Monday, February 23, 2015

The Tyranny of ZIP Codes

Last week, WAMC reported that Senator Charles Schumer had a plan to get the Town of Halfmoon, in Saratoga County, its own ZIP code: "A Town Without ZIP code." Halfmoon, which has 22,000 residents, is split betwen four different ZIP codes. If you live in Halfmoon, Schumer said last Wednesday at Halfmoon Town Hall, "You need to put your address as Clifton Park or Waterford or Mechanicville or Round Lake. The lack of a ZIP code has led to significant confusion, lost revenue, and it even affects emergency response."

Maybe when Senator Schumer fixes Halfmoon's ZIP code problem, he will turn his attention to Hudson's ZIP code problem. Our problem is not that we don't have our own ZIP code, but that we have to share it with Greenport and parts of Livingston, Stockport, and Ghent. It's often the cause for embarrassment, as when a few years ago the man with the wacky scheme to build a device that would silently zap people with a deadly dose of radiation was identified in the media as being from Hudson. (He actually lived on Knitt Road, along the border between Stockport and Ghent.) And there are other problems as well.

Statistics are often gathered and categorized by ZIP code, so it is difficult, if not impossible, to tease out what statistics apply only to the two square miles of Hudson. This is particularly problematic when it comes to sales tax. How much of the tax collected in the 12534 ZIP code is collected in the shops, restaurants, and B&Bs of Hudson and much is collected in the shopping malls and big boxes of Greenport?

The reason always given for why Greenport cannot have its own ZIP code is that there is another Greenport in New York: the village of Greenport in Suffolk County on Long Island. Ironically, although Greenport on Long Island seems to have preempted Greenport in Columbia County when it comes to ZIP codes, the Village of Greenport was incorporated in 1838, one year after the Town of Greenport was formed in 1837. It doesn't seem as though the duplication of names should be an insurmountable problem, but divvying up the sales tax is a problem and one that will grow worse as Greenport continues to allow itself to develop as "the retail hub of Columbia County."


  1. I know Claverack has a different zip code, but why does it get its own public library when Hudson can only have an unofficial, "area library"? Does that tie in somehow with this story?

  2. Since there is the problem of Greenport the Town and the Village of Greenport, all they would need to do is issue the Town of Greenport another ZIP code. The mailing address could still say Hudson. That would solve the problem. In NYC some buildings have their own ZIP code. It really shouldn't been that complicated.

  3. Rural delivery in parts of Claverack and Philmont requires a Hudson zip code as well.

  4. Doesn't a US Senator have more important business than zip codes of villages?

    -- Jock Spivy

    1. Recall one of his first actions as a Senator when he launched an inquiry into the cost of breakfast cereal.

      I don't eat cereal. If he'd inquired into the cost of alcohol I might feel differently about him.

  5. I live in Claverack, but my address is Hudson, because Claverack does not have its own rural delivery system...and that is why other towns have the same situation. If you want to have a post office box at the PO you will have a Claverack address, but most don't live near the small little PO in Claverack and I don't know where they would put all the boxes in that tiny space. Stottville, Stockport, Churchtown, Livingston and more...I see our postal delivery man all over the county delivering in his "seasoned" white station wagon..

  6. I live in Livingston. I have a P.O. Box in Livingston. If I had mail delivered to our home, it would be addressed as a Hudson address. Our school taxes go to Hudson. GPS is still trying to figure out where we are!

  7. It's my understanding that the share of Columbia County sales tax revenue received by each municipality in the County is based upon its proportionate population; the boundaries of the municipalities have nothing to do with zip code designations or postal delivery routes. On the other point, I have long suspected that Greenport's seeming inability to obtain its own zip code, and its own post office and delivery route, has much less to do with the Village of Greenport in Long Island, and much more to do with the politics of the USPS and maintaining the economics of the Hudson P.O. And BTW, Claverack does have a small delivery route along NYS Route 23, based on the old rural "Star Route" delivery area.