Volume 22, Number 50 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | April 23 - 29, 2010
Be neighborly and be counted
“It’s a catastrophe.”
That was Ro Sheffe’s apt description when we asked him last week about the low census response rate in Lower Manhattan. Sheffe, a Community Board 1 member, added he was a “bit shocked and ashamed” of his neighbors because they hadn’t yet filled out their census forms.
We are a little too.
With all of the school overcrowding issues we have been chronicling in Lower Manhattan, we would have thought neighborhoods like Battery Park City would have had the highest response rates, not one of the lowest in Manhattan — less than 48 percent. We have chastised school officials for not planning ahead of time for the need for more schools, but it will be much harder for them to do that in the future if too many Downtowners don’t send their census forms back.
On Wednesday, politicians and protestors went to the South St. firehouse to voice their displeasure at possible cuts to the Engine 4 company and 61 others around the city. That’s one important way to make sure our neighborhoods have enough fire protection. Another is to fill out your census so planners know how many people they have to protect.
If you don’t want to lose police patrols, libraries and political representation, then fill out your form. Even if you believe government spends too much, filling out the census aids your cause too because it means fewer homes will have to be visited, keeping the cost of the census itself lower.
Do you think Albany pays enough attention to funding mass transit, rent protections, and bedrock civil rights like gay marriage? Does Congress take environmental problems seriously enough?
We suspect many of you, like us, answer no to all of those questions. It’ll make all of those problems less hard to solve if Downtowners are counted in higher numbers.
Part of us wants all Americans to fill out the census, but part of us chuckles with a little glee when we hear right wing census conspiracy theories from Tea Partiers and others. If they want fewer members of Congress sympathetic to their cause, great, but let’s work hard to get the true count.
In our article last week, a few Lower East Side residents took some pride for having one of the highest rates in the city, 57 percent. A little pride is justified, but 100 percent should be the goal. The city has a long way to go.
Elected officials like Borough President Scott Stringer and Councilmember Margaret Chin properly focused on places like lower income sections of the L.E.S. and Chinatown when the census forms went out. Historically, immigrant, low-income communities have been severely undercounted. Efforts must be continued in those areas but they must be expanded to all parts of Lower Manhattan.
The Bloomberg administration also understands the importance of this. In addition to outreach efforts, the City Planning Dept. has been analyzing the responses to identify the problem neighborhoods.
But politicians can only do so much. We hope readers, in addition to sending in their own forms, also take it upon themselves to do what they can to say a little “hope you already sent your census form in” or some other friendly reminder at the elevator, in the laundry room or wherever. If you get a shrug back, ask your neighbors how crowded they want the schools to become or how many firehouses they hope to see closed?
If you haven’t done it yet, drop your form in the mail today or call 311 to do it over the phone.