Newark's Springfield Avenue post office hits a bump in the delivery road

By Barry Carter | The Star-Ledger
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on January 10, 2017

If you mention the Springfield Avenue post office in Newark, there's a good chance the customers would rate the service from lukewarm to thumbs down.

"It could be better,'' said one Newark man, who didn't want to give his name.

However, another city resident, Jerry Mitchell, wasn't shy. He let the "F-bomb" fly.

"It's crazy,'' he said.

Derrick Hall, the post office's acting station manager, knows what's being said, but he believes the negative perception is unwarranted. It's one he has been trying to alter since I wrote about customers' displeasure with service three years ago.

"I want to negate that (feeling of) awfulness that people have, that perception that this is a bad location,'' Hall said. "Although things may seem not always 100 percent, we are trying our best.''

This is personal to Hall. He's from Newark -- lives here. And he remembers that first unflattering story.

The line for service was long. Employees were unprofessional, rude, lackadaisical. Mail was delivered late in the day, and sometimes to the wrong house. In some cases, everyone's mail would be shoved into one mail box at a multi-family home and the residents would have to sort it out themselves.

The postmaster increased the staff and organized its system to pick up packages so customers don't wait a long time. Hall was promoted to postmaster of Avenel, but returned this past December because he wanted to build on what he believes was progress that may have slipped. He said some of the same challenges, such as long lines, had returned but he has a handle on it now.

Nicole Wright, of Newark, is willing to give you a shot, but she's skeptical after what happened during the holiday season.

Wright said that on back-to-back occasions, in November and December, she did not receive notification from the post office that a package had arrived for her to pick up.

The first issue began in late November, when someone mailed her a package from The sender gave her the tracking number and she set up a text alert for notification.

It turned out to be a well-traveled package. First it went to Kearny, then Clifton, where Wright attempted to pick it up. But when she arrived, a postal worker told her the package had been sent to the Springfield Avenue post office in Newark. So she went right over, but the package wasn't there, either.

Two weeks passed and still no package. Wright said the sender had the packaged traced and found that it somehow wound up in Ohio, then Nashua, N.H., and finally right back in Hazelwood, Mo., where the mailing originated. In the end, a relative of the sender successfully mailed it to Wright at the address where she works for a home health agency in West Orange.

The second mishap was an unexpected surprise in December when Wright went to the Springfield Avenue post office to pick up merchandise that she ordered and had tracked through Federal Express.  The postal employee gave her the package from Fedex -- and two additional packages that Wright didn't know were also waiting for her at the post office.

"I opened up the box and there were my daughter's graduation pictures that I was never notified about,'' Wright said.  "They had been sitting there since Nov 18. Had I not gone there for the other package, they (pictures) would still be sitting there.''

Hall said he has received some customer complaints about lack of notification concerning packages. But he believes it is not widespread. The same is true, he said, concerning late mail. Such incidents are isolated, he said, and that particular carrier has undergone a review to solve the problem.

"We can't monitor everyone all day. We just hope that everyone is doing the right thing,'' he said.

Melvin Satchell, an 88-year-old Newark resident and a retired New York City postal worker, said the carrier he has now is timely, but the previous mail person was late.

"It's been good for me so far, but you never know,'' Satchell said.

Nate Holmes, of Newark, was surprised to hear about problems at the post office. He said he hasn't experienced what others have gone through.

Anna Adams, also of Newark, wished she was that fortunate. She said she's not impressed with the carriers, especially the younger workers.

"They don't want to take the time to put it (mail) in the right box,'' she said.

This is the type of beef on the street level is what Hall wants to reduce among the office's 23,641 addresses. Inside the office, he has a lot to deal with as well.

He also has a unique challenge inside the post office, as well.

At the beginning of each month, Hall said, the lines are long because many of his customers use the post office to purchase money orders to pay bills and to retrieve bus cards for Medicaid approved medical appointments.

Out of 45 customers in line last Tuesday, he said, 40 were purchasing money orders. One worker, he said, processed more than 200 money orders that day. On Friday, 85 bus cards had been mailed to his office.

To speed up service, Hall recently has created separate lines for money orders and bus cards so customers getting mail or stamps can be accommodated more quickly.

"This office has been dubbed the bank of Newark, because a lot of residents don't have bank accounts,'' he said.

He's asking the public to be patient and to work with him.

George Flood, a U.S. postal spokesman for the northeast area, said the federal agency is seeing progress, but knows there's room for improvement.

He said they are increasing training, enhancing the supervisor's ability to monitor the lobby and changing schedules align with customer traffic.

If Newark residents have a concern, a comment or a compliment, Flood said, they should call the USPS Newark Customer Relations office at (973) 693-5231 or the Northern New Jersey District Consumer & Industry Contact office at (732) 819-3260.

Expect a call from Wright. Though she doesn't want to use another post office, she will.

Hall doesn't want that, either. He wants the Springfield Avenue station to be the place that people use for their postal needs.

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