The uproar in City Hall this week was of resentment and accusations of inaccuracy upon the release of the 2010 Census results. Now you can add the Rockaway peninsula to the discussion as the local Census numbers show modest growth to an area that witnessed a peninsula-wide housing boom within the past decade.
The Rockaway peninsula’s 2000 Census population was 106,738. Many community officials and residents assumed the population would surpass 130,000 and maybe even come close to 150,000. Some were even having preliminary discussions about redistricting Rockaway if the population did reach 150,000 – a necessary threshold to cross in order to have sole representation in the City Council, which is currently divided between two council members who also tend to mainland duties. However, the sentiment quickly turned to disbelief as the 2010 Census results showed Rockaway to have only grown by 7 percent to 114,978 residents.
“That’s short,” Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said this week. “The numbers are short by at least 5,000. I had initially figured we would realistically grow to around 130,000 residents.”
Gaska has been the board’s district manager for more than 25 years and witnessed firsthand the housing boom in the early part of the last decade. Even though the growth as a whole was not as high as expected, every neighborhood in Rockaway grew except Breezy Point and the areas of Neponsit and Belle Harbor. The numbers just didn’t grow as much as expected, especially in Bayswater and Far Rockaway, which only witnessed a 6 and 2.8 percent increase, respectively.
The city as a whole was reported to have grown by just over two percent since the last census in 2000. Mayor Bloomberg this week called for a recount claiming the city was undercounted by at least 250,000 people. These numbers are critical in determining congressional seating and federal funding. Queens showed the same modest growth as well, rising less than one percent.
Councilmember Eric Ulrich released a statement this week expressing his disbelief. “My office went to great lengths to help people understand the importance of the 2010 Census in relation to making sure that our communities receive the proper funding for essential services,” Ulrich said. “Considering the construction boom that has taken place over the past decade, the determination that Queens gained a little more than 1,300 residents would be laughable if it didn’t come with such serious consequences.”
The optimism towards Rockaway’s growth was also a result of yearly population estimates provided by Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). The last estimate that LIPA performed in 2008 showed the peninsula growing to nearly 130,000. That number is in addition to more than 2,000 residents in Broad Channel who are managed by Con Edison. The estimates were derived from 2000 U.S. Census Data and utility records of active residential electric meters.