BY MAIRA KRALJEVIC, DIANA O’GILVIE AND RICHARD SCHACK
The numbers are in and what the experts are saying is that Queens has become a population boomtown that reflects the diversity of the nation. But questions still linger about the accuracy of Census 2000 and whether or not the errors in counting could lead to under-funding for the borough’s neediest.
According to the latest census, there has been a significant increase in the Asian and Hispanic communities in Queens since 1990.
The Asian population rose 4.8 percent more than that of the entire borough levels of 4.4 percent.
Hispanic communities in the borough accounted for a 175,485 person increase.
According to the Census 2000 statistics, Hispanics make up 25 percent of the population in Queens, now becoming the largest from all the minorities.
Hispanics also have the largest number under eighteen from all ethnic groups with a population of 153, 499. The population of individuals eighteen or older is the second largest number of people among Hispanics.
Asians make up 17.5 percent of the population in Queens.
Although the numbers are impressive, city officials and political activists maintained that not everyone was counted.
The US Census Bureau has admitted that their numbers were off by a net 3.3 million.
“We believe we did better than expected, but we still feel that we were undercounted by some 200,000,” Borough President Claire Shulman told the Tribune.
“I welcome immigration and the tremendous mix of ethnic cultures, but what we need now are federal dollars to build schools and inrastructure and to provide the quality medical care to fill the needs of those residents,” Shulman said.
“Everybody will have a discrepancy on not being fairly counted, [but], it’s fair to say that the Latinos were not fairly counted. We are still not in the power base,” said Alice Cordona of the group 100 Puerto Rican Women in Queens.
Attorney Glenn Magpantay and Democracy Project Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) said he was delighted to see the Asian growth in Queens and believes that the population expansion will definitely give the community a stronger platform for advocating political and social issues that plague them.
Magpantay said it is his belief that there was an inaccurate count.
Launching A Lawsuit
Since New York has the nation’s second largest Asian population, the impact of the undercount could be more serious for Asian New Yorkers.
“Only with the corrected census figures can we ensure fair redistricting process where racial and ethnic minorities have full and fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice, as guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act,” said Magpantay.
AALDEF has received at least 500 complaints of individuals who did not get census forms in the mail.
Also, some immigrants complained that they had to speak English to find Census Centers to get help in filling out the forms in Asian languages.
AALDEF has joined with the boroughs of Brooklyn, Bronx and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields and the city of Los Angeles in a lawsuit contending that Secretary of Commerce Don Evans’ refusal to release the statistically corrected 2000 census data is a violation of the Census Act since the secretary had already ruled that the use of such data is “feasible”.
If won, the ongoing suit would put the power of how population counts are done, back in the hands of the Census Bureau.
Shortchanged By The Census?
Candice Sandy, spokesperson for Southeast Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks, told the Tribune that the adjusted Census numbers could result in a shortfall of services and funding for the district.
Federal budgets are allocated per person., and Southeast Queens did not have a high participation rate for Census 2000.
Thereby Southeast Queens, along with other minority areas, will not get their fair share of funding for schools and daycare among other programs if the lawsuit is not won.
In correcting the census data, the process of “sampling” is employed.
But some in immigrant communities were wary of answering when government workers came knocking.
Employment of the sampling method would entail a head count of the household and a formula used to adjust the data.
According to Congressman Joe Crowley’s office, the central administration did not use this data.
Advocate groups are using this opportunity to point out the needs that should be addressed such as education and overcrowding in schools, local healthcare and English and Second Language programs.
Arturo Ignacio Sanchez a professor of Immigration Law at Barnard College sat on the Latin Advisory Committee on Census 2000 also affirms that there was a “severe undercount.”
He said that policies were made to make bilingual material readily available, but the majority of times that was not the case.
The process of hiring bilingual workers was “wanton” and the committee had to push hard for a Latino liaison in Jackson Heights.
Sanchez said he believes that there will definitely be more resources in the borough but has reservations on how they will be distributed through political criteria.
“We’ll have very little to say on how those resources will be distributed,” he told the Tribune.
What Went Wrong
Hiram Monserrate, district leader and president of Latino Action Center for Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst expressed his concern for the misrepresentation of the Hispanic community in Queens.
His group launched an extensive campaign with sixty volunteers, including assisting at Questionaire Assistance Centers, called QAC sites with census forms.and encouraging many to participate in the census.
Last year, “There was a lack of real effort and outreach, even though there were a lot of posters and ads, there was a lack of grass roots outreach which is very important and crucial. It’s important to reach immigrant communities,” Monserrate said.
“Hispanics are the fastest growing group, yet they’re undereported. I suppport the efforts of President Ferrer and the AALDEF… the resources benefit the entire state, if they’re undercounted they’re underfunded.”
Joon Park, Chairperson of the New York and New Jersey Korean American Census Task Force, said, “In 1990, very few new about the census but in 2000 everyone knows about the census, our community is united,” said Joon Park, chairperson of the New York and New Jersey Korean American Census Task Force.
“The Census bureau nominated sites with a lot of traffic, like Korean grocery stores and libraries, but there were not enough forms for people to fill out. There’s a lot of trial and error by the Census bureau and not enough knowledge,” said Park.
Unfortunately, according to Park, the Census took these forms away after only, “one week and they also ran out of forms.”
When they called to complain, Park said, the Census bureau told the Task Force, “it’s our policy and we have our deadline.”
The Census bureau also created, QAC sites, but they had “administration related mistakes,” according to Park.
These sites were set up for people to come in and get information about the census.
“People would stop in and there was not enough staff, and no telephone system.”
Even the 1-800 hotline numbers, that were bilingual catering to the Asian community were “not fully aware of what was going on,” Park said.