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The Queens Borough President’s office is hosting a town hall Nov. 13 to begin preparing the county for the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census.
By Bill Parry

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has warned on several occasions that an accurate 2020 U.S. Census count is essential for the future of Queens and that an undercount would have long-lasting repercussions.

On Monday, Katz announced she will host a borough-wide town hall meeting Tuesday, Nov. 13, to begin preparing the county of nearly 2.4 million people for the upcoming census, as well as the challenges presented by potential new measures slated for the federal survey.

“The census impacts everything we do here in Queens, and we have so much at stake,” Katz said. “It determines how much representation we will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, how much funding we will receive for infrastructure and health services and for our schools over the next decade, and much more.”

“In our ever-growing city and boroughs, it is imperative that we be counted fully,” she added. “An undercount means underfunding and underrepresentation, with real damages and real costs that will hurt communities across America and certainly here in Queens. Everyone is urged to join the discussions to learn about the proposed changes and how you can help ensure your neighborhood is accurately counted.”

The 2020 U.S. Census will pose new challenges and raise important questions. For the first time ever, 80 percent of respondents will be asked to complete the form online, presenting uncertainty over the impact of the digital divide, including how seniors or others who either lack internet access or are limited in their internet proficiency can ensure they are not overlooked.

There is also the potential inclusion of a controversial citizenship question that is a deep cause for concern, Katz added. The federal government announced in March its intention to add such a question, sparking concerns that it could widely discourage responses and lead to a substantial undercount in communities where residents fear being targeted over their immigration or residency status.

Should the citizenship question ultimately be added, it will be the first count since 1950 in which all U.S. households will be asked their citizenship status.

“Now is the time for New Yorkers to stand together and make sure everyone of us is counted,” Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson said. “Washington wants to sow fear to keep people in the shadows so that they feel alone and powerless. But New Yorker, including immigrant New Yorkers, are not powerless. Making sure that every New Yorker stands up for each other and stands up to be counted sends a strong message that we will now stop fighting.”

Thompson will outline Mayor de Blasio’s outreach strategy for the census, while Dr. Joseph Salvo of the city Department of City Planning will deliver a presentation on the demographics of Queens during the town hall meeting at the Helen Marshall Cultural Center in Queens Borough Hall, located at 120-55 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens.

The 2010 census saw dramatic undercounts in neighborhoods with particularly high immigrant populations, such as East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, where thousands were overlooked. As a whole, the 2010 census reported the population of Queens rose by only 1,300 people over the prior decade, a dubious number thought to be inaccurate, according to Katz.

The town hall meeting will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP in advance at queensbp.org/ersvp or by calling (718) 286-2661

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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