The 2010 Census in Bronxville did not have an auspicious start and it resulted in an inaccurate end.
The Constitution of the United States (Article 1, Section II) directs that the population be enumerated at least once every ten years and the resulting count used to set the numbers of members from each state in the House of Representatives and by extension in the Electoral College.
The initial Resident Census Form had Yonkers as our return address. After many calls, I was assured that the Census Bureau knew where our Village lines were and that the Yonkers address was just a regional postal convenience.
Fast forward – for the weeks following the Census mailing, not one Census worker/official came by . Staffers who were here during the 2000 Census remember frequent contact with Census workers, especially in the Building Department where inquiries were made about records and addresses.
When we received our Census numbers, our unsettled feelings were confirmed. According to the 2010 data, (of which the Village has yet to receive a copy), the Village had a decrease in population from 6,543 in 2000 to 6,323 because the Census Bureau determined that 171 household units in the Village were vacant.
In the Census Bureau talley, the breakdown was:
- 37 units empty and for rent
- 5 units rented but unoccupied
- 22 for sale and empty
- 17 sold but unoccupied
- 48 were seasonal residences
- 42 were “other vacant”
Upon receiving this information, I asked one of our college interns, resident Susan Craig, to take this on as a project. Susie was dogged in trying to get the facts as the layers of bureaucracy were epic.
When she asked for just the addresses of the properties in question, not the homeowners’ names, to verify their occupancy, she was told the Village can never have that data due to the constraints of Title 13 “The Protection of Confidential Information.” We were also told “vacancies” was not an appealable category as deemed by the Census Bureau.
Of particular frustration are the 42 houses/units placed in the category entitled “Other Vacant.” According to Census Bureau nomenclature, “Other Vacant” are units that do not fall in any of the other categories leaving them only to be “properties in various stages of foreclosure,” “property abandoned by owner” or “renters displaced as a result of rental properties being foreclosed.” We have no record of any foreclosures or abandonments in the Village, let alone 42 of them.
According to the Census Bureau, houses were determined to be vacant after a combination of up to six failed attempts to contact the homeowner either by mail or personal visit. A Census Bureau staffer that Ms. Craig contacted stated, “On the sixth attempt, the enumerators contacted a knowledgeable neighbor.” My question is how on earth do neighbors know when someone’s home is in foreclosure.
This would be amusing and certainly prove my worn out mantra that government is best that is closest to the citizens if the ramifications were not so important. Unless we win our challenge, these inaccurate numbers will determine our portion of any State, Federal and school resources and even our share of sales tax revenue for the next ten years. The dollar amounts are not large for the Village, but any loss in funding only ends up increasing the burden on our taxpayers.
Many, many communities are filing challenges and some even suing because the stakes are so high.
According to the Census, New York City lost 225,000 residents and the City estimates that for each person not counted, the City loses $3,000 in yearly subsidies. In fact, whole neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn were classified as vacant leading one writer to USA Today to ask, “Where are these neighborhoods because I need an apartment and can’t find one?!”
It also appears that many other communities in Westchester County including Larchmont, Irvington, Rye Brook and Briarcliff Manor, just to name a few, experienced a significant decrease in population as well, leading many to question the methodology of the information retrieval.
The Village is duty bound to file a challenge which will involve a great deal of staff time and effort, when even one visit by a Census staffer to the Village’s Building Department or just a phone call would have resulted in more accurate information. We all paid for the Census and we will all pay again in filing costs and lost subsidies if we lose our challenge. In this case, ala Amtrak and the Post Office, bigger is not better.