Flushing area officials are not surprised at the 2010 Census results showing the Asian population has greatly increased over the last 10 years; quite the contrary, they believe there are plenty more uncounted.
Census statistics released last week showed that the Asian population in the borough increased by almost a third or 31 percent. Queens also has the largest number of Asians living in the city with 511,787. Not surprisingly, Flushing remains home to the largest Asian community in the city, with a population of 49,975.
Other locales in the borough with more than 15,000 Asian residents are Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Forest Hills, Woodside, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Bayside, East Flushing and Sunnyside. Flushing is 69 percent Asian while neighborhoods such as Queensboro Hill, East Flushing, Elmhurst, Maspeth and Murray Hill are majority Asian.
Despite the increases, area elected officials are crying foul over the total Census numbers for New York City. In Queens as a whole, the increase was announced as only 1,343 people over the 10-year period.
Mayor Bloomberg and others are blaming a flawed Census Bureau count, saying housing units where no one answered the door during canvassing were counted as empty. Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) called the numbers “grossly inaccurate,” which will lead to Queens receiving less funding, services and representation.
“Anyone who walks the streets of Flushing, Jackson Heights, Corona and almost any major Queens community realizes that the population has increased greatly over the last decade,” Koo said.
He blames the Census workers, who are only temporary, for “having missed a step” or just hitting the wrong key, although he admits some Chinese immigrants tend to under-report the number in their residence because of illegal conversions.
The councilman added that it’s been estimated that due to the inaccurate count, the city could lose at least $30,000 per person over the next 10 years.
Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said during her tenure, she has seen a steady increase of constituents coming to her office, averaging 45 people a day. “As a representative of an area that experiences the third highest level of congestion in NYC, and has an overwhelmingly large number of new apartment complexes,” Meng said. “I truly believe that Queens has been undercounted.”
Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) thinks the results “just don’t add up.” Halloran is calling on the federal government to do a recount to make sure the city gets the funding and representation that it deserves.
“I’ve seen Queens add density and development in the last decade,” he said, “and I know those new buildings aren’t empty.”
The spread of Asian businesses, primarily Korean, along Northern Boulevard from Flushing to the Nassau border has been visible for years. And demographers say where there are ethnic businesses, there are residents from that group living nearby.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) called for a more accurate counting of the population. “The borough is being plagued by overdevelopment, traffic congestion and limited parking, overcrowding in our schools and a deteriorating infrastructure that are directly correlated with a spiking population,” Avella said.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) served as district manager for a previous Census and is angry at what she calls the inaccuracies of the 2010 count. “There appears to be no quality control; errors were made that should have been caught,” Stavisky said, “and now Queens will suffer because of the ineptitude of the Census Bureau.”
Howard Shih, Census programs director for the Asian American Federation in Manhattan, indicated there may have been some undercounting in the Asian population. Shih said that during Census outreach last year, “we saw improved response rates in Asian neighborhoods in Queens,” although he admitted “we also were aware of pockets of Asian-American communities that were especially hard to convince to participate.”
His organization is waiting for the Census Bureau to release more detailed data in the summer and early next year to fully gauge the response in those communities.
Shih believes Asian immigrants will continue to be attracted to the city because of the wide range of economic opportunities available and the variety of established communities and organizations to help them.
One statistic that surprises many: the growth of the Asian population in the Baisley Park area of Jamaica, a predominately black area. Census statistics show that the area grew from 328 Asians in 2000 to 1,618 in 2010.
“We are not sure why Baisley Park saw such a large growth, but it was from a small population base in the overall scheme of things,” Shih said.