LATINO VOICES
08/17/2011 08:10 am ET Updated Oct 17, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg Challenges Census Count, Hopes To Protect Funding For Hispanic Neighborhoods

NEW YORK - New York City could receive less federal funding than expected because of what the state considers to be a miscount of its Latino population in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has formally disputed the results of the 2010 census and has initiated a challenge to preserve previously-expected resource allotments.

“The 2010 census likely missed tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” Bloomberg said in an appeal letter to the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the census results, the overall population of New York City is 8.2 million, but Bloomberg maintains that the actual population is around 8.4 million.

The disparity between census figures and those of Bloomberg’s administration may not seem substantial -- only a 2.3 percent difference -- but it stands to note that the miscounted populations are Latino. The effects of this potential error could limit or reduce services in neighborhoods with Hispanic constituencies.

In the letter of appeal sent by Bloomberg last week to Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Bloomberg said that a great number of housing units in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst neighborhoods, as well as in Astoria and Jackson Heights, Queens, were classified as vacant. The report contradicts data from the city’s Office of Planning and Urban Development, which identifies those areas as active and growing.

Upon release of the initial census data, Bloomberg warned that the results did not reflect the real numbers and that he would request a revision.

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“The disproportionate concentration of vacant homes suggests that some aspect of the census count failed. Processing errors likely prevented proper reporting, collection and tabulation by the census,” said the mayor in his letter to Groves.

In his appeal, the mayor argues that the imbalances in the city’s population would modify the database of annual results, which determine the amount of federal funding the city receives.

Census figures determine the allotment of federal funds to cities in direct proportion to population growth, which means that areas such as Queens and Brooklyn, among others, could lose millions of dollars if the Census Bureau fails to correct the miscount, according to the mayor.

Bloomberg acknowledged the difficulties the Census Bureau faces because of the size and diversity of New York; however, he maintained that his appeal is correct.

“Federal authorities should work to correct what the city believes is clearly a miscount," Bloomberg said. "New York is the largest municipality in the United States and therefore deserves the exact amount of federal funds."

The 2010 census revealed in late March that the population of New York was 8.2 million, an increase of 2.1 percent compared to data reported in the 2000 census. However, the number represents a decrease of 225,000 from the provisional estimates of the last census.

The mayor is not alone in his protests. Several prominent New York elected officials support the challenge to the Census Bureau. Sens. Charles Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D), State Sen. Jose Peralta (D) and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D) have said they agree the results should be reviewed.

“The census results were poorly prepared,” Sen. Schumer said in a statement. “It is absurd to argue that there are abandoned buildings in neighborhoods known for constant growth. New York is within its rights to dispute the results."

Sen. Jose Peralta, who represents the Queens neighborhoods of Corona, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights -- neighborhoods that raised doubts about the census figures -- told AOL Latino that “the Census count definitely failed.”

“All you have to look at is school overcrowding in the area to refute the census," Peralta argued. School overcrowding is something we have been working on together with the mayor. That’s why I’m familiar with the numbers."

“We demand a real recount," he added. "It is crucial for our communities. We cannot keep pace with the wave of newcomers if we don’t have our fair share of representation and resources."

Benito Caceres, of the organization United Hispanics of Queens, said, “We are optimistic [the census count] will be fixed. The growth of Latinos is clearly seen in the streets and in the amount of children attending our schools.”

“We are sending letters to political representatives of the area to defend the numbers," Caceres added.

Maria Fernandez, a Mexican immigrant who lives in Jackson Heights, said she believes that the census may actually be correct because undocumented immigrants likely did not want to be counted and failed to report.

“I know people who didn’t want to know about the census out of fear," she said. "There is much concern about raids, and even though it is said [the census] information is not shared, people mistrust it,” Fernandez said.

At least 50 municipalities in the state have filed complaints about the census count. New York filed a similar complaint over the 1980 census.

In a brief statement, the Census Bureau said that it will rely on its Count Question Resolution Program, or CQR, to compare census reports to those presented by state governments. Through the program, the census aims to resolve any discrepancies or conflicts.

“We welcome any challenges and will pay closer attention to resolve them based on the CQR process,” a Census Bureau statement said.