NYC population booms but not everywhere and not for everyone

As any regular reader of this blog knows, I’m a huge fan of NYC. This city may not be perfect but it has so many great features — walkability, diversity, public transit, wide range of activities, four seasons, and (believe it or not) many affordable aspects to daily life — that the downsides, for me, simply aren’t enough to make even think of living elsewhere. But it’s not for everyone. For one thing, our population density is high, as described below.

https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/8/12/22622776/new-york-city-population-booms-census

New York City’s Population Booms — But Not for Everyone, Everywhere

New Census numbers show a record 8.8 million people live in the five boroughs, with population up 7.7% overall. Growth was especially strong in Brooklyn — but not for Black residents, whose numbers were down citywide.

BY YOAV GONENCLIFFORD MICHEL AND WILL WELCH  AUG 12, 2021, 9:11PM EDT

After-work commuters crossing Atlantic Avenue into Crown Heights.
After-work commuters crossing Atlantic Avenue into Crown Heights.

New York City’s population surged by more than 600,000 over the past decade, to a record high of 8.8 million people, even as the census count took place during the height of the pandemic.

Yet growth was not equitably spread across communities throughout the five boroughs, the latest U.S. Census data released Thursday shows, with the ranks of Black New Yorkers dropping by 4.5%.

The overall shift marks a 7.7% boost in residents between 2010 and 2020 — and of nearly 10% since 2000 — one of the highest rates of increase among large cities nationally.

The numbers show population hikes in every borough:

  • Brooklyn’s count grew by 9.2% since 2010, to 2,736,074 — the biggest rise of any borough.
  • Queens increased 7.8%, to 2,405,464
  • Manhattan went up 6.8%, to 1,694,251
  • The Bronx jumped 6.3% to 1,472,654
  • Staten Island expanded by 5.8%, to 495,747.

But that growth diverged between different racial groups and boroughs — with some seeing spikes while others suffered losses.

The most dramatic differences emerged in Brooklyn, where Asian population surged by 43%, while the borough’s Black population declined by 8.7% in the past decade. White population growth of 8.4% almost equaled the Black decline in Brooklyn.

Brooklynites gather outside of a juice bar in Crown Heights.
Brooklynites gather outside of a juice bar in Crown Heights.

“If you listened to people on the ground, you realized what was going on. The population is shifting because of the housing crisis, rising rents, the lack of housing ownership and rising foreclosure,” said Dr. Zulema Blair, the redistricting research director at Medgar Evers College’s Center for Law and Social Justice. “We saw all of these things mounting and we knew that the Black community would be impacted the most.”

Blair added that some Black Brooklynites may have moved to Staten Island and The Bronx for more affordable housing.

Overall, New York City lost 4.5% of its Black population in its last decade, with declines also in Manhattan and Queens and roughly stable numbers in The Bronx. Alone among boroughs, Staten Island saw its Black population grow, by 5.7%.

The city’s Hispanic population — which can be of any race — saw uneven 6.6% growth, with an 8.8% increase in Queens and The Bronx, and a 20% hike in Staten Island, while declining slightly in Manhattan and rising just 4% in Brooklyn.

Asian leaders, meanwhile, are hopeful that the new Census count could bolster ambitions to create new legislative districts focused on their communities and needs.

‘People Want to Remain’

The city’s growth in overall residents came during a period of relatively strict immigration enforcement — particularly under the administration of former President Donald Trump. That led some observers to credit the spike in the city’s population on relocation from other parts of the U.S. rather than on new immigrants.

Children depart day care in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Children depart day care in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

The 2020 Census also came at a time when hundreds of thousands of households were moving out from New York City because of the coronavirus pandemic — prompting concerns the exodus could hobble the city in the long term.

Julie Menin, who served for nearly two years as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s census director, said the numbers should put that speculation to rest.

“It’s a testament to the fact that people want to remain in New York City, that they believe in New York City, and that this whole narrative that the city is over… was a completely false narrative,” said Menin, now the Democratic nominee for City Council on the Upper East Side.

She said the population growth comes with hefty payouts — including more federal funding and greater Congressional representation.

New York State earlier this year learned it had lost one seat in the House of Representatives as a result of the census, although it had been expected to drop two. It would have held onto both seats if an additional 89 residents had been counted.

“Over 300 programs rely on the census data to determine allocation,” said Menin. “It means building new schools. It means building more affordable housing. It means building more open space. And it means making sure our infrastructure is where it needs to be.”

Looking for a COVID Comeback

In a tweet Thursday, de Blasio touted the results and his administration’s role in growing the population, saying “this is what happens when you invest in pre-K for all, safe streets and working families.”

But city officials also acknowledged that a significant part of the increase might be attributable to a more accurate count.

In an online posting, the Department of City Planning said its staffers identified more than 122,000 housing units that for a number of reasons hadn’t appeared previously in the U.S. Census Bureau’s master file.

Many of these were chalked up to addresses that are “hard to find” because of informal subdivisions in multi-family houses, according to the posting.

The agency also identified more than 140,000 newly constructed units that hadn’t yet been entered into the bureau’s master file — with the combined effort opening the door for more than 500,000 people to be counted.

A woman moves into an apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
A woman moves into an apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Kathryn Wylde, president of a group of business leaders known as the Partnership for New York City, said it was up to the next administration to maintain the city’s allure by focusing on the concerns that voters conveyed by selecting Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a moderate, as the Democratic candidate for mayor.

“Obviously the voters have declared that public safety and public health are the number one concern. And then the focus has to be on continued job growth, so that the economy remains viable,” said Wylde. “And finally affordability, so that again, as domestic migration continues — that people feel they can afford to live here.”

Wylde said the impact of COVID on the city’s population was still an open question, given that many of the change-of-addresses reported by the U.S. Postal Service weren’t marked as temporary.

“The question is how much of that exodus is or becomes permanent and, number two, does domestic immigration continue in the face of some of the changes that we expect will come from COVID — like the ability to work remotely from anywhere at a lot of jobs,” she added.

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