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Blacks poorly counted in SE Qns.: Census

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Census workers are facing a challenge next year in counting the people of Queens in the southeast part of the borough, in areas of Richmond Hill and southwest Queens, where some communities had fewer than 40 percent of households respond to the survey in 2000.

Joseph Salvo, director of the Department of City Planning’s Population Division, told a meeting of the Borough Board Monday that census counters are “missing one of every five young black men” in areas within Community Boards 9, 10 and 12 in the southern part of Queens because of low response rates to the 2000 Census.

The average response rate to the 2000 Census in the city was 55 percent. Queens was at 54 percent, the lowest after the Bronx at 51 percent.

Salvo said the population in the areas that had a low response rate in southeast Queens “would not be classified as being hard to count” because they are black, middle-class families.

“This is obviously something that we’re trying to address,” Salvo said.

Stacy Cumberbatch, city census coordinator with the mayor’s Census 2010 Office, said areas in the Rockaways had a similar dismal response rate to that of southeast Queens.

She noted public housing in southeast Queens had response rates of fewer than 40 percent, while the borough’s largest public housing development, Queensbridge in Long Island City, had a rate higher than the city average.

Counting immigrants, especially the undocumented, can be troublesome because they might not be aware of the Census and there is “a lot of fear about disclosing information,” Cumberbatch said.

But she noted 61 percent of the city’s Spanish-speaking population sent in their Census forms in 2000 and workers will be assuring immigrants the survey is confidential and will not ask about immigration status.

“Our diversity is a strength, but it’s also a challenge as far as getting people counted,” Cumberbatch said. “Issues about language, issues about trust with the government can be overcome,” she said.

About 3.4 million census forms are expected to be mailed out in March 2010 and are due back April 21, Cumberbatch said.

For the first time, the forms will also be mailed in Spanish to households in heavily Spanish-speaking census tracts. A language guide will also be sent out to inform non-English speakers how they can obtain the form in their language.

In 2008, Salvo said more than 2.29 million people called the borough home.

“Queens is growing. It’s large,” he said.

He noted that 48 percent of the borough’s population is foreign-born and that 70 percent is either first- or second-generation American — a figure he said compares with Queens statistics from 100 years ago.

While the borough’s net domestic migration — those coming in and out of Queens from within the United States — is negative, its net international migration is positive, Salvo said.

He said Queens’ net international migration numbers mean language, health and other services are always needed.

“There’s a constant influx of new people,” he said.

Salvo also went through Queens’ population statistics with the board.

Among the more interesting facts:

• two out of every three babies in Queens are born to foreign-born mothers

• Mexicans have grown to become the largest immigrant group in Astoria

• Queens’ Ecuadorian population increased 69 percent between 2000 and 2005-07

• the Peruvian population has grown 68 percent

• 40 percent of the borough’s black population is foreign-born

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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