Queens Borough President Melinda Katz vowed that the Queens Complete Count Committee will get real figures on the population, documented immigrant or not, as the battle at the federal level over the 2020 census is contested in the courts over a proposed citizenship question in the forms.
During a reporters’ roundtable on Jan. 22 at Queens Borough Hall in advance of her Jan. 25 State of the Borough address, Katz stressed the importance of getting real figures on how many people now in Queens for infrastructure and city planning purposes claiming that many may not participate in the census if it forces them to admit to living with someone or being in the country illegally.
There are currently over 70 people signed onto the committee to knock on doors in their communities and get an accurate count, according to Katz.
“Everybody is affected by the census, every single person in the United States is effected by who and how many fill out that census. So in the borough of Queens where you have a very large immigrant population that may not either feel or trust that filling out the census is important, we need you to know that it truly is,” Katz said. “Educational funding by U.S. government and by the state, relies on the census numbers. Highway money, housing money, elected representation in the house of representatives and as well in the state Legislature relies on the census numbers. If we’re not filling out the census we are not getting our fair share for the children and seniors who live in our communities.”
The 2020 federal census is currently being challenged in the House of Representatives oversight committee, with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross expected to testify once again on the decision to add the immigration status question.
Katz reiterated an issue that is long-standing for education in Queens: schools are more overcrowded than any other borough and receive fewer funding per student than any other part of the city.
Queens schools are currently at 106 capacity throughout the borough which Katz said the School Construction Authority is working to address through new school sites, but it needs to be done at a faster rate.
“It’s not like that all over the city of New York, it’s only happening here. And by the way, our funding matches the inequities,” Katz said. “Per pupil spending [in] our borough – $11,359 is spent for very pupil [in Queens]. In the Bronx $14,186 is spent … In Manhattan, $12,756 is spent, we are the lowest.”
But libraries have gotten boost across the borough this year with $46 million allocated for facility upgrades and other needs, Katz said.
The 116th Precinct, which will be split off from the 105th Precinct, is something Katz said will likely be funded in the city budget and will provide relief to the cops who are spread too thin across the southeast Queens command.
Katz will also be working to have reduced fares on the Long Island Rail Road through south Queens from Barclays Center extended as far as Manhattan.