When Big Brown Puts on the Brakes

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Published: August 27, 2006

When Belinda Dixon was selected as a delegate to the 1992 Democratic National Convention, her credentials were sent to her via United Parcel Service. Ms. Dixon says the delivery never arrived at her apartment on Brabant Street in Mariners Harbor, and after much wrangling, U.P.S. rushed the credentials to her on the convention floor.

It would be start Ms. Dixon’s list of complaints against the shipping company, “the first bad taste I had,” as she put it last week.

More than a decade later, Ms. Dixon has begun a push to get U.P.S. to improve its service to several areas of Staten Island. Ms. Dixon, who lives in Mariners Harbor Houses, a public housing project with nearly 1,700 residents, made her complaints earlier this month to The Staten Island Advance, a local newspaper. She charged that U.P.S. drivers make residents of five apartment complexes, including hers, go out to their trucks to get packages, rather than deliver door to door.

Ms. Dixon, 55, a secretary for the New York Police Department, was prompted to complain this time because of a delivery problem involving a proclamation citing her 30 years of Police Department service. State Senator Diane Savino shipped the proclamation to her via U.P.S. in June, but it never arrived, Ms. Dixon said.

After The Advance published several articles about her complaints, officials began to take notice.

“It basically rubbed me the wrong way,” Representative Vito Fossella, who represents Staten Island and part of Brooklyn in Congress, said of the company’s policies in the apartment complexes. “I think they’re a good company, but I was a little surprised.”

As it turns out, the campaign Ms. Dixon started has resulted in a change of U.P.S. policy. After reviewing its procedures last week, the company announced it would start sending drivers into the lobbies of two housing projects, West Brighton Houses and Richmond Terrace Houses, rather than having the drivers wait in the parking lot — provided they can get keys. The situation at Stapleton Houses, Park Hill Apartments in the Clifton neighborhood, and Mariners Harbor Houses was still being studied, the company said.

According to Norman Black, a spokesman for U.P.S., the company’s policy of meeting residents in their parking lots began more than 10 years ago. Then, he said, five delivery drivers were the subject of separate violent attacks, including stabbings, hijackings and the burning of a company delivery trucks. At that time, he said, the company began the policy of calling customers and asking them to pick up their package outside.

“Until recently, we had never received a complaint about it,’’ he added, “nor had we ever had anybody complain about access to their package.”

As Ms. Dixon sees it, a policy change is long overdue, since Staten Island, like the rest of the city, has grown safer over the last decade. Still, she is wary. “If I’m sending Christmas packages,’’ she said, “I send my packages in October.” JEFF VANDAM