New York City is the biggest city in the country. How big is it? Bigger than the Census Bureau can count, apparently: The federal agency just acknowledged that it undercounted the city’s population by 70,060 people in July 2006. The newly revised figure of 8,213,839 means millions more in state funding for affordable housing, according to the Bloomberg administration.
Anyone who’s spent a summer in the weight room recalls with pride the first time someone noticed the added mass: “Dude, you got big!” So how did Gotham tack on seventy thou’? Was it the incline bench-press, bent-over rows, or seated dumbbell curls? In fact, it was an appeal by the city’s Planning Department.
The Census Bureau updates its decennial census every year by looking at birth and death rates in a city, as well as figures on the migration of people in or out of that jurisdiction. City Planning argued that the figures on migration aren’t reliable. It suggested an alternative way of counting, using occupancy rates and a count of housing units of different sizes. The Census Bureau bowed to City Planning’s wisdom (as it has for three straight years now, for a cumulative increase of 163,712 bodies.)
It’s cause to celebrate when the entire city of Los Angeles would have to clone itself and merge with Oklahoma City to steal the No. 1 spot, especially when you think about the years when New York was bleeding people. But while Mayor Bloomberg is quick to tout the city’s gain of 200,000 people since April 2000, getting big has its problems. One is how city services keep up with increased demand. Right now, New York has fewer cops and firefighters than it did five years ago, and while the administration says the headcount is doing more with less, the bitch from the front lines is that it doesn’t add up.