron fences. To the right side of each front door, there are nifty-looking black mailboxes.

Everything seemed fine, but residents wondered why the mail carrier was bypassing their homes.

Martin, though, knew what happened. The development no longer had pedestal mailboxes, a large single unit containing a cluster of individual mailbox units.

Chadwick Village had these units when it first opened in 1987. Martin was the tenant president and she arranged for the units to be installed after learning that the post office had ended door-to-door mail delivery to new developments. Instead, the Postal Service required that these developments have the mailbox cluster rather than individual boxes outside each front door.

After the recent renovation was completed, the housing authority, for some reason, did not know it was supposed to order the cluster mailboxes. Martin doesn't understand this one, but she believes new management at her complex wasn't aware of what needed to be done.

George Flood, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman, says there was an agreement between the postal service and the housing authority that mail delivery would resume when the housing agency ordered the cluster mailboxes.

"The delay in the installation is the result of a disagreement between the housing authority and their contractors," Flood says.

The housing authority claims it doesn't know what he's talking about. Janet Abrahams, NHA's chief operating officer, says there was no disagreement with contractors, and she wasn't aware of an agreement to order the cluster mailboxes for service to resume.

She says her office didn't realize that residents were not getting mail until May, when Chadwick Village manager Alita Thompson could not make any headway in getting the post office to deliver residents' mail.

"I didn't understand," Abrahams says. "Why not deliver at those units until the situation is resolved?"

Abrahams says Thompson was only able to get the Postal Service to allow residents to pick up their mail at the Springfield Avenue Post Office.

But that soon became a hardship for many residents. Several are disabled, including Shakira Johnson, who is in a motorized wheelchair.

When she was finally able to get her mail, Johnson says weeks had passed and it was stacked high. 

Martin says that taking the bus twice a week to pick up mail was an inconvenience. Her 14-year-old granddaughter missed out on a summer job with the city because she never received an acceptance letter; it was returned to the summer youth employment program.

The pick-up arrangement was a flop. Residents couldn't get to the post office regularly and that caused a backlog of mail. When they did get there, Flood says retrieving their mail pulled postal employees away from servicing other customers. Eventually, Flood says his manager at the Springfield Avenue Post Office had to tell Thompson that, as of June 1, Chadwick residents could no longer pick their mail up at the post office and that it would be returned to the sender.

Abrahams says when Thompson gave her the news in May, she convinced the Postal Service to bring the mail to Thompson's office until the cluster mailboxes arrived.

The boxes were ordered, but no one told Martin, who complained about the situation to housing authority commissioners at their meeting last month.

Martin says not receiving mail is unacceptable to residents, who sometimes also had a difficult time getting their mail from the manager's office.

On Wednesdays, the office is closed; any other day the manager wasn't there also meant residents couldn't pick up their mail.

Resident Denise Simmons says the manager's officer should not have been a stand-in for the post office.

"Let us get our mail, because we have a location (address)," she says. "When it comes to our private mail, that shouldn't be sorted by the manager's office."

All of those issues were resolved yesterday, when the mail carrier showed up, stuffing those decorative black mailboxes with mail.  Flood says the postal service decided last Friday that it would resume mail service at the development until the cluster mailboxes arrive.

They're supposed be there on Friday.

Martin hopes so. "It shouldn't have taken this long," she says.

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