Photo: Donald L. Pardue, (Flickr- CC BY 2.0)

It’s going to take federal legislation to get a new zip code for the Flanders-Riverside-Northampton tri-hamlet area.

The U.S. Postal Service has not responded to Rep. Lee Zeldin’s appeal of the L.I. district manager’s September 2015 rejection of the congressman’s request for a new zip code, according to Zeldin.

Zeldin responded by having a provision added to a section of the Postal Service Reform Act of 2016 that mandates a new zip code for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton. The same section of the bill also mandates new zip codes for two other places: Miami Lakes, Florida and Storey County, Nevada. The new zip codes for all three locales will be required to be designated no later than Sept. 20, 2017.

Rep. Lee Zeldin on Aug. 19 announced his formal request for new zip codes for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton. Photo: Denise Civiletti
Rep. Lee Zeldin on Aug. 19 announced his formal request for new zip codes for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The bill was passed by a House committee last week and became eligible for a floor vote by the full House of Representatives. Zeldin said he will work “to ensure that this bill is passed before the end of the year.”

In a press release announcing passage of the Postal Service Reform Act out of committee last week, Zeldin reiterated his concerns about confusion on carrier routes due to multiple duplicate addresses in the tri-hamlets, in Southampton and in other hamlets in the adjacent Town of Riverhead — all lying within the 11901 zip code. The confusion has led to packages being delivered to the wrong addresses, “sometimes even being routed as far away as Flanders, New Jersey” or returned as undeliverable, Zeldin said.

This is more than a “nuisance” for residents, he said. Undelivered or incorrectly delivered packages often contain critical medications. And the confusion created by identical and similar street names — about 50 in all — poses serious problems beyond mail delivery.

“The shared street names and zip codes within the towns can also cause major problems for police, first responders, and other emergency personnel, who may arrive at the wrong address due to these shared street names with the same zip code,” Zeldin said.

The current bill is the latest in a series of bills aimed at reforming the money-losing postal service. Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, whose Republican chairman cosponsored the bipartisan measure with the ranking Democrat on the committee, have expressed optimism that this bill, unlike previous efforts, will become law.

The House bill is close to its counterpart already pending in the Senate, “Improving Postal Operations, Service, and Transparency Act of 2015,” known as “iPOST”. In drafting the House bill, Chaffetz said he worked closely with the authors of the Senate bill, which is also a bipartisan measure.

But how a provision mandating the new zip code will be incorporated into a bill that will pass in the Senate still remains to be worked out, according to a spokesperson for Zeldin.

“Right now, we are working to help build as much support as possible from both sides of the aisle in the House to get this bill passed and signed into law by the end of the year,” said Jennifer DiSiena, Zeldin’s communications director. “As of now, we have not heard opposition about our provision from any Democrats or Republicans in the House or Senate,” she said.

“There are a few options here to get this signed into law. One possible option includes getting both bills passed in each chamber and then going to conference to finalize a compromise bill,” she said. “Another option includes having a senator introduce an amendment that includes our provision in the Senate bill. A third option is for the Senate to just pass the House version as is once it passes the House. We will need our New York Senators to help with that,” DiSiena said.

Though it’s still not certain whether the House bill or any bill with the new zip code mandate will become law, Flanders-Northampton-Riverside Community Association president Ron Fisher called Zeldin’s effort to mandate the new zip code with legislation “great news.”

“This is the closest we’ve ever come so it’s really exciting for all the people who’ve been advocating for this for over 20 years,” Fisher said yesterday. Early efforts centered on getting not only a new zip code but a new post office, but it became clear that a new post office was an unrealistic goal when the financially troubled postal service was focused on shutting down existing post offices in a money-saving consolidation effort.

The legislative amendment is “a different approach that no one has taken in the past,” Fisher said. “The community is hopeful and excited.”

Among other things, the Postal Service Reform Act would push retirees into Medicare and out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, establish a five-member governance board and a “chief innovation officer,” authorize a 2.15-percent rate increase for “market-dominant” products and a 1 cent increase in a first-class stamp.  It also seeks to phase out door or curb delivery, requiring delivery to cluster boxes in an area if 40 percent of the residents approve.

The postal service itself supports the bill.  Postmaster General and CEO Megan Brennan, in a statement issued last week said it is “the product of reasonable compromise and represents a significant step toward returning the postal service to a position of financial stability that all stakeholders agree is necessary. We look forward to continuing to work with the House and Senate and our stakeholders to get a postal reform bill passed this Congress.”

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.