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Eight Million New Yorkers!
by Andrew Beveridge
When the Census Bureau released the new numbers for New York City, demographers, politicians and everybody else reacted with shock, and with glee: There are now officially 8,008,278 New Yorkers, more than ever before.
This means the city apparently grew by 456,000 people in ten years.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani saw the new numbers as a vote of confidence, while his City Planning department attributed half of the apparent growth to bad counting in the past. But even if some of the increase is indeed due to a more accurate count, there is no question that the city has experienced a massive growth in its population, with remarkable changes occurring on every level - city-wide, borough by borough, and within individual neighborhoods.
The newspapers especially took note, making it their lead story. Two of them, the New York Times and Newsday are planning special Census coverage, and will keep all their maps and tables up online and available.
An extraordinary influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants fueled the city's growth since the last Census in 1990. The Hispanic population in the city is now larger than the African-American one, 27 percent of all New Yorkers. In fact, only 35 percent of New Yorkers are in the category of non-Hispanic white, the category used for the "majority." This is down from 42 percent a decade ago. But it is difficult to think about crisp categories of race anymore anyway. Almost five percent of New Yorkers put down more than one race on their Census form.
When outsiders think of New York City, they think mostly of Manhattan, but Manhattan was the single borough without any population growth; indeed, there was even a slight decline. (One area of Manhattan that did grow phenomenally is downtown, specifically around Battery Park, Wall Street and City Hall.) By contrast, Staten Island showed major growth, a 15 percent increase in its population. The Bronx and Brooklyn each accounted for a fifth of all the growth.
But it was the borough of Queens that offered the most spectacular numbers, accounting for half of all the growth. Many neighborhoods in Queens (including East Elmhurst, North Corona, East Flushing, Woodhaven and Springfield Gardens) were among the 25 fastest-growing neighborhoods in the city. All of these neighborhoods have large numbers of Hispanics, Asians and African Americans.
It is Queens that has changed the most demographically. The area with the largest percentage of white people in all of New York City is in Queens -- Breezy Point in the Rockaways, with 98 percent. But that area is rare indeed. Queens is no longer Archie Bunker country. The percentage of people in the borough overall who are non-Hispanic white fell from 47 percent to 32 percent, a smaller percentage than in Brooklyn (35 percent).
Northwest Queens, the area that ranges from Astoria and Long Island City to Flushing Meadow Park, seems to be the Lower East Side of the new millennium. Like that legendary area, it has become a magnet for immigrants from many lands. Fourteen of the 18 neighborhoods that increased their level of Asians by more than 10 percent were in Queens (including Utopia, Fresh Meadows, Queensboro Hill, Flushing, and East Flushing). Three neighborhoods in Queens -- Ridgewood, Woodhaven and East Elmhurst -- were the three with the largest increase in Hispanics.
It is not just Queens where all this is happening. Racial and ethnic change was most marked in Canarsie, which went from one fifth to three-quarters African-American. But pass through traffic-choked downtown Flushing, with its over 20 international banks financed with funds from the Far East. Notice the well-kept streets of St. Albans, Laurelton, and the other middle class black neighborhoods. Learn of the escalating house prices in Bayside and other neighborhoods served by school district 26. Visit a street of shops where the owners hail from Ecuador, Costa Rica, Columbia, Guatemala, Pakistan, Bangladesh. You won't need the new Census numbers to convince you that, whatever snob appeal Manhattan has now, Queens may define the future of New York City.Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and provides expert testimony on a range of cases, including housing discrimination. The opinions expressed are his alone.
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