The U.S. Post Office Paints Over The Work Of Brooklyn Heights’ “Captain Cleanup”

This just in from a BHB reader — it appears the the United States Post Office has determined the work of Brooklyn Heights’ so-called “Captain Cleanup” is not up to snuff. A USPS worker was spotted this morning covering up the “avenger’s” work with official government paint:

Homer, right now, 10:00 am, a postal worker is re painting the Hicks/Remsen mailboxes. It is not his choice, but from the main office – I guess at Cadman Plaza.

UPDATE: Both boxes at Hicks and Remsen have now been officially painted over by “the Man”.

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  • PB

    It’s a shame his hard work is lost and the aesthetic has been downgraded.

    On the other hand, if this is what it takes to get the post office to get rid of the graffiti so be it.

  • cary

    incredible that they don’t repaint the dozens in horrible condition and just focus on one that already looks good. government waste at it’s best. i bet you they paid $100 for the paint can too.

  • Pineappler

    I hope they made painting the various mailboxes in the neighborhood that have been graphittied with the word “ill” recently a priority over Captain Cleanup’s mailboxes.

  • cary

    i’m gonna guess that they’ll paint over 1 or 2 of these clean mailboxes and then stop. i’ll be pleasantly surprised if they actually fix up one of these…

  • cary

    not sure why only a few thousand people have this installed, but if you like taking pictures… you might as well send the graffiti ones to 311 through their app…



  • HicksOnHicks

    Captain Cleanup Rocks!! Two thumbs down on the Post Office.

  • Mr. X.

    My work on restoring the two unsightly United States Post Office Relay Mailboxes on the corner of Remsen and Henry Streets took several days and was still not complete when the Post Office decided to repaint the work I had done so far. I think that several comments here are appropriate. I take no exception the the Post Service or any other organization (private or public) from painting their publicly placed objects, especially when these objects are covered in graffiti or are in poor and unsightly condition. The mailboxes above were in terrible condition and were the most prominent objects at the very visible Remsen and Henry Street intersection. They had been neglected for many many years (I walk by them almost daily). I take no issue with the colors the Post Office used to repaint over my work of a couple days ago. In this case, I prefer the shade of green I selected, but I am more interested in the fact that the boxes are painted and the graffiti is now removed. Preparing these boxes for a nice paint job was no small feat. I removed every piece of adhesive and scotch tape, whether painted over or on the outer surface, from the boxes. Every surface was wire brushed to remove loose paint and rust. I also used a razor blade to take off excess paint. The exposed metal was also covered with a rust proof prime coat of paint. So, regardless of who painted them or what color the boxes were painted, the preparation work should translate into a smoother and nicer looking finish for everyone to enjoy. However, where I take exception is that Post Office chose to promptly repaint the boxes I had just completed when less than one full block away on the same side of the street on the corner of Remsen and Henry Streets are two identical side-by-side USPS Relay Mailboxes and a blue ordinary USPS mailbox that are in the most deplorable and disgusting condition. I find it hard to believe that the post office would go to the time and expense to repaint the boxes I had just fixed up when on the same block of Remsen Street there are more of the exact same items in desperate need of repair and paint. How does this make any sense? It doesn’t, of course. What this indicates is that someone in the Post Office got wind that these relay mailboxes got repainted and that was simply unacceptable to some decision maker in that organization. Having a private citizen repair and paint a damaged USPS mailbox must have been viewed by that decision maker in the USPS organization as some form of transgression because it either highlights the sad fact that the USPS has been neglectful in their maintenance of the mailboxes in Brooklyn Heights or because it reflects badly on the difficulties that this USPS person has had in performing his or her job. It is not my intention to make the USPS look badly. In fact, my intention is just the opposite. I would like people to see good looking, well maintained mailboxes (and give the USPS the credit for such) and treat these objects with respect and, as a result, be less inclined to deface them with graffiti and the such. The Post Office fails to realize that very very few people know that the repainting work I performed was done as a private citizen pro bono. Most people seeing me doing this work actually think I work for the post office, as most who stop to speak to me comment to that effect. Furthermore, does the USPS think that a private citizen repainting a few disfigured mailboxes is going to impinge upon the public’s view towards that organization when the neighborhood is blanketed with countless graffiti covered mailboxes? What does the USPS think the average passerby will conclude when that person sees an increasing number of mailboxes well painted, good looking mailboxes? The USPS is a fine organization and their service in delivering mail is nothing short of exceptional. The USPS mail delivery personnel are professional and the most pleasant of people. I do not think I have ever met a USPS mail delivery person that I did not like. Unfortunately, the USPS is losing money as volumes have fallen from 103.7 million pieces of first class mail in 2001 to 68.7 million in 2012 (due to the advancement of email and other forms of electronic communication). The pressure of falling revenues and rising costs has created a 2012 net loss position for $16 billion, despite legitimate ongoing efforts at efficiency and cost reduction. With the above in mind, I am more than happy to be of service to the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood and the USPS by performing some maintenance work (that may be put off due to budget constraints) at my own time and expense and to do so in a manner that does not “deface” USPS property. In thinking about this development, it only steels my resolve in working towards improving Brooklyn Heights along these lines. This work, by me and others (such as the Brooklyn Heights Association), transcends the USPS. Since this initiative began, repainting in the neighborhood has been going on now for USPS boxes, vintage fire department alarms, rusted traffic sign poles, traffic control boxes, street light poles, and more. There are man many more objects in need of repair and repainting, including all the tree guards along Montague Street, the flag pole in the entrance to the Promenade at Montague Street, additional USPS boxes, the poles for the old parking meters, and so on. I see no turning back now. I hope that others decide to join the effort. Your s Truly, Mr. X (now aka Captain Clean-up).

  • Mr. X.

    In the Brooklyn Heights Blog there have been a number of comments from readers how my actions in repainting graffiti covered mailboxes is a federal offense. Upon investigation of the law, I have found that this is not the case at all. The applicable federal statute is as follows…

    Federal Law – Title 18, Section 1705

    According to Section 1705 of Title 18, “Whoever willfully or maliciously injures, tears down or destroys any letter box or other receptacle intended or used for the receipt or delivery of mail on any mail route, or breaks open the same or willfully or maliciously injures, defaces or destroys any mail deposited therein, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

    This means that violators can serve a prison sentence up to three years for each act of vandalism.

    The U.S. Postal Inspection Service notes that a fine of $250,000 can be levied.

    …..I see no circumstance under which the repainting of public mailboxes (particularly ones that are covered in graffiti and that have been previously defaced) in colors that are intended to reasonably match those used by the USPS violates this law. The operative words are “maliciously injures, tears down or destroys”. I find it hard to believe that any court would ever conclude that my scraping, sanding, priming, and final coat painting of Brooklyn Heights mailboxes would constitute malicious injury.

    While painting mailboxes, I have had a number of people approach me to comment right off the bat “you know what you are doing is illegal.” I usually just smile and go on with my business. Generally I am not interested in listening to the negativity associated with such a comment when my actions are improving the condition of the objects being painted and the neighborhood also. As I think about this, I realize now that these people making such comments have completely brainwashed themselves into thinking that there is nothing that can be done about this awful graffiti situation in Brooklyn Heights (and probably elsewhere too). For these people, the law does not permit graffiti (and does not do a good job in defeating it), but at the same time the law does not allow someone to repair that graffiti damage. As such, living with these deplorable conditions becomes their lot in life. They can not accept anything other than the cards that life has dealt them, seem unwilling to take the initiate to improve things themselves, and they are not interested in seeing anyone go outside this perceived reality. Fortunately, these people are in the minority. Well, now I know the exact statue involved – Federal Law Title 18, Section 1705. I will be sure to ask the next person who brings up the issue of legality if they themselves have read the relevant statutes.

    On a more upbeat note, as I was putting trim (I did not paint the box itself – only the trim work) on a newly painted traffic control box on the the corner of Montague and Clinton Streets this weekend, I was approached by a nice young lady of color who introduced herself as being in charge of the Flatbush BID (Business Improvement District). She made all sorts of inquiries as to what I was doing and took a keen interest in how much better things looked newly painted. She became quite animated about it all and I think that she will go back to her Flatbush district and undertake a similar effort to improve things. I could not be more pleased as others see what has been started in Brooklyn Heights and take it elsewhere. Yours Truly, Mr. X.

  • Arch Stanton

    311, NYC has no jurisdiction over mail boxes.

  • Arch Stanton

    Graffiti = “deplorable conditions” Dude, you need a reality check.

  • Claude Scales

    Arch, you need a check on what you are willing to accept.

  • Arch Stanton

    I guess after traveling in some underdeveloped countries, my gauge of what “deplorable conditions” are is somewhat different than Mr. X.