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Down for the count: Low Census numbers in Bay Ridge and Dyker could have huge impact on nabes

Board 10 looks to boost Census 2020 participation

SOUTHWEST BROOKLYN — Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton had below average participation rates in the U.S. Census 10 years ago, according to local officials, who are eager to boost the numbers this time around.

Ten years ago, Bay Ridge had an average self-response of 62.1 percent, far below the national average of 76 percent, Community Board 10 officials said. Dyker Heights did even worse with a response rate of just 56.5 percent. Fort Hamilton’s response rate was 60.5 percent.

Self-response refers to the rate of residents who filled out the Census form and mailed it back, as opposed to residents who received a visit at their home by a Census taker.

Board 10 has set a lofty goal this time around and is aiming for 100 percent participation in the 2020 Census.

“It is important that our residents fill out their Census forms. It means so much in terms of federal dollars coming in,” Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann told the Home Reporter.

Board 10 serves Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton, advocating on behalf of residents with city agencies to ensure that local neighborhoods get their fair share of city services.

The U.S. Census matters so much, according to local officials, because it will determine the number of seats New York will have in the House of Representatives as well as the distribution of $650 billion in federal funding for education, public hospitals, public housing, infrastructure and other projects.

The federal funding is allocated according to the numbers of residents living in an area.

Census Day is April 1. Mandated in the Constitution, the Census is conducted once every 10 years and literally counts the number of people living in the U.S.

The Census form 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.

Local officials said they’re concerned that residents will judge the questions to be intrusive and will avoid filling out the Census forms out of a fear of government poking its nose into their lives.

In an effort to combat misinformation, Board 10 Chairperson Lori Willis has called a special meeting of the board on Thursday, Feb. 20, at the board’s district office, 8119 Fifth Ave., at 7 p.m.

The de Blasio administration is investing $40 million in an all-out Census drive.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Dec. 9 that as part of the $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.

Board 10 is eager to do its part, Beckmann told the Home Reporter. “We will add to the outreach. We can lend our voice. We are willing to help disseminate information,” she said.

“We’re very concerned about this. Southern Brooklyn had a low level of participation in 2010,” she added.

There are similar fears of a Census undercount in neighboring Community Board 11, which serves Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Mapleton and parts of Gravesend.

Board 11 Chairperson Bill Guarinello established an ad hoc Census Committee to brainstorm for ways to boost participation rates.

“We want to make sure we not are not undercounted,” Guarinello told members at the board’s Jan. 9 meeting.

Guarinello said part of his concern about a possible undercount is based on the fact that Board 11 has a high percentage of immigrants and foreign-born residents may be reluctant to answer the Census questions.

A 2018 Community Health Survey by the Department of Health found that 56 percent of Board 11’s residents are foreign-born, the highest percentage of any of the city’s 59 community boards.

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