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A tale of two Birches

Village to change street name after address mix-ups

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Birch Lane resident Edgardo Vasquez said he had had enough.

In the three years since he and his family moved to their Valley Stream neighborhood from Queens, he has had frequent mail, delivery and emergency services mix-ups to his home that have ranged from inconvenient to more serious and possibly life-threatening.

Boiler oil deliveries have shown up that he never asked for, as well as mail often delivered for the wrong people. At times, he said, strangers have wandered onto his property, sometimes into his garage and backyard, believing that his home was for sale and an open house was being held.

More troubling, Vasquez recounted, were occasions when ambulances called for his 88-year-old mother, who lives with him and his family, arrived at the wrong destination. Once, a doctor’s letter notifying his sister of possibly troubling mammogram test results arrived three months late — it had been delivered to the wrong address. Medications too, were going to the wrong place, he said.

“It’s been a problem since day one,” Vasquez told village officials at the Dec. 7 board of trustees work session. “We’ve lived here three years, and we’re ready to move out because we can’t handle it anymore.”

Vasquez’s woes appeared to be a case of mistaken identity. He and his family live at 19 Birch Lane. Roughly a mile to the northeast, however, is another Birch Lane, within Valley Stream and even in the same ZIP code, but it lies in the neighborhood’s Mill Brook section, outside the incorporated village. Mill Brook falls under Town of Hempstead jurisdiction.

Faced with complaints from Vasquez, the village came up with a solution. Officials planned to change the name of a portion of the village’s Birch Lane to Birch Way. The board of trustees had planned to vote to approve the measure on Monday, but it was postponed. The decision would affect nine homes.

Mayor Ed Fare said Vasquez’s was an unprecedented situation. In the 95 years since the village’s incorporation, the dueling Birch Lanes hadn’t been a problem — until, he said, two people with the same last names moved into the same addresses on their respective streets. Without any differentiating information, Post Office and emergency dispatcher mix-ups became common.

While village Attorney Michael Hopkins said that changing the street name was relatively simple, the challenge came in notifying the affected homeowners of what they would need to do. 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. To ease disruption, only the stretch of Birch Lane from Cochran Place to Helen Court would be affected. Fare said the decision to change the street from a lane to a way came at the suggestion of the local postmaster.

It took nearly a year for the village to come up with what Fare described as an “amicable resolution” to the situation. Now, all that’s left is for the board to vote to change the official village map to reflect the street name change.

After hearing the solution, Vasquez said it seemed reasonable. “We’re ready to move forward,” he said, noting that Monday, when village officials had originally scheduled the final vote on the name change, was his birthday.