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Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Chronicle
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Census ‘undercounts’ Queens — legislators

Legislators lambasted the federal government for Census numbers released last week that they said grossly underestimate the growth Queens has experienced over the past decade and puts the borough at risk of losing out on significant funding for education and healthcare.

“We believe that errors have occurred in putting together the Census results for Brooklyn and Queens,” Mayor Bloomberg said at a press conference in Jackson Heights on Sunday. “It seems evident to us that something incongruous happened in the Census counting these two boroughs.”

Queens politicians wholeheartedly agreed with Bloomberg, who noted that, despite a major development boom, Jackson Heights allegedly decreased in population by 4.6 percent, going from 113,327 residents in 2000 to 108,152 in 2010, according to the Census.

The Census reports New York City grew just 2.1 percent, increasing from 8,008,278 residents to 8,175,133. Queens, a borough that has been marked by the construction of massive new apartment and condominium complexes, particularly in the western neighborhoods, reportedly grew just 0.1 percent, going from 2,229,379 residents in 2000 to 2,230,722 in 2010.

“If the Census Bureau thinks population growth in Queens is flat, it probably still believes the earth is, also,” said Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows). “We demand a recount, because our residents deserve the fair allocation of representation and resources that an accurate Census count will produce.”

Bloomberg announced that city officials plan to formally challenge the numbers, which would, if successful, change the official census numbers and bring the city additional federal funds.

“In Queens alone, the census claims that only about 1,300 new people moved into the borough,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in a prepared statement. “Tell that to the folks on the crowded Number 7 train. It’s absurd. The numbers are dead wrong, and it makes you wonder if the Census Bureau is living on a different planet.”

A spokesman for Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said the Census figures are particularly troubling because Queens will need federal aid to help alleviate its overcrowded classrooms and emergency rooms.

“The Census is important because it affects federal aid, and we really need that for schools and hospitals in Queens, which see the brunt of increased populations,” spokesman Dan Andrews said.

Marshall said she believe the numbers were so low in part because many immigrants did not participate due to language barriers or concerns they would get into trouble if they were not in the country legally.

“I believe that Queens has traditionally been undercounted and continues to be,” Marshall said. “I invite Census officials who believe that our population is stagnant to go on tour with me and discover the difference.”

Make the Road New York Executive Director Ana Maria Archila said immigrants undoubtedly were hesitant to participate in the Census and had “very real reasons” to be afraid of the government because of the detention and deportation of individuals.

Despite this, Archila noted that the Hispanic population in the borough, and city, has increased. In Queens, the Hispanic population grew by 10.3 percent. The city’s Hispanic population grew by 8.1 percent.

“The Census figures are an important reminder that Latinos and immigrants in general are a growing force and play an increasingly important role in the economic and political future of New York,” Archila said.

Alongside Jackson Heights, Astoria, Cambria Heights, Queens Village and Howard Beach also declined in population, according to the Census.

Astoria’s population reportedly decreased by 11.6 percent, Cambria Heights dropped 10.8 percent, Queens Village lost 9 percent of its population and Howard Beach dropped 7 percent.

The Arverne area saw one of the greatest percentage increases at 16.6 percent, jumping from 31,645 in 2000 to 36,885.

The number of residents in South Jamaica increased by 10.6 percent, going from 35,181 to 38,894.

“The borough is being plagued by overdevelopment, traffic congestion and limited parking, overcrowding in our schools and a deteriorating infrastructure and other issues that are directly correlated with a spiking population,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).“All anybody needs to do is try to walk through the pedestrian packed streets of downtown Flushing on any afternoon to get an idea of how overpopulated our urban centers have become. We need a more accurate counting of our population so that we receive the appropriate federal funding.”

Flushing grew by 2,646 residents, or 3.8 percent — a ludicrously small number, according to area legislators who noted the large number of developments that have been built in the area over the past 10 years.

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said the federal government must correct its data for Queens and the city.

“Federal funds are allocated based upon the number of people in each state and if undercounting has occurred communities will not receive the proper funds to meet the needs of the population for hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, public work projects and emergency services,” the congressman said in a prepared statement issued last week.

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