There are no mailboxes at any residence or business in Verplanck. There is, however, a lot of bustle at the Post Office in the hamlet’s center, where people must go to get their mail despite snow, rain or heat.
Forget the gloom of night: the branch keeps typical business hours, though they close for lunch from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm.
When open, the place is a whirlwind of activity. Seniors gather in the morning and a parade of people shuttle in and out all day, making U-turns, parking in front of the fire hydrant and entering, key in hand, to check their postal box, which is free with proof of residency.
“It’s not normal, but it gave us an excuse to take a walk,” said Frances Conforti, who lived in Verplanck for several years and moved to Peekskill. “I wondered why this particular town had no mail service, but hey, it gives the seniors something to do after breakfast.”
The Postal Service may deny mail delivery to municipalities with fewer than 2,500 residents, said a spokesman. Nearby, residents of Crompond, Glenham and Fort Montgomery must also pick up their mail.
In Crugers, another hamlet within Cortlandt, the mail is delivered by the Croton-on-Hudson office, but with the Postal Service losing billions of dollars every year, expanding services is not on their to-do list. Residents who desire local delivery in areas where there is none are free to petition the local postmaster, said the spokesman.
In Verplanck, the postal situation is polarizing, especially as demographics change. In the late 1980s, a man named Walter Tripp circulated a petition to institute mail delivery, but became something of a pariah for doing so.
Yet he had local allies: “once, when discussing the issue with him, I calculated how much it cost to pick up my mail,” said Frank Farrell, who recently shuttered his Verplanck printing shop. “Assuming I didn’t stop and talk with someone, it took at least 15 minutes a day, five days a week. And that’s for 42 years.”
Verplanck, population 1,051, is an isolated pocket of Westchester. Many homes near the river are built on a bluff that offers unobstructed views. Residents who have spent their entire lives there call themselves Pointers after the geographic feature at land’s end that juts into the Hudson.
“There are only three roads in and out, so no one is just passing through,” said Warren Smith, 60, a Pointer. “A lot of the old timers are resistant to change and like picking up their mail, but I see a lot of newcomers from the city moving in and they aren’t so pleased.”
A commuter to Manhattan, Smith recognizes the system’s downside. “I just became the treasurer of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society,” he said. “If I didn’t have family to help me out with the mail, I’d never see the bills.”
The area’s charm is attracting attention, especially after the KinoSaito Arts Center renovated a decaying school building and opened in 2021. Its focus on abstract visual art, avant-garde music and sound bath programs stand out amidst the surrounding down-home vibe.
The hamlet’s layout features a jumble of homes, industrial buildings and brick apartments that spill off an expansive boulevard aptly named Broadway. Much of the shoreline is tucked away behind fencing on the west side of town.
Oil tanks, a trailer park and a seaplane base once covered what is now the local gem, a riverfront park across from historic Stony Point. Developers wanted to build residences there, but it’s all open-space with views stretching well beyond Croton Point. Some trailer homes still stand along Kings Ferry Road.
Now, developers are vying to build more than 200 units on what is known as the Quarry Site, for years an illicit and dangerous swimming hole. The Town of Cortlandt is considering all sorts of proposals to open up the 99-acre area and put it to some use.
Every Saturday in front of the Post Office, Smith, who is running for Town Supervisor, holds court and talks local politics. His son funded an Eagle Scout project by selling American flags in front of the building.
As he huddled with a small group, Mike Stewart took in the Mayberry-like scene. “I love that we have to pick up the mail,” he said. “You get to chit chat and catch up with people. This is small town Americana.”