Queens population passes 2 million mark

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Queens' population officially passed the 2 million mark last year, thanks to a young, growing immigrant population, census officials announced last week.

Although the borough's population has hovered around 2 million for more than a decade, the U.S. Census Bureau's official estimates reached that number only in 1999. The figures were the bureau's last estimates to be released before it begins its massive effort over the next several weeks to count every person in the nation.

Queens' population jumped by 2.5 percent to 2,000,642 people in 1999, an increase of 7,450 from a year earlier, the bureau found. Between 1990 and 1999, the borough's population grew by about 49,000.

The increase in Queens, however, was modest compared to Staten Island and Manhattan. Staten Island's population grew by 9.1 percent between 1990 and 1999, while Manhattan's grew by 4.3 percent for the same period. The populations of the Bronx and Brooklyn declined slightly for the period.

In numerical terms, Queens ranked third among all the counties in the state for population growth, with an increase of 49,000 people between 1990 and 1999. Manhattan, with 64,000 new residents during that period, and Suffolk County, with 62,500 more people, topped the state.

The estimates reflect two forces moving in opposite directions: birth rate and migration. While more people are moving out of the borough than moving in, births exceeded deaths.

The census figures showed that 346,155 people left Queens for other parts of the country from 1990 to 1999, exceeding immigration into the borough by nearly 80,000. But the borough's 297,481 births during that period outstripped deaths by more than 130,000.

The influx of immigrants into Queens over the last nine years was second only to that of Brooklyn. Kings County added 329,801 immigrants to its population between 1990 and 1999, the largest number in the state.

"These are the last population estimates that the Census Bureau will release before Census Day, April 1, of this year," said Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt. "Census 2000 data will be released at the end of 2000, and will be the most up-to-date and accurate numbers available. We urge every resident in America to help us make Census 2000 a success so we will know how numerous we are and where we live."

Prewitt will join community leaders from across Queens this Sunday at a conference on Census 2000 hosted by LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.

Organizers of the event expect more than 500 people at the conference, called "Queens Diversity Counts: Mobilizing for Resources and Representation." Prewitt will be the keynote speaker for the event, which will be held March 19 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Long Island City campus, 31-10 Thompson Ave., E building.

"It is imperative that disenfranchised communities find the common areas of concern and unite to minimize an undercount in our communities," said Joyce Moy, director of the Center for Workforce Strategies at LaGuardia and a co-organizer of the conference.

The Census Bureau estimates that in Queens alone it missed 22,000 Hispanics, 19,000 blacks and 7,000 Asians in the 1990 Census, according to a study released last year. In response, the agency has launched a massive public awareness campaign in Queens and in other parts of the country where the undercount was especially severe.

"I think that the Census Bureau is moving in the right direction," said Bryan Pu-Folkes of Jackson Heights, a co-organizer of the conference at LaGuardia. "They still have a lot more to do."

Pu-Folkes, an attorney and founder of New Immigrant Community Empowerment, said the bureau's outreach effort has successfully mobilized community leaders, but may not reach new immigrants who are not involved in existing community-based organizations.

"Many of the families are more worried about getting food on their plates," Pu-Folkes said.

Prewitt will deliver an overview of the 2000 census, which officially kicks off on April 1, and leaders from the borough's different ethnic communities will describe the obstacles to participation in the census and strategies to overcome them.

Sponsors of the event include the Queens Forum, a partnership between LaGuardia Community College and the Jewish Relations Council; the New York/New Jersey Korean American Task Force on the Census; the Hellenic Steering Committee of New York on the Census; the Queens County Latino Advisory Caucus on the Census; Indo-Caribbean Task Force on the Census; Brookdale Center on Aging at Hunter College; and New Immigrant Community Empowerment.

Other events planned for Queens include a presentation by the Chinese American Voters Association in Flushing on March 25 at 2 p.m. and a Bangladeshi Census Event in Elmhurst on Saturday, March 25 at 6 p.m.

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