Census concerns lead Board 11 leader to take action

BENSONHURST— As the U.S. Census gets closer, concerns are mounting among Southwest Brooklyn officials over the possibility that its citizens will be undercounted in the big national tally that will determine the number of seats New York will have in the House of Representatives as well as the distribution of millions of dollars in federal funding.

In an effort to raise awareness of the importance of Census 2020, Community Board 11 Chairperson Bill Guarinello announced at the board’s monthly meeting on Jan. 9 that he has established an ad hoc Census Committee and has appointed board members to sit on the panel.

Dr. Tim Law will chair the new ad hoc committee. The members are Irene Chu, Sonia Valentin, Steve Yeung, Eileen LaRuffa and Laurie and Andrew Windsor. Their task will be to come up with ways to convince local residents, many of whom have been reluctant in the past to disclose personal information to the government, to fill out their Census forms.

“We want to make sure we not are not undercounted,” Guarinello told board members at the meeting.

Board leaders are eager for members to “get the word out and encourage your neighbors,” he added.

Census Day is April 1. Mandated in the Constitution, the Census literally counts the number of people living in the U.S. It also asks the names, ages and dates of birth for people living in a home, as well as whether the home is owned or rented.

Guarinello saisd part of his concern about a possible undercount is based on the fact that Community Board 11, which covers Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and Mapleton, and includes parts of Gravesend, has the highest percentage of immigrants of any of New York City’s 59 community boards.

A 2018 Community Health Survey by the New York City Department of Health found that 56 percent of Board 11’s residents are foreign-born.

Board 11 has a total population of 204,829, according to the study, which can be read at  https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/data/2018chp-bk11.pdf.

“Bensonhurst is a melting pot,” Guarinello said at Thursday’s meeting.

There are mounting concerns that immigrants will not participate in the Census count.

Guarinello’s grassroots effort comes as the de Blasio administration continues its push to ensure the accuracy of the Census count.

The city is investing $40 million in a Census effort.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Dec. 9 that as part of that $40 million program, the city is awarding $19 million to 150 grassroots groups that will be working on the ground to encourage residents to fill out their Census forms.

The funding is designed to train organizations to build awareness about the Census, convey its importance and fight the spread of misinformation.

“Neighbors will empower neighbors to stand up and be counted,” de Blasio said in a statement.

The mayor announced this past summer that the city is pumping $1.4 million into a Census partnership between the city and its three library systems — the Brooklyn Public Library, the New York Public Library and the Queens Public Library — to ensure that all New Yorkers are counted.

Libraries will be assisting residents in filling out the Census form, which will be online for the first time in 2020. Libraries will also help get the word out about the Census to immigrant communities and host informational sessions, officials said.

“The Brooklyn Public Library is very involved in the Census,” said Valentin, who in addition to being a Board 11 member, is president of the Friends of the New Utrecht Library.

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