"In 1920, a movement was started to get Weehawken its own post office," said the 80-something Fleckenstein, who knows practically everything one needs to know about Weehawken. "That was just to get a post office, long before there were zip codes."
But that movement failed.
There were other pushes made since then, but, Fleckstein said, "For some reason, it always got turned down." Some mail would get misdirected and head to Union City instead of Weehawken. Both municipalities share some street names. There is a Roosevelt School in both Union City and Weehawken. It was the source for a lot of confusion for many years.
However, by next summer, those problems may be a thing of the past. Weehawken residents are being asked to fill out a postal service survey - which they will get in the mail - to see if they want a new zip code. If there is enough support, it will become a reality.
"Technology made it a necessity," Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said. "You look up a geographic region on the Internet by using a zip code and it comes up Union City. It's like Weehawken doesn't even exist. It's an identity issue as well. Anything you do over the Internet using a zip code automatically comes up Union City. It caused a lot of problems."
Rep. Robert Menendez, whose 13th Congressional District includes both Weehawken and Union City, announced the move at a press conference at the Weehawken Public Library Tuesday.
Residents of the township must fill out a survey that they get in the mail from the U.S. Postal Service. The survey will determine if there is sufficient support to proceed with the new zip code. Without support, the idea will die. "Next April, we will know [what the new code might be], and by July, we can have a true Independence Day celebration, with Weehawken's independent zip code," Menendez said. "It's part of an effort that we've made over the last three years to make sure that Weehawken has its own identity."
Added Menendez, "It had nothing to do with the efficiency of the post office. It's just that there were residents who felt that they had some difficulties in obtaining information, that there were businesses who had a tough time determining the demographics of the town, that companies wanted to know who they were marketing to. The businesses were having a tough time knowing whether to invest in the town, whether they wanted to move to the area."
Menendez said that he even ran into difficulties from his congressional office.
"Our computer software has inadvertently sent Weehawken constituents letters that were addressed to Union City," Menendez said. "The zip code on the correspondence was obviously correct, but our computer software automatically associates Union City with that zip code. Because of this confusion and duplication, many Union City and Weehawken residents have not experienced the same level of mail reliability as other communities. This can create problems in mailing mortgage payments, school test scores or other time sensitive information."
Menendez said that there were residents who didn't want to fill out the census forms because the zip code automatically read Union City on the forms.
"And they said they lived in Weehawken," Menendez said. "Because of that confusion, they didn't fill out the census. And we need every resident to fill out the census, because it means so much in terms of dollars for education, transportation and health care. Every citizen has the right to receive the same information and they were not able because of this."
Send it back
That is why Turner called upon all of the township's respective department heads, who were in attendance at the press conference, to organize a campaign to make sure the installation of the new zip code becomes a reality. "I urge the residents of Weehawken to fill out the survey and send it back," Turner said. "We're launching the campaign to fill out the surveys right now. We're asking you to speak to the people of the community and tell them to fill it out."
The U.S. Postal Service said that there will be a transition period of approximately 12 to 18 months in which the old zip code will remain in effect, along with the new one.
Union City Postmaster Edward J. Walloga said that his office didn't have any difficulty in handling Weehawken's mail, but the new zip code will be very beneficial.
"Operationally, we have been dealing with it, but it will definitely help the many residents of Weehawken who count on us to get their mail," Walloga said. "I know how the residents feel, that if they live in the community, they want to be identified. I think this will only go to make our job even easier and will enable us to have a separate base in Weehawken."
Fleckenstein was overjoyed with the news.
"We no longer have to say we share a zip code with another town," Fleckenstein said. "It's definitely been a long time coming."
Menendez said that he had no idea how difficult of a process it was for a town to obtain a zip code.
"I've been trying to work with the United States Postal Service in Washington for more than two years on this matter," Menendez said. "I never knew it was going to be this hard, but it appears as if we've come to the end of a successful fight."