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Statement Of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg On 2010 Census Undercount

March 27, 2011

The following are Mayor Bloomberg's remarks as prepared for delivery at Manuel De Dios Unanue Triangle in Jackson Heights

"Good afternoon. At the outset, let me note with sorrow yesterday's passing of a great New Yorker: Geraldine Ferraro.

"She served our city as a school teacher, as a prosecutor in the Queens district attorney's office, and as a member of Congress, representing the neighborhood we're in today, before making history as the first woman to be nominated for national office by either major political party. 

"She fought passionately and effectively for all New Yorkers. So it's fitting that we're joined today by a large number of New York's elected leaders here, in her old district, to launch a new battle for New Yorkers: rectifying the apparent under-count of city residents in the 2010 Census.

"Our Administration has been looking at the Census numbers non-stop since they were released last Thursday. And we can now say that we plan to formally challenge the Census results for our city, under the 'Count Question Resolution' process established by the Census Bureau.

"We believe that errors have occurred in putting together the Census results for Brooklyn and Queens. It seem evident to us that something incongruous happened in the Census count in these two boroughs.?

"We're in the process of reporting to the Census Bureau our analysis of the implausibly high numbers of vacant housing units the Bureau reported in some of the most vital neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, including where we are today: Jackson Heights.

"If we're successful through this process, the 2010 Census numbers would change - a great result for New York City. It wouldn't change the process of determining our Congressional representation, but it would change the population numbers that Federal agencies use to apportion funds to cities and states.

"It would change those population numbers for 2010 - and that in turn would set a higher baseline for the population estimates the Census Bureau will make until the 2020 Census.

"And although Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is not with us, I want to thank her for working with us to develop the path we're using to make this challenge.

"Jackson Heights is a good example of the problems we've discovered. According to the Census Bureau, the population of Jackson Heights decreased - that's right, I said decreased - by nearly 5,200 people, or by about five percent, between the years 2000 and 2010.

"They also found that here in Jackson Heights between 2000 and 2010, there was a drop of some 1,300 occupied units and an increase of 1,200 vacant units. In the Astoria and Steinway areas of Northwest Queens, the Census Bureau reported similar population declines and large increases in housing vacancies.

"Everything we know about these neighborhoods tells a very different story. These are vibrant, vital communities. People who have tried to find apartments in these neighborhoods can confirm that there just isn't an abundance of vacancies.

"So what seems possible to us is that the Census Bureau was unable to get in touch with immigrants, and others, who live here, and in other parts of Queens and Brooklyn. And then it simply recorded their homes as 'vacant.'

"The result is that borough-wide, the Census Bureau determined that the population of Queens increased by only 1,300 people during the past decade. That's an increase of just one-tenth of one percent.

"Could that really be possible? As they say in Brooklyn: Fuhgeddaboudit.

"These findings also fly in the face of what the Census Bureau has said about New York as recently as March 2010. Then, it estimated that we were home to about 8.4 million people. But now it says that our total population is less than 8.2 million people.

"That computes to an under-count amounting to roughly 2.6 percent of our city's population, or 225,000 people. So we're asking the Census Bureau to take another look at the data from Brooklyn and Queens, and check to see if errors were made in compiling the final results.

"There's something else that makes the sizable under-count in our city especially hard to figure. And that's the higher rate at which New Yorkers answered last year's Census, even as the participation rate for the nation as a whole remained flat.

"For the 2000 Census, the participation rate in our city was 60 percent. But for last year's Census, it increased to 63 percent. This, despite the fact that we have more hard-to-count residents - immigrants, young, single people, and others - than any other locality in the U.S.

"We made a year-long, full court press to get New Yorkers to answer the Census. If we hadn't, the apparent Census under-count would have been even greater.

"And if the Census Bureau had only come to us, as they were preparing to send out their door-to-door enumerators last April, and said: 'There seem to be a lot of vacant addresses in Jackson Heights, and other neighborhoods.'

"We could and would have done even more to step up our outreach efforts in those communities. In the future, such improved communications should be the practice."

Stu Loeser/Marc La Vorgna

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