NYC Census 2020 Launches "Census Subway Series" and "NYC Counts" Contest to Mobilize New Yorkers to Complete 2020 Census

To fight back against President Trump’s move to cut census short by one month, 10 neighborhoods with low self-response rates will be matched over five weeks to mobilize census completion; New Yorkers who complete census now eligible to win exciting, new prizes

NEW YORK — NYC Census 2020 today announced the launch of the NYC “Census Subway Series” and “NYC Counts” census contest, to mobilize New Yorkers to self-respond to the census immediately, following President Trump’s move to cut the census short by one month.

The Census Subway Series is a five-week challenge in which two neighborhoods from different boroughs will compete against each other to see which neighborhood posts the largest gains in its self-response rate over the course of a week. The first two neighborhoods to compete are Jamaica, Queens (current self-response rate: 49.4%) and Canarsie, Brooklyn (current self-response rate: 47.9%). Subsequent neighborhood competitions will be determined on a weekly basis, based on the latest self-response rate data. As of August 14, New York City’s self-response rate is 55.6%, and the nation’s is 63.6%.

In addition to bragging rights, residents of the competing neighborhoods -- as well as any New Yorker who completes the census during the next five weeks -- may be eligible to win exciting prizes from Seamless, Lyft, and MoMA as part of the new NYC Counts census contest. Any New Yorker who completes the census starting Monday, August 17 can enter the contest to win one or more of the following prizes:

  • $1,000 gift card from Seamless (six total)
  • A $50 Lyft credit voucher and annual CitiBike membership (100 total)
  • An annual membership to The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 (a $200 value; 25 total)

All New Yorkers must take a photo of their census completion confirmation page and upload it to the City’s website to enter. Complete rules can be found at The last day to enter is Monday, September 21, 2020.

“The 2020 Census will be a critical component of New York City’s recovery after COVID-19. That means we must do everything we can to achieve a complete and accurate count, and fight Donald Trump’s attempts to steal the census,” said Julie Menin, Director of NYC Census 2020 and Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel, NYC Law Department. “We thank Seamless, Lyft, and MoMA, for supporting our efforts through incentives that will enrich the lives of the New Yorkers who win great prizes for their families.”

“Every New Yorker–regardless of background, immigration status, age, or what language you speak–has the right to be counted in the census as we fight for our fair share of vital funding and political representation for our communities,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “The census is safe, responses are completely confidential and protected, and there are NO questions about citizenship or immigration. We are excited to partner with Seamless, Lyft, and MoMA, as we work to get all New Yorkers counted in the census by September 30. You don’t have to wait for a census taker to knock on your door—you can fill out the census online or by phone today.”

“What is at stake in the census? Simply put: Political and financial power. The Census determines the number of seats New York holds in Congress and the funding it receives for housing, health care, education, transportation and much more. It is absolutely vital that New Yorkers stand up and be counted, especially during these difficult times when -- more than ever -- New York needs its fair share of representation in Congress and of federal dollars to support those important programs and services that we rely on every day,” said Joseph Salvo, Chief Demographer at the Department of City Planning.

Filling out the census has never been more important. The census determines how the federal government distributes nearly $1.5 trillion every year to states and cities for education, housing, transportation, health care, and much more. New York City relies on census data to make critical decisions every day, including planning for vaccinations, affordable housing, sanitation and transportation services, and countless additional vital programs and services used by every New Yorker.

The census also determines the number of seats New York State has in Congress, as well as the shapes and sizes of local and state legislative districts. If New York does not achieve a complete and accurate count in this year’s census, the state could lose up to two congressional seats, as well as representation in Albany. Given the unprecedented and dire economic crisis New York City is currently facing, the city cannot risk losing any representation in the bodies where decisions about New York City’s economic and political future are being made every day.

It is precisely because the census is the basis on which all states and cities -- and in particular Black, Brown, and immigrant communities -- can obtain the money, power, and respect that are rightfully theirs that the President has made multiple attempts to manipulate and undermine the census, including his latest move to cut the census short by an entire month. In New York City, this means that the U.S. Census Bureau now must count nearly 1.7 million households that have not yet responded to the census in just seven weeks. Outside of Manhattan, the neighborhoods in New York City with the lowest self-response rates are largely Black, Brown, and immigrant neighborhoods (also true for cities across the country), exposing the true motive behind the President’s move: a partisan, political ploy to rob diverse communities coast to coast of the empowerment and respect the Constitution guarantees them. 

“We’re excited to continue supporting NYC Census 2020 in driving respondents for this effort, especially with the time crunch the city is facing,” added Padma Rao, VP of Special Projects at Grubhub. “We want to do our part in giving back to the community, ensuring New Yorkers get the resources they deserve and need for their neighborhoods.”

"The 2020 Census will majorly impact federal funding for NYC communities, including schools, hospitals, and job training, and critical transportation projects like safe street redesigns and protected bike lanes," said Laura Fox, General Manager for Citi Bike at Lyft. "Lyft is excited to help New York City's efforts by supporting this contest with 100 vouchers of $50 in Lyft credits and 100 free Citi Bike memberships, in addition to providing 1,000 free month-long Citi Bike memberships to non-profit volunteer census workers, to help ensure that every New Yorker is counted."

“We’re proud to support NYC Census 2020 and to encourage our fellow New Yorkers to participate in the census and help all our communities across the five boroughs,” said James Gara, Chief Operating Officer for The Museum of Modern Art. “We’re thrilled to give memberships to the contest winners and look forward to welcoming them to enjoy all that The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 have to offer."

Given that the census is a national competition for resources and representation, it is important to understand the city’s response rate relative to that of the nation. Though New York City is currently behind the nation by 7.9 percentage points in terms of census self-response rates, as a result of NYC Census 2020’s extensive citywide and hyper-local organizing efforts, the city’s response rate has increased by 1.8 percentage points in the last three weeks, while the nation’s only increased by one percentage point. In 2020, New York City has been aggressively closing the gap between itself and the nation as compared to 2010, when the gap between the city and the nation was 14 percentage points at the start of the U.S. Census Bureau’s door-knocking period.

“It cannot be understated how important it is for everyone to be counted in the census, making sure our communities get their due federal funding and voice in Washington. With the deadline fast approaching, we must all do our part in reminding our friends, family and neighbors to get counted. That said, I have no doubt that Jamaica will rise to the challenge and show Canarsie, Brooklyn that Southeast Queens comes out on top,” said Congressman Gregory Meeks.

"As our city recovers from COVID, the resources the census unlocks will be more important than ever. With so much on the line, we can use a little healthy competition between neighborhoods to increase their self response rates. I look forward to the census subway series coming to the Bronx and want to thank NYC Census 2020 for their continued efforts to make sure our communities count," said State Senator Alessandra Biaggi (D-34 Bronx/ Westchester).

“Getting counted is about more than just one person — it’s about making sure our communities have what they need. Kudos to the city for this competition to help ensure every New Yorker, no matter who they are, gets counted in the census,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes.

“At a time when our city is facing unprecedented challenges, it is more important than ever to ensure we get the representation and funding that our population warrants. It is the responsibility of every single New Yorker to stand up and be counted,” said State Senator Liz Krueger. “Do it for your family, do it for your neighborhood, do it to win a gift card, whatever - just do it!”

“I support the “Census Subway Series” and “NYC Counts” census contest because it will encourage more people fill out the census. Ensuring a more accurate count is so important because census numbers will decide how precious federal funds will be allocated annually for programs and services including education, housing, community development, healthcare, job training and services for the elderly. The more people who participate in the 2020 Census, the better our communities will be and the more equitable federal dollars will be distributed,” said State Senator James Sanders Jr.

"Our city's response to the Census will determine how we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. For communities that have been disproportionately hard hit, like my district, it is critical that everyone gets counted. In addition to emergency response funds, the Census informs funding on schools, libraries, hospitals and more. Every New Yorker should fill out the Census. I thank the sponsors and look forward to this friendly competition for a good cause,” said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte.

“Everybody needs to fill out the census by phone, computer or by paper form. 10 minutes for 10 years of benefits.  Help make sure our neighborhoods get the funding it deserves! Without your participation, our schools, hospitals and roads will suffer,” said Assistant Speaker, Assemblymember Felix W. Ortiz.

“This year’s census is more important than ever, with critical funding and political representation on the line. I am pleased to be working in tandem with the NYC Census Outreach team to boost the self-response rate and capture the vital resources we need for schools, infrastructure, healthcare, and so much more. The census is about money, power, and respect, and we are excited to continue spreading this message and engage in a little friendly competition with our neighbors in Brooklyn," said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. "Southeast Queens has a long history of civic activism and engagement, and our diverse communities reflect the richness and vibrancy of our city and country. We are members of the African diaspora, the sons and daughters of the Caribbean, and pioneers from South Asia, Latin America, along with so much more. And we are determined to be counted in the census!”

“It is more important than ever to ensure every single person in New York City participates in the census to help secure the future of our communities,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “We cannot allow our neighborhoods to be cheated out of their fair share of federal funding and must continue collective efforts for a complete count.”

“Filling out the Census is fundamental to our survival as a community and a city. If you have ever complained about services such as Education, Health and Housing, this is all dependent on funds we receive from Washington D.C. It is every person's responsibility to fill out the Census in order to ensure that we are not shortchanged of our fair share,” stated Council Member Alan Maisel.

"Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the city budget crisis, it's more important than ever that Jamaica be counted. Our fair share of representation, services, and funding depends on,” said Council Member Rory I. Lancman.

“Every effort to count every New Yorker is welcome, especially when we can make the census more exciting and relevant for New Yorkers using contests and prizes that showcase the best of what the city has to offer,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I look forward to participating in these new initiatives.”

The census is easy, safe, and confidential. The census is 10 simple questions that take less than 10 minutes to complete. All New Yorkers can easily self-respond now online at or by phone at 1-844-330-2020. The census does not ask about immigration, citizenship, criminal history, or income. By law, all census responses are completely confidential and cannot be shared with anyone, including any immigration authorities, tax authorities, any law enforcement authorities, or even landlords. The penalties for breaking this law, Title XIII of the U.S. Code, are up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. This law has not been broken since it was passed in 1953.

Currently, the U.S. Census Bureau is conducting NRFU (Non-Response Follow-Up). NRFU is when census takers visit all the homes that have not yet completed the census. If you do not want a census taker knocking on your door, complete the census online or by phone right away. If you self-respond completely and accurately, it is unlikely that you will get a knock on your door during NRFU.