BY DOMENICK RAFTER
Editor in Chief
If the streets seem increasingly more crowded, it’s not all in your head.
According to Census estimates, the Borough of Queens grew by about 4 percent this decade, adding over 90,000 residents. The Census Bureau estimates 2,321,580 people live in the Borough.
Queens still trails Brooklyn, which saw the biggest gain of all the boroughs. Its population now tops 2.6 million.
The Borough may be growing, but experts warn it is not because people are not leaving.
New York City suffered significant population declines due to “white flight” in the 1970s, with the City’s population dropping more than 10 percent that decade. Queens saw a population drop of about half that in that time frame.
That outmigration continues, mostly to the South, according to Queens College professor Andrew Beveridge, but the city is making up for what it lost through immigration and a birthrate that outnumbers deaths.
Beveridge noted that the spike in population may be due to rapid growth early in the decade when the economy was still bad around the country and people were staying put.
“Growth has been slowing in the last two years,” he said. “It really is going back to a normal migration pattern.”
As Queens grows, however, the question over whether or not the Borough has the infrastructure to handle it becomes ever more present.
“The trouble with the City growing fast is you need to have services,” Beveridge said. “There is tremendous overhang of fixing infrastructure.”
He added the infrastructure is needed even without the growth, but a bigger population makes it more vital.
“New York City and the metropolitan region do not have adequate infrastructure to accommodate the growing population,” said Wendy Pollack, a spokeswoman for the Regional Plan Association, in an email. “Our infrastructure is already falling short of meeting our current needs, and there will only be more pressure on our aging systems and facilities as time goes on and as the population increases.”
Though the City has poured millions into building new schools all across the Borough, they’re often already overcrowded by the time they open.
The growing population also strains the City’s roads, subways and buses, and drives up the cost of housing.
The 2010 official Census numbers claimed Queens grew by only about 1,400 people in the last decade, a count that many, including former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, says was wrong.
“I don’t think Queens was undercounted,” Beveridge said. “One possibility was that since they used the base number from the prior Census. New York was overcounted in 2000.”
He asserted that he didn’t believe the 2014 estimates were “a correction” of undercounting in 2010, instead a representation of rapid growth during the first few years of this decade.
Estimates based on race, ethnicity and gender will be released later this year, so there is no specific data on where immigrant populations are coming from. Beveridge said Latin American immigration remains strong in Queens, as is immigration from South Asian countries like Pakistan and India.
But Beveridge warns that immigration statistics could be fluid as people come and go over short periods of time.
“That’s what makes it so hard to predict,” he said. “You might have a country that has a problem, and a lot of those citizens come over here.”
He added that sometimes immigrants will return to their home countries if the situation improves there.
In a statement, the Department of City Planning said New York City’s unique situation makes Census numbers hard to keep track of.
“It is important to keep in mind that New York City has a very dynamic population, with several hundred thousand people coming and going each year,” the agency said on its website. “This ‘churn’ has long characterized the City, and represents a fluidity that is difficult to characterize using the net migration measures presented herein.”