Fire Island P.O. May Close: Amazon Packages, Etc. Are Too Much Work

Fire Island Post Office cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

Last week, Donald Trump attacked Amazon for using the U.S. Postal Service to deliver its packages to consumers. He tweeted that Amazon considers the Post Office a “Delivery Boy.” Since Amazon is now the Postal Service’s largest single customer, this has to stop.

The trouble is, the U.S. Postal Service considers Amazon its salvation. The more Amazon packages are sent, the more money they make. It’s the regular old-fashioned lick-a-stamp service that has nosedived. Before Amazon, the Postal Service was losing $2.7 billion a year because not enough employees were getting laid off to account for the nosedive. An upswing in packages stabilizes the service.

There are two weird things about this. First, our president, a businessman, doesn’t look at this deeply enough before firing off his tweet. And this man has his finger on a nuclear button.

The second thing is an article in Newsday about a post office on Long Island that considers itself in deep trouble because of an increase in packages. It’s so bad, they think they may have to shut down. As you read on, consider how a dramatic increase in Amazon delivery would be perceived at a private company such as USP and FedEx, both of which are investing, growing and building more facilities to handle the increase and making more money as their stock prices go up. They love this.

The post office that may close is in the Village of Saltaire on Fire Island. It’s a summer operation. The post office could send a few employees to take the ferry out there in the summertime, but that wasn’t how they did it. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they found that too complicated. Instead, they contracted with the Village of Saltaire to run it, paying the village a fee for their efforts. The village hires the part-time people and keeps track of them.

There are two of them, one of whom, according to Newsday, is 83 years old. The deal is that the Post Office sells the Village its stamps for the price of the stamps. There’s no profit in it. In the old days it was maybe two bags a day. The two employees sorted those bags and put them in the mail slots. They would also hold packages in the back for the residents, but they were paid nothing extra for holding packages.

The Postal Service has paid Saltaire the astonishingly low fee of $2,500 a summer to run the office. There are no cars in Saltaire on Fire Island. People get their mail at the post office and, if there is a large package, transport it by pulling red metal toy wagons.

“That sort of small town post office operation has turned into a freight depot for us,” Village Administrator Mario Posillico told Newsday, pointing out that the back room overflowed last summer. The packages are shipped from the mainland by ferry, and whatever the arrangement is with the post office is also now completely inadequate.

“It’s become a challenge,” said Tim Moonie, the President of Fire Island Ferries. “This is not what we signed up for.” He told Newsday they sometimes ferried nearly 1,000 packages a day last summer.

Saltaire asked for more money from the U.S. Postal Service for 2018. The business has increased nearly tenfold in the last 10 years. Washington said they’d give them $15,000.

“Our big issue is once you realize the packages are not going to stop coming, you really have to figure out what’s the best way to control the process,” Mayor John Zaccaro Jr. told Newsday.

What seems to have happened is that somewhere in the jumble of bureaucracy in Washington, nobody got the message that 10 times $2,500 is $25,000. The Postal
Service, nationally, loses $16 billion a year. And they want more money on Fire Island? Hey, we’re broke!

And so, Saltaire may just close up. The 400 residents would have to get their mail on the mainland. And the Postal Service, instead of seizing the increase in the packages as an opportunity as UPS or FedEx would, just doesn’t get it. As for Trump, here’s a businessman who should know better.

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