Ask Westchester, November 2012: Local Time Capsules, Confusing ZIP Codes, and More

Inefficient bridges, confusing ZIP codes, and lost time capsules: government at its finest



Q: Are there any time capsules buried in Westchester?
—Denise Ackerman, White Plains

Yorktown’s time capsule will be opened July 4, 2076


A: Yes. In White Plains, there are at least three time capsules underground, all buried by school students—one at White Plains Middle School, buried in 1983, which won’t be opened until 2283; one at Post Road School, in 1989, to be opened in 2014; and one at George Washington School in 2003 to be opened in 2053. Yonkers students sent gifts to the students of 2100 in 2000. But why should kids have all the fun? Scarsdale has a time capsule next to Village Hall, buried in 1988, to be opened in 2088. Cortlandt buried one in 2010 in honor of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s trip, and that will be opened on the 500th anniversary of said voyage. Yorktown plunked one in the ground at Railroad Park in 1976 to be opened July 4, 2076; and, in 2004, Rye sent a letter from the Mayor to the city’s citizens of 2104 by burying it with some other goodies near the Baronio Memorial Herb Garden. Now, someone write this all down or we’ll end up like the folks in Mahopac who, two years ago, found a time capsule that no one remembers burying.

 

Q: Why does the Tappan Zee Bridge cross at such a broad portion of the Hudson River? Is there some reason they didn’t build it where it would be a lot cheaper to construct, or is this government bureaucracy at its finest?
—S. Lotte, Chappaqua

The Tappan Zee Bridge spans the Hudson in a wide spot because of bureaucratic wrangling


A: Oh, 1950—a time of building, of infrastructure, of expansion. A time when the NY/NJ Port Authority asserted that “the three existing Hudson crossings, the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge, were operating at near capacity and would be overtaxed within two years,” the New York Times reported back then. Good thing we’ve nipped that problem in the bud. Oh wait—we haven’t. What we have done is build one additional bridge and put it at one of the longest spans across the river. Why?
Because one too many agencies wanted to solve the problem.
While the Port Authority, which had control of the river from New York City to Piermont, wanted to put a new bridge where the river wasn’t so wide—they proposed just south of Dobbs Ferry—it couldn’t. The NYS Thruway Authority concurrently had its own plans to extend its road across the Hudson into Westchester and, given that the port agency hoped to connect its bridge with the New Jersey Turnpike, didn’t see both of the competing projects surviving. As a result, Governor Dewey—a fan of the Thruway Authority he helped create—promptly shut down the PA’s request to study the feasibility of their span.
The PA, in turn, refused to relinquish jurisdiction over the Dobbs Ferry space (citing its promise to bondholders that no other group would be allowed to build within its territory), forcing the Thruway to construct their “winning” bridge farther north at Tarrytown. So, infighting, bureaucracy, and the force of then-Governor Dewey—led to what we have now: a really, really, long bridge that’s overburdened.

 

Q: Why is it that in certain towns the PO Box is in a different town than the street address? For example, the Westchester County Airport is in Harrison, but the physical address says White Plains. Many other towns, like Eastchester, Greenburgh, and New Rochelle, have large areas with Scarsdale POs when they are clearly not in Scarsdale. In fact, the Scarsdale PD and FD would never respond to an alarm in those towns. These are just examples, as this happens a lot in other areas in Westchester.
—Mike Levine, Harrison

A: True, Mike. We generally call the post office for our fire and police emergencies. Nevertheless, the answer to your query is interesting.
ZIP (“Zone Improvement Plan”) codes are just that—codes, in which different parts signal different things. The first three numbers tell the Postal Service the area of the country to bring your letter to be sorted. All Westchester ZIP codes start with a 105 through 109 and all go to the Sectional Center Facility in White Plains for sorting. The last two digits tell the Postal Service what actual post office to take your mail. So, for example, in ZIP code 10601 the “106” gets a letter to Westchester and the “01” gets it to a specific post office in White Plains.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Each post office is designed to serve a certain number of people. But population changes. So, let’s say a post office was originally built to serve 10,000 people, all in town A, but then neighboring town B goes and opens a Whole Foods and a bunch of foodies move there. To remain efficient, the post office in town A may have to start serving some people on the border of town B who are close to the post office. But here’s the problem: Post offices assign a place name to each ZIP Code. So, in our little example, a resident of town B who has a ZIP Code with the town A post office will now have town A in his mailing address.
So that’s why New Ro folks may have a Scarsdale mailing address—they’re in a Scarsdale ZIP code. The federal government is aware that this system isn’t perfect and has created a system to file a “municipal identity request” for a change in the place name assigned to your address. But this can require each resident to change all his/her subscriptions, pick up packages at a new post office, etc., and isn’t often granted. So just deal.
 

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