2010-04-09 / Columnists

East End Matters...

Don’t Let The East End Be Undercounted
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

People on the east end continue to complain about being underserved, and without a correct counting of the population, needed services for the area will continue to pass us by.

That’s why the importance of returning your Census form cannot be overstated. During the last Census the east end of Rockaway – in zip codes 11691 to mid-11693 – was among the most undercounted areas in Queens County.

As of Monday the national participation rate (forms returned) for this year’s Census was 56 percent. Except for one area in Rockaway, the peninsula’s participation rate is below the national average.

Households that have returned forms in Far Rockaway are running in the mid-40 percent range; in Bayswater the numbers do not get out of the 30 percent range; Edgemere averages 33 percent and Arverne 40 percent. Breaking it down even more for those living in the areas of Beach 41st Street Houses and Ocean Bay Apartments it is 43 percent; between Beach 60 and Beach 74 Streets only 27 to 32 percent of residents have mailed back the Census. From Beach 74 to Beach 95 Streets (including Hammel Houses) it is 40 percent. While these numbers are below the 50 percent range, on Shore Front Parkway (opposite Hammels) it is 50 percent; 57 percent of those living in Neponsit and 51 percent of those living in Breezy Point have already returned their forms.

Why is the Census important? Here are a few of the uses for Census data. On the issue of transportation, something of great concern to Rockawayites, the Census helps to forecast future transportation needs for all segments of the population and plan for public transportation services. With so many living below the poverty level in the area, correct Census numbers would help in directing the funds needed for services for people in poverty. Health care is the leading industry in Rockaway and needed monies for planning for hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and the location of other health services are another benefit of the Census.

The Census helps plan school districts, and is essential in redrawing federal, state and local legislative districts. Think of our libraries, our infrastructure and all that locals on the east end complain about each and every day. In total the Census will help distribute over $300 billion in federal funds and also additional monies from the states. Funding is possible for all these things, but only if residents return their Census forms.

So if the Census is so important why are so many people slow in returning the forms?

Many people believe that the information collected is not secure. Information given to the Census cannot be shared with any person, organization or agency – government, law enforcement or otherwise. According to its website, “Census Bureau employees take a lifetime oath swearing to keep information confidential. Penalties for violations include up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.” If someone is here illegally, their information will be kept confidential. It’s very little to ask in return that illegals, who benefit from our services, be counted to help the communities in which they live.

Everyone who lives in an area, who uses the services here needs to be counted. If you know someone who has not sent in the Census form – be it because they are illegals, foreign born or for any other reason, encourage them to do so.

The 2010 Census is the 23rd in the country’s history. The Constitution requires that a Census be taken every 10 years. The bureau has already begun to mail out duplicate forms for addresses for which no Census has been returned. If you receive one, and have already sent it in, discard this second form. Census takers will begin to visit homes that have not responded by the middle of this month.

The Queens borough president’s website gives the following United States Census Bureau hotlines for those who need help with the Census: English-1- 866-872-6868; Spanish-1-866-928-2010; Chinese-1-866-935-2010; Korean-1- 866-955-2010; Viet namese-1-866-945- 2010 and Russian-1-866-965-2010.

The Census is 10 questions and it will probably take longer to read this article than fill out your form. So do something important for Rockaway’s east end.

Stand up and be counted.

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