SUNSET PARK — The Brooklyn Chinese-American Association and the Brooklyn Asian-American Complete Count Committee held a 2020 Census kickoff forum on Friday, Feb. 7.
During the event, the Sunset Park community organizations discussed plans to conduct an intensive outreach and provide assistance to the Brooklyn Asian communities to ensure their full participation in the 2020 Census.
“This is the fourth time we’ve done this,” said Paul Mak, president/CEO, Brooklyn Chinese-American Association who hosted the forum at Park Asia, 6521 Eighth Ave.
“We did it in 1990, 2000, 2010 and now. So, basically, the first two times we did it, we did not have the population we have now in the area. But the last time we did a Census, in 2010, we were able to mobilize the community and conduct the Census in neighborhoods throughout Sunset Park and Bensonhurst, which has the highest Asian population in New York City, according to the 2010 Census.”
Mak explained that this time they are facing even more challenges in making sure everyone is counted.
“We’ve been doing surveys within the community to find out what might be the reasons that are keeping people from participating,” Mak continued. “Of course, some of it can be attributed to lack of technology, not having the internet and not having a computer and being online to respond to the Census.”
Mak said his organization had talked to the Census Bureau which promised to put some new procedures in place to rectify the situation.
Mak also alluded to the fact that some people are afraid to participate because of immigration concerns and ICE. “For any newcomers, it is definitely a major concern,” he added.
Assemblymember Peter Abbate, whose district includes Sunset Park, Borough Park, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and Bensonhurst, offered his assistance in helping the Sunset Park community conduct a thorough Census.
“This is my fourth Census and it’s very, very important,” said Abbate. “We really have to worry because the last two Censuses in New York, [the population had] really gone down. We have to bring up the numbers.”
For each family with two children that goes uncounted, he said, “You’re talking about losing between $5,000 and $7,000 that goes to health care, that goes to education, after-school programs and so many other services in the city.”
Abbate emphasized the importance of clarifying to people in the community precisely what the Census does. Besides impacting political district lines and representation, he stressed, undercounting in the Census means that the area receives less in resources from the federal government.
“Yes, that’s important,” Abbate said of the representation issue, “but the most important thing is the money that we lose, that doesn’t come to New York if we’re undercounted,” said Abbate. “And believe me, Sunset Park could use the programs and the extra money in the community. We need a lot more funding for the people of Sunset Park.”
“There’s a lot of fear about what is going on in Washington, D.C.,” noted Rona Shapiro, executive vice president of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, who spoke about a program her organization was spearheading throughout the city and state called “We Care, We Count.” With many Asian people and many immigrants receiving home care, Shapiro said, “We’re going to partner with our home care employers because we feel that it’s very hard for people who are afraid to answer their door when they hear it’s a federal agent knocking and asking questions.
“So we’ll get our Census volunteers out to reach people on the job,” she explained. “We’re going to do it online, but we’re also going to use paper to make it more comfortable for the older generation, and we’re going to be starting March 12 and going to go to July 31.”
Shapiro said the best way to get people to participate is to create an atmosphere of confidence.
“We’re not the police,” she explained. “We are just people who live in this community and deserve better healthcare, hospitals, police protection and to have our schools kept up. We’re going to do whatever we can to make sure that immigrants in the city know that they have as much right to live in this city as people do on the Upper East Side and we’re going to get them to sign up.”