Valley Stream village officials unveiled street signs for the newly renamed Birch Way on Wednesday, Feb. 17. The change is intended to resolve years of delivery and emergency services mix-ups between a handful of identical addresses in the village and Mill Brook section of the neighborhood.
Originally called Birch Lane, the village decided to rename the stretch of street between Cochran Place and Helen Court after complaints from residents that packages and mail were being wrongly delivered to a Birch Lane roughly a mile northeast in Mill Brook, which, while part of Valley Stream and within the same zip code, falls under Town of Hempstead jurisdiction.
Mayor Ed Fare said it had never been an issue in the 95 years since the village’s inception. That was until two families with identical last names moved into the same addresses on both streets. With no differentiating information, Post Office and emergency dispatcher mix-ups became frequent.
As a result, the Vasquez family at 19 Birch Lane suffered serious and frequent mix-ups. Edgardo Vasquez reported instances in which ambulances called for his 88-year-old mother, who lives with him and his family, arrived at the wrong destination, and an occasion when a doctor’s letter notifying his sister of possibly troubling mammogram test results arrived three months late after having been delivered to the wrong address. Medications too, were going to the wrong place.
“It’s been a problem since day one,” Vasquez told the village board at a work session on Dec. 7, when trustees proposed a vote on the name change. “We’ve lived her three years, and we’re ready to move out because we can’t handle it anymore.”
Others on the street reported similar issues, although not as severe.
Fifteen Birch Lane resident Frank Palacios recounted an instance over the past summer when fire trucks arrived at his home, mistaking his for the address in Mill Brook.
Mail and package mix-ups occurred, “all the time,” he said, and described the ritual in which residents from their respective Birch Lane addresses were forced to travel to each-others homes to pick them up.
“It’s an annoyance because you’re paying for your packages to get delivered to your house, and now you have to get in your car and go pick up your stuff,” he said. “If there was an emergency, those minutes could be life or death.”
Although it only affects nine homes, Mayor Ed Fare said the logistics of changing a street name are challenging, with village maps, GPS, Post Office and emergency dispatcher records having to be altered.
Village Attorney Michael Hopkins said notifying affected homeowner of what they would need to do was particularly challenging. Credit card, financial, identification and home records would all have to be updated. Reaching out to them, Hopkins Explained, was only made more difficult by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been nearly impossible with Covid-19 getting in touch with people,” he said.
As a result, the process took nearly a year, but on Jan. 11 the board voted to make the name-change official.