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Queens gears up to commence counting residents in Census

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Borough President Helen Marshall and a bevy of civic leaders Tuesday launched the city’s first committee to ensure all residents in the nation’s most ethnically diverse county are counted in the 2010 Census.

The federal census, conducted once every decade, “will determine our country’s representation in the U.S. Congress and state Legislature for the next 10 years and help determine where to allocate more than $300 billion in federal funding for major services, including health care, education and transporta­tion,” Marshall said. The 2010 census is slated to begin in March when the data will be collected over several months and then handed in to the President by year’s end.

To announce the formation of the Complete Count Committee, Marshall was joined at Borough Hall by Ligia Jaquez, deputy regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau; Stacey Cumberbatch, the 2010 census coordinator for the city; the Rev. Floyd Flake of the Greater Allen AME Cathedral; Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of Make the Road New York; and S.J. Jung, president of the Minkwon Center for Community Action in Flushing.

Committee members will disperse information about the census throughout the borough.

“A key component of the Complete Count Committee’s efforts is to allay fear, particularly among undocumented immigrants and people living in overcrowded housing and reinforce that under federal law, the personal information collected by the Census Bureau is entirely confidential and cannot be shared with any federal, state or city agency,” Jaquez said.

Community leaders said collecting census data in Queens can be particularly challenging because of language barriers and fears that there will be questions about immigration status — which there are not, Marshall and others emphasized.

Because of these challenges, individuals on Tuesday asked that community leaders discuss the importance of the census data with Queens residents, about half of which were born outside the United States.

“We must do everything in our power to make sure those numbers are as high as they can be,” Flake said.

In the 2000 census, Queens’ mail-in response was 54 percent, which is below the national average of 67 percent, Marshall said. Response varied throughout the borough’s different neighborhoods and much of the population in Flushing, Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst, Rego Park, Ridgewood, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill and Jamaica did not return 2000 census information.

“In Flushing, the response rate was 31.5 percent,” Jung said. “Why? Language barriers are a big problem and especially undocumented immigrants are concerned about confidentiality %u2026 Let me say this clearly — the census is confidential. Don’t be afraid to stand up and be counted.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

Posted 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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