Residents unhappy to see neighborhood mailboxes go

Cutback: The Postal Service plans to uproot 120 boxes in Baltimore and Baltimore County to reduce costs.

July 04, 2005|By Sumathi Reddy | Sumathi Reddy,SUN STAFF

There are few things in life that one can completely rely on, making the steady presence of the U.S. Postal Service all the more comforting.

The mere sight of those ubiquitous blue post boxes conveys a semblance of order. That all is right in the world. That a man like Eric Dunn can wake up in the morning, cross the street and drop a letter into the box at 3630 Reisterstown Road.

Or maybe not.

"They're what?" said Dunn, 51, when told that the mailbox was one of 120 across Baltimore City and parts of Baltimore County to be uprooted this month.

"They're taking the mailbox down? In this community? So many people rely on this. I mean, how long has the mailbox been in existence? I like the ... box right there where it is."

From a rusting mailbox in well-heeled Wyman Park to a lonely box fronting a heavily trafficked stretch in Park Heights to boxes in the county, 120 are being eliminated from a total 1,900 in the area.

The reason is simple. Even the Postal Service needs some corporate cost-cutting.

The Baltimore district of the U.S. Postal Service conducted a density study on areas where ZIP codes begin with 212 and found that many boxes received 25 or fewer pieces of mail a day for two weeks.

"It's very cost ineffective if we're running people all over town in areas where people aren't using the boxes," said Kathleen Adams, customer relations coordinator for the Baltimore district. "Like any other business, we're looking for ways to streamline our processes, and that's one of the things that we do."

But what about the mail carriers who have to deliver mail every day, anyway?

"The box mail is collected by dedicated drivers," Adams said. "The carriers distribute the mail, but they don't pick up any mail." Carriers do take mail if someone gives them envelopes or leaves something out.

Notices are being posted on boxes to be removed, giving customers at least two weeks' notice and an opportunity to call for additional information.

"They're obviously not using these boxes," Adams said.

Not so, irate residents say.

"People use it, I use it myself two or three times a week," said Odell Knox, 62, owner of Knox's Barber Shop adjacent to a box at 4806 Park Heights Ave.

"Cars stop by all the time and use that mailbox," she said.

"That's terrible," said Tyneika Bond, 24, as Knox cut her son's hair. "What about the elderly people here who live in the neighborhood, like my husband's mother?"

If extenuating circumstances arise, the Postal Service could reverse course.

And they have. Take the plight of Earlene Smooth, a longtime resident of Lakeview Towers, a Druid Park Lake Drive public housing complex with a sizable population of senior citizens.

There is a mailbox outside, always has been for the 20 years Smooth has lived there.

So, when talk of its July 5 doom started to percolate last week, Smooth was livid.

Sure, she only drops mail in once a month. But for a 77-year- old woman who walks with a cane and just learned that her local bus service will be discontinued, the thought of the mailbox disappearing was enough to start a mini-revolution. She and fellow seniors started a petition that reached seven pages before they learned that the post office had decided to keep the box where it was.

"We will make exceptions," said Adams. "There were so many elderly patrons there, we decided to leave it there."

"Everybody here is very happy," said Smooth after she learned the box would remain.

Others are just getting the news.

In Wyman Park, there is a very old-looking mailbox at 3801 Keswick Road. A sign is posted on it.

"Attention patrons," it reads, informing them that "this box is scheduled to be removed on or about July 5, 2005."

Last week, Johanna Lewis, 31, drove up in her U.S. Postal Service van to make a pickup.

There was a movie return, a Verizon phone bill and a handful of assorted envelopes.

"This doesn't get that much mail," said Lewis as she emptied the envelopes into a crate. "Today is a normal day."

But for John White, 78, who stepped onto the porch of his rowhouse about 10 steps from the mailbox, news that it would soon be gone was enough to tilt his world.

"Well, I'll be damned," he muttered. "You just can't trust the government anymore."

Mailboxes to be removed

Here are the mailboxes to be removed this month by the U.S. Postal Service. Addresses are in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

315 Ingleside Ave.

3700 Beech Ave.

5550 Balto. National Pike

1270 Brewster St.

900 Edmondson Ave.

1237 Leeds Terrace

6033 Moorehead Rd.

2431 Brunswick Rd.

321 Stonewall Rd.

4801 Carmella Dr.

2101 Old Frederick Rd.

4711 Gateway Terrace

6415 Frederick Rd.

910 Paladi Ave.

6510 Frederick Rd.

1268 Poplar Ave.

35 N. Prospect Ave.

4764 Hollins Ferry Rd.

900 Rambling Dr.

1450 S. Rolling Rd.

5807 Gist Ave.

806 Reisterstown Rd.

5801 Jonquil Ave.

1515 Reisterstown Rd.

2301 Oswego Ave.

7600 Seven Mile Lane

3630 Reisterstown Rd.

4732 Old Court Rd.

3500 Reisterstown Rd.

934 E. Lake Ave.

2910 Reisterstown Rd.

6100 Ready Ave.

2901 Virginia Ave.

6000 York Rd.

4806 Park Heights Ave.

4401 Springdale Ave.

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