The Case of the Disappearing New Yorkers

OK, New Yorkers, stop screwing around. Late last week, city officials said only six percent of you had actually mailed in your 2010 census forms. (That compared with a 16 percent rate nationally.)

That low rate might mean that many New Yorkers are confused or even afraid, says Ana Maria Archila, an executive director of the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York.

Archila tells the Voice that the low mail return rate doesn't mean that people aren't willing to participate. Her group has 50 canvassers knocking on doors in Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn. "People are confused," she says, "about 'race' and 'Hispanic origin.' In an immigrant household, there are many different family members in a household, so the relationship of the people to person number one is confusing too." And yes, she adds, some immigrants are generally scared of deportation and/or detention, and want to know how their information will be used.

Preliminary census figures indicate that Manhattan surprisingly lost population during 2009. Not many people — an estimated 2,500 — but the first annual loss in a decade.

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And now there are only a few days left to complete the official 2010 count. April 1, usually just a celebration of foolish behavior, is what the government is calling "Census Day." April 15, a deadline you're already familiar with, is also the last day to mail in your completed census forms.

In last week's tally of poor performance, two neighborhoods stood out for having returned no census forms at all: Soundview (Bronx) and Ocean Hill (Brooklyn). More details here.


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