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Asian Americans: A Growing Force in City Politics

Photo by Tom Good through Wikipedia Commons
New York City Councilmember John Liu (at the podium) at a press conference on term limits last October on the steps of City Hall.

John Liu, a Taiwan-born former business consultant who moved to the U.S. at the age of 5, made history in New York politics in 2001 as the first Asian American elected to the City Council. This year he will write a new page by becoming the first Asian American to run for a citywide office as he campaigns to become the city's next public advocate.

An increasing number of Asians, many, like Liu, from Taiwan or born to immigrant parents from Taiwan, are competing for office in the city, particularly in Flushing, as their counterparts from Hong Kong are doing the same in Manhattan's Chinatown. While representing a possible new force in the city's already diverse political life, their emergence reveals generational splits and other divisions within New York's growing Asian communities.

Liu's Next Campaign

Although Liu has not officially declared his candidacy for public advocate, the political director and treasurer of his campaign, Mei Ru, has confirmed his bid, and a fundraiser was held on Jan. 7. Chinese and English-language newspapers see him as a front-runner in the hotly contested race. Brooklyn Councilmember Bill de Blasio and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel have already announced their candidacies for the post, and Queens Councilmember Eric Gioia also is expected to enter the race.

According to the blog PolitickerNY.com, Liu's campaign aides have confirmed that he has hired Bill Lynch Associates, a public relations firm headed by former deputy mayor Bill Lynch, as his general consultant. He also has reportedly sought help from two well-known political marketing specialists, Jimmy Siegel and Celinda Lake. Among those running for the public advocate, Liu topped the campaign fundraising chart with more than $3 million.

Flushing Makes History

Liu represents City Council District 20, which covers parts of northeast Queens, including Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Kissena Park, Harding Heights, Auburndale and some of Whitestone. His district is home to the city's largest Asian community. Some New Yorkers jokingly refer to the area as "Flu Shing Province of China" because of its large Chinese population, and Chinese signs and businesses can be seen in every street corner. Many Koreans live in the area as well.

Among the Chinese-speaking population in New York, Flushing is the "Mandarin-speaking" Chinatown because the residents are primarily Mandarin speakers from Taiwan and central and northern China. Manhattan's Chinatown is Cantonese-speaking since most people there are from Hong Kong or Canton (now Guangdong) Province.

Liu, a Democrat, did not make history on his first try. He ran for City Council in 1997 and lost to six-term incumbent Julia Harrison, who earned notoriety for comments many perceived as anti-Asian.

Nor was Liu the first Asian American to run for New York City Council. Pauline Chu, a former president of Community School Board 25, ran against Harrison in the 1991 Democratic primary and lost. Harrison then defeated Chun Soo Pyun, a former president of the Korean Businessmen's Association, by a large margin in the general election.

Ethel Chen, a retired librarian and onetime head of the Asian American Democratic Association in Queens, had a string of unsuccessful runs for office, as did Meilin Tan, a Republican. Both remain well-known figures in the Flushing community, and other candidates seek their support.

In 2001, Harrison had to vacate the seat because of term limits, and that time, Liu got enough support from within and beyond the Asian American community to win. He was re-elected in 2003 and 2005.

State Assembly Race

Photo by China Daily

Liu's victory in 2001 provided a much needed boost in confidence for New York's Asian American community. Three years later, Jimmy Meng, a former president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, became the second Asian American to win an important local election, capturing Flushing's seat in the New York State Assembly.

Meng had lost to Barry Grodenchik in 2002. Two years later, though, the situation was reversed, and Meng won the Democratic nomination, defeating Grodenchik. He then went on to gain a landslide 70 percent of the vote in the general election, defeating Meilin Tan.

However, Meng's campaign created some controversy. Simon Ting, an aide to Meng, later was indicted on charges that he faked voter registration documents. Meng did not run for re-election in 2006, citing health problems.

The contest to replace him revealed sharp schisms in the Flushing Asian community. In 2006, the race pitted his daughter, Grace Meng, against Ellen Young, a Taiwanese immigrant who served as a district aide to John Liu.

The intense race ended when Meng dropped out of the race after Young charged she did not live in the district as required by law. Young won the primary and general election, becoming the first Asian American woman elected to the New York state legislature.

But the rivalry between Young and Meng -- and between the Meng family and Liu -- did not end. Last year, they had a rematch in the Democratic primary that was widely viewed as a power struggle between Liu's camp and his rivals. The feud also focused attention on generational differences among Asian politicians.

Meng, a lawyer and chairwoman of the Queens Chinese Women's Association, garnered support from Harrison and Terence Park, who both ran against Liu before. Meng also claimed that her American-born background gave her an edge over Young.

"I'm someone who was born and raised here. I'm comfortable with the culture. I'm comfortable with the language," Meng said during the campaign. Meng's camp assailed Young for not having a college degree (she finished junior college in Taiwan) and, they said, of not being able to reach beyond the Chinese community. Young's immigrant background, once seen as an asset, had become a liability. Meng won by a double-digit margin.

Chinatown's Dilemma

While Queen's has now elected three Asian politicians, with more almost certainly on the way, the primarily Cantonese-speaking Manhattan Chinatown has not been able to send any Asian Americans to City Council or the state legislature -- even though it has been the center for New York Chinese American life since the first large wave of Cantonese immigrants settled here in the late 1800s.

Chinatown sits in District 1, one of the most ethnically and economically diverse districts in the city, covering SoHo, TriBeCa, Greenwich Village, Battery Park City, the Financial District, Little Italy and the Lower East Side.

After the district's creation in 1991, Kathryn Freed, a lawyer, defeated Asian American candidates in consecutive elections to serve as the area's council member. In 2001, Freed had to step down due to term limits. Alan Gerson, also a lawyer, won the Democratic primary, defeating six opponents including three Asian Americans: housing advocate Margaret Chin; Rocky Chin, a public-interest attorney; and Kwang Hui, a labor activist.

At the beginning of the 2001 campaign, many political observers expected District 1 would choose an Asian American council member. Many attribute the failure to do so to the fact that Chinatown is primarily a place of work, business and entertainment for Asian New Yorkers, not the neighborhood where they live. In addition, many Chinatown residents are undocumented and so cannot vote. Meanwhile, Asian American voters seem to have difficulties presenting a united front I the area.

Chinatown has, however, elected Chinese judges to the Civil Court. The Second Municipal Court District, which covers roughly the same area as City Council District 1, elected Doris Ling-Cohan to the Civil Court in 1995. In 2006, Margaret Chan, an immigrant from Hong Kong, was elected to the same court.

2009 will see more efforts to elect a Chinese American to represent District 1 in City Council, although Gerson is believed likely to seek re-election. Margaret Chin, who just announced her fourth bid for the City Council, left her position as the deputy executive director of Asian Americans for Equality to focus on her campaign. An immigrant from Hong Kong who came to the U.S. at the age of 9, Chin has been an advocate for affordable housing, access to social services and government assistance for low-income immigrant families.

Jan Lee, a third-generation Chinatown resident and business owner, also has expressed interest in the race to run but has not made a final decision on whether to run.

Filling Liu's Seat

With Liu seeking to move on, several established community leaders and a new generation of political leaders in Flushing hope to fill his City Council seat.

Yen S. Chou, president of the Chinese American Parent-Student Council and a member of District 26 Community Education Council, is among them. An educator who has devoted her career to helping immigrant families, Chou was elected to Community School Board 26 before the Bloomberg administration restructured the Department of Education. Also a native of Taiwan, she has attracted support from many community leaders and organizations.

Meanwhile, other political families could challenge the Mengs. James Wu, Ethel Chen's son, has been an active member of the Democratic Club of Queens. A Democratic district leader in Queens, he has registered his City Council bid with the City's Board of Elections.

Oliver Tan, the son of Meilin Tan, teamed up with his mother, and was elected a Republican district leader in 2007, a position his mother has held since 1992. Oliver Tan also served as the manager for Peter Koo's failed State Assembly campaign in 2008. Tan would face formidable odd in the Democratic district, but is expected to rise in Queen's Republican circles.

Taiwan Connection

The Flushing politicians share a connection to Taiwan, but there are generational differences between them.

Pauline Chu, Jimmy Meng, Ethel Chen and Meilin Tan represent the first generation of New York Asian American politicians. All four were born in China but moved to Taiwan as young children and were educated there. They are part of a massive tide of immigrants from Taiwan who started to form a community in Flushing in the 1970s. Now Flushing is home to the largest Mandarin-speaking community in New York, including many newcomers from China who arrived after the 1990s.

John Liu represents what scholars refer to as the "1.5 generation" -- those born abroad but who moved to the United States before their teens and so share characteristics of both first and second generations.

Grace Meng represents the 22nd District in the New York State Assembly

The second generation, by definition, was born in the United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. These include Grace Meng, James Wu and Oliver Tan. They inherited their parents' resources and are eager to develop their own paths.

Grace Meng is by far the most successful of these politicians. Her work as a coordinator for her father's campaign and her increased involvement in the community after her loss in 2006 paid off. Meanwhile, her campaign strategy to present her as the open-minded candidate who can reach beyond the Chinese community has proved to be effective. Her victory is an indicator that the new generation's time might be just around the corner.

The Senate's Demographic Shift

Image courtesy of Andrew Beveridge
Map 1: The shift in the State Senate also means a shift of power to New York City and some of its suburbs.Click here, or on the image above, to view a larger version of the map.

For New York State, the 2008 "change" election represents the final consolidation of power of a new demographic majority, as control in the State Senate shifts from upstate Republicans to downstate New York City-centric Democrats. The massive efforts to gerrymander the State Senate after the 2000 Census, including the arbitrary addition of a downstate seat to leave upstate and Long Island intact and maintain Republican control, only lasted for three elections: 2002, 2004 and 2006.

Of course three dissident Democratic senators from New York City could vote to keep a Republican as Senate leader, but given the great differences in the Democratic and Republican constituencies, this would make it difficult for them to address issues important to their New York City constituents. So, with the power all but certain to be in Democratic hands, one can expect that, barring a reversal in 2010, the Senate redistricting that will follow the 2010 Census will entrench the party's control for many, many years.

Certainly, that is what the Republicans did. They held the majority in the Senate for 70 years (since 1939), except for a brief hiatus from 1965 to 1967 in the wake of Lyndon Johnson's landslide victory over Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.

Mapping the Districts

If the margins in the Assembly, where Democrats held 102 out of 150 seats before the election, are any guide, the Republicans should not expect to achieve a majority anytime soon after the 2010 Census is used to redistrict for the 2012 election. Even in a jurisdiction where one party holds a wildly lopsided majority -- as the Democrats do in New York City -- parties can still draw district lines to maximize the number of seats they hold. The disparity between Republican Senate and Assembly seats in the five boroughs makes this clear. Until the 2008 election, Assembly Democrats had arranged things to keep the Republican to only two Assembly members in the city. On the Senate side, though, Republicans managed to draw the lines so the party got four districts.

One would expect that after redistricting no more than one Republican Senator would remain. Indeed, this year while two of the senators, Andrew Lanza and Martin Golden, had easy victories this month, longtime Republican Sen. Serphin Maltese lost his bid for re-election. The fourth Republican, Frank Padavan, holds such a narrow lead over his Democratic challenger that the votes still are being recounted.

The GOP losses would probably extend beyond the city. The number of upstate senators would likely decrease by one or two due to changes in the allocation of seats upstate versus downstate. The senators representing those new downstate districts would in all likelihood be Democrats. This would lead to massive redrawing of lines upstate, downstate and on Long Island, which would be done to the benefit of the Democrats. Given all this, it is possible that after redistricting, the New York State Senate would have 38 Democrats and only 24 Republicans.

Upstate, Downstate

When one examines the underlying geography and demography of the new power base in the Senate, the change becomes even starker. This power shift will have major consequences for a variety of issues.

The first map shows the location of the Republican and Democratic districts and the two seats that switched to Democrat hands for the state as a whole, while the second map examines New York City and its environs. As is obvious from the first map, the change from Democratic to Republican control constitutes a massive shift of power from upstate and Long Island to New York City and Westchester.

Map 2: Many of the districts that have gone from the Repulicans to the Democrats are in New York City or on Long Island. Click for larger image.

The underlying demography makes it plain that the GOP senators and the Democratic senators represent very different constituencies. Twenty-three of the 32 Democratic Senators are from the city. Another two seats overlap the city and Westchester, and two more are in Westchester, while Long Island now has two Democratic seats. There are only five Democratic seats upstate: two in and near Buffalo, one in Albany County, one near but not including Syracuse and one quite far north, including St. Lawrence County.

As to the Republican seats, three are in the city, including one on Staten Island, one in Brooklyn and (for now at least) one in Queens. The GOP has seven of the nine seats on Long Island but 20 seats -- a full two thirds (20 of 30) of all Republican districts -- are upstate.

Characteristics of State Senate Districts Democratic Districts Republican Districts
Non-Hispanic White
Non-Hispanic Black
Non-Hispanic Asian
Foreign born
Average household income (1999)
Married Couple
Female Headed
Non Family
Never Married 15+
Now Married
Same Sex Unmarried Partner Households
Opposite Sex Unmarried Partner Households
No high school diploima
At Least Bachelor's Degree
Advanced Degree
K-12 in Public School
Owner Occuped

Party Differences

The demographics of upstate are radically different than downstate, including New York City. Given that, residents of the Republican districts have different interests and concerns than those of the Democratic districts. As of the 2000 Census, the Democratic districts were more urban (96.9 percent versus 77.2 percent) than the GOP districts. While 83 percent of the inhabitants of Republican districts are non-Hispanic white, for the Democratic districts the figure is 42.8 percent. As the table shows, Democratic districts are much more black, Hispanic and Asian than the GOP districts.

While 55.1 percent of the households in the GOP districts are married-couple households, for Democratic districts the figure is only 39 percent. Almost twice as many households in Democratic districts than in Republican ones are same-sex couples, though such households still constitute a tiny minority. Democratic districts are also more likely to have both college educated people and residents who did not complete high school than Republican districts. Only 37 percent of the housing in Democratic districts is owner occupied, compared to over 70 percent in GOP districts. The proportion of foreign-born people in Democratic districts is 29.6 percent, and only 10.3 percent in Republican districts. Furthermore, the immigrants in those Democratic districts are much more likely to be from the Caribbean or from South or Central Africa than those in GOP districts.

Such demographic characteristics translate directly into interests in New York State policy. People in Democratic districts would be much more concerned with matters concerning rental housing, such as rent stabilization -- explaining why so many tenant advocates have seen a Democratic Senate as key to the success of their cause -- while those in GOP districts would be more attentive to various methods to reduce real-estate taxes. Since funding of schools is the number one use of state funds, the new Democratic majority may send more money for education to the city and downstate, or the cuts, when they come, would more likely affect upstate.

The efforts to build prisons upstate and to put many SUNY branches upstate may also be under pressure from the new majority. Policies that lead to filling upstate prisons may not be seen in such a positive light.

In short, every policy that has in the past benefitted upstate residents at the expense of those in the city and nearby could be mitigated or even reversed. The power of the GOP to hold legislation hostage to the majority in the Senate will be gone. Now all of the “Three Men in a Room,” will be Democrats, probably from New York City, and the power of the Democrats in both houses of the legislature could well increase, as soon as they resolve their struggle over the leadership of the Senate. Their constituents, it seems, should expect gains from their newfound power.


A Shift in Albany Could Avert Higher Rents

Whatever happens to the housing market now, New York's booming real estate market of 2000 to 2007 means that many more households in New York City cannot afford their homes. Indeed, the explosive rise in the housing market has spurred some hedge and equity funds to speculate on rental buildings that are subject to rent regulation in the hopes that continuing rise in market rents, along with capital improvements and apartment turnover, will make it possible to deregulate many of the homes in those buildings. This has happened even though some of the complexes are at risk of default and even foreclosure. The sale of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village was emblematic of housing built for the middle class being marketed to those in much higher income brackets.

As New Yorkers look to the election of a new State Senate and watch with horror as the financial crisis continues to unfold, many housing advocates are pushing for substantial re-regulation of the New York City's rental housing. Of course landlord groups, girding for a possible Democratic takeover of the State Senate, are pushing back.

Republicans in the State Senate have traditionally resisted regulation of the rental market and fought rent stabilization and other similar measures. If the State Senate switches to Democratic control, the Democrats, who tend to support some kind of rent control, would hold both houses of the legislature and the governor's office. Advocates see this as their best chance in decades to strengthen controls.

Where Things Stand

What is the current state of the rental situation in New York City -- and what would happen if the law remains as is? Data available from the New York Housing and Vacancy Survey and information on trends provide some indication.

Various programs that provided some degree of affordability for rental housing in New York undeniably are eroding.

  • Vacant rental apartments regulated under the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974, as amended, can now be deregulated if their rents reach $2,000 per month. This provision, which really came into play in the 1990s, can include rent increases (usually 15 percent) for vacancies, for major capital improvements of the building and for substantial renovations of the apartment.

  • Apartments where the open market rent would exceed $2,000 and which are occupied by households with incomes above $175,000 also can be deregulated. Indeed, Rep. Charles Rangel could be forced to pay market rent, if his landlord pressed the issue.

  • Rental apartments in complexes that converted to co-op or condominium ownership also are vulnerable. The current tenant has rights, but as soon as he or she moves out, the apartment reverts to the sponsor, who then can sell the unit as a co-op or condominium.

  • When tax abatement expire, rent subsidies for resident of middle-income Mitchell-Lama rentals and co-ops will run out, possibly driving the cost up to market rates, or at least to rent regulated levels.

  • Many apartments that were under the former rent control system have moved to rent regulation, which has less stringent requirements.

  • Various tax abatements to encourage renovations and new construction, such as J-51 and 421A, also have expired. When in effect, some of these tax breaks require continued rent regulation.

A Dwindling Pool

The deregulation of apartments continues. Looking at all regulated apartments, including those constructed before 1974 and regulated by the 1974 tenant protection act, those under rent control and Mitchell-Lama rentals, the Housing and Vacancy Survey estimates 1,166,911 apartments were regulated in 2002. By 2005, that figure had declined to 1,132,472 -- a loss of 34,439 apartments. Of the apartments still regulated in 2005, some 109,254 rented for $1,500 or more, putting them in striking distance of deregulation. Of these apartments, 38,927 already were above $2,000 per month. In short, the loss of another 100,000 apartments to rent stabilization was just a matter of time in 2005.

Until data from 2008 Housing and Vacancy Survey is released next spring, no one can reliably estimate the continuing loss of regulated apartments. However, the rent level that triggers removal of a vacant unit from rent stabilization continues to be $2,000, and turnover is widely estimated at about 6 percent per year. Furthermore, many apartments that are stabilized above $1,500 in 2005 could, with proper renovation and capital improvement, see their rents immediately increase to above $2,000. Overall, one could expect that another 50,000 units probably have been lost in the three years since the last Housing and Vacancy Survey.

When the State Legislature comes back into session, after the election of 2008, it will up to the Assembly, the Senate and the governor, to revisit the fate of rent stabilization in New York City. Without some sort of intervention, the end of rent regulation in New York City will be just a matter of time. As it continues to be phased out, the composition of many neighborhoods in New York City, especially in the more desirable areas, becomes more and more segregated with respect to income.

Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and been in charge of Gotham Gazette's demographics topic page since 2000. The opinions expressed are his alone. 

Rights and Recognition for Same-Sex Marriage

When Patricia Martinez, an employee of Monroe Community College, applied for health care benefits for her spouse, Lisa Ann Golden, whom she had married in Canada, the college denied the benefits, saying it covered only opposite sex spouses. But early in 2008, an appellate court in northern New York ruled that by failing to recognize the marriage, the employer had unlawfully discriminated based on sexual orientation. The court concluded, "The sole reason for defendants' rejection of the marital status of plaintiff is her sexual orientation."

A valid same-sex Canadian marriage such as Martinez's and Golden's, is entitled to recognition in this state, and the plaintiff's health care benefits must be extended to her same-sex spouse, wrote Justice Erin M. Peradotto for the Supreme Court Appellate Division, Fourth Department.

Martinez v County of Monroe, received little attention until this spring, when the state's new governor, David Paterson, issued a memorandum directing all state agencies to treat the valid same-sex marriages of other jurisdictions that permit same-sex marriage -- Canada, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa, Massachusetts and California -- as they would any other marriage. This was similar to earlier directives by former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi and his successor, Thomas DiNapoli.

The governor, in making what he called "a strong step toward marriage," was following the Martinez court mandate. He cautioned state agencies that violations could subject the government to lawsuits and that recognition of same-sex marriages is "consistent with state policy."

Married There, Married Here

For more than a century, New York has recognized the valid marriages of other jurisdictions, except if they involve conditions that are illegal in New York or against public policy, such as polygamy or incest. However, homosexuality is not illegal and does not violate public policy, nor is there any law in this state prohibiting recognition of such marriage. The Martinez decision relied on the absence of any law banning same-sex marriage even though the state's highest court had previously held in Hernandez v Robles that, under existing law, gay men and lesbians have no right to enter marriage. In other words, the state does not allow gay marriage but also does not prohibit its recognition.

Unlike the majority of states, New York has not adopted the theory of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and has not adopted legislation denying comity or the usual constitutional requirement of giving full faith and credit to acts -- marriages or not -- that are valid in other states. In a country comprised of many states, individuals and businesses are generally free to move from one state to another without disruptions. Gay marriage has become a glaring exception. Same sex couples might be married in one state, but not married when they cross state lines. This is what recognition is meant to avoid.

Legal Challenge

In a challenge to the governor's position, New York State Sen. Martin Golden (apparently not related to Lisa Ann Golden, spouse of Patricia Martinez) and others represented by the Alliance Defense Fund of Arizona, which is opposed to same-sex marriage, brought a "taxpayer" lawsuit claiming the governor had acted outside his authority. This was the fourth case brought by Alliance on behalf of New York taxpayers -- the others challenging earlier directives from Hevesi and DiNapoli.

The suit argued Paterson's directive would create a "wrongful expenditure" and waste taxpayer money because it would, for example, lead to state funds paying health and other benefits for two people instead of one.

Ruling on the case, Acting Justice Lucy Billings of the Supreme Court, sitting in the Bronx, dismissed the lawsuit. She acknowledged that state funds are involved, but cited lack of specificity as to what funds would be expended.

Alliance has lost its other three cases as well. The group, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has appealed all four.

In discussing the taxpayer action, Billings wrote, "The governor's directive is an incremental but important step toward equality long denied." In her 27 page decision, the judge said, "When partners manifest the commitment to their relationship and family by solemnizing that commitment elsewhere, through one of life's most significant events, and come to New York, whether returning home or setting down roots, to carry on that commitment, nothing is more antithetical to family stability than requiring them to abandon solemnizing commitment."

None of the directives, nor the various lawsuits are about registered domestic relationships or civil unions, and they do not create a right to marry in this state. In accord with the Martinez decision in Monroe, Billings emphasized that the legislature may enact a ban on recognizing out-of-state marriages, or, on the other hand, create a right to marry. Absent such legislation, the decision said, "The governor's directive is another permissible, if not mandated, step toward the objective of equality for a group for whom legal as well as practical barriers to equality persist."

Billings held that same-sex couples "expect equal treatment with other married couples in legal protections and economic benefits for the couples and for their children: owning property as a unit, insurance, workers' compensation, health benefits, medical decision making, wrongful death claims, intestacy, inheritance and espousal privilege, for example. The emotional, familial, financial, and legal stability that accompanies marriage establishes a strong presumption in favor of the marriage's continued validity."

Getting the Promised Benefits

Still, barriers remain. Ken Sherrill, professor of political science at Hunter College, who married his long-time partner, Gerald Otte in Canada in August 2003 said, "While my spirits are lifted by the governor's actions, I have yet to experience any of the substantive benefits. Without implementation, the order isn't worth the paper it's written on, and the state has yet to issue guidelines, rules and regulations for implementing the policy."

A second problem, Sherrill points out, is that many of the issues involve health and related benefits under contracts with out-of-state vendors. Like Martinez in Monroe, Sherrill was denied certain benefits for his spouse. But the Martinez policy was with a New York company, while Sherrill's union, PSC-CUNY, though part of the state payroll, carries New York State United Teachers' catastrophic care insurance issued by Marsh Affinity Group Services of Illinois. Marsh, according to Sherrill, refuses to accept a Canadian marriage license as proof of the marital relationship.

"We have to see if government agencies or unions representing public employees should be barred from contracting out fringe benefits to corporations that do not recognize marriages like mine," Sherrill said. "Obviously, one solution is to find other vendors."

In the suit, the Office of the Attorney General's Monica Connell represented the governor. Attorneys for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, were represented by Susan Sommer, with pro bono assistance from Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP. Brian Raum argued the case for Alliance Defense Fund.

Emily Jane Goodman is a New York State Supreme Court Justice 

A Vanishing Culture?

the original cultural center
Image by Snohetta, (c) LMDC

Cultural institutions figured heavily in early plans for development of the World Trade Center site. The blueprint called for four independent cultural institutions that would complement the Memorial Museum, which will be dedicated to the 9-11 attacks.

But then an array of complications arose, including a heated debate over what kind of art would be “appropriate" on the ground where the Twin Towers fell. Now, as the seventh anniversary of 9-11 approaches, only one of the originally slated cultural institutions -- the Joyce Theater -- still hopes to locate at the site and even those plans are in jeopardy. Along the way, the saga eliminated one arts institution before it ever existed and left another without a home in Lower Manhattan.

Under Scrutiny

After officials made it clear that art would be an integral part of the plan to rebuild lower Manhattan, 113 cultural institutions applied to occupy the new buildings on Ground Zero. Four were selected in 2004.

The International Freedom Center, an institution imagined specifically for the site, and the Drawing Center, an established art museum, were to occupy a new Cultural Building next to the 9-11 Memorial Museum.

Now, neither arts venue will play a part in the site, nor will the Freedom Center ever exist. Their would-be home, a building designed by the Norwegian firm Snohetta, has been entirely scrapped. Instead, the firm has designed the entryway to the Memorial Museum.

"Originally there was a building that was going to house them and that was removed," Michelle Breslauer, a spokesman for the Memorial Museum, said.

The space that would have been devoted to that building will now be integrated into the memorial park as extra public space, according to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

The other arts building at the site -- a performance space designed by Frank Gehry -- sits in limbo, with funding in doubt and plans delayed for years, if not forever.

What happened?

Politically Incorrect?

The controversy over the arts institutions began with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Debra Burlingame, whose brother had been the pilot of the plane hijacked and flown into the Pentagon on 9/11. She came out strongly against the International Freedom Center, which she saw as inappropriate for the site. In particular, Burlingame objected to the center's plan to present an exhibition on the struggles of freedom throughout history.

"The public will have come to see 9/11 but will be given a high-tech, multimedia tutorial about man's inhumanity to man, from Native American genocide to the lynchings and cross-burnings of the Jim Crow South, from the Third Reich's Final Solution to the Soviet gulags and beyond," she wrote. "This is a history all should know and learn, but dispensing it over the ashes of Ground Zero is like creating a Museum of Tolerance over the sunken graves of the USS Arizona."

What followed was a public debate on what art is appropriate for Ground Zero. A group called Take Back the Memorial -- with Burlingame on the board -- was formed to pressure then Gov. George Pataki to revise the plans. The Post and the Daily News weighed in against the Freedom Center as well.

In response, Pataki demanded an "absolute guarantee" that the Drawing Center and the Freedom Center would have "total respect for the sanctity of the site." At that point, the Drawing Center withdrew from the project.

"We really just decided it wasn't the right site for us," said Lisa Gold, the public relations and marketing director for the Drawing Center. "It got to be very complicated and we saw that we're better off in an autonomous location. There were a lot of different parties weighing in on what should and shouldn't be shown there, and we're independent we're just better off in our own space, programming our own content."

Then, in 2005, as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation was still deliberating on how to proceed, Pataki unilaterally eliminated the Freedom Center from the plans.

While his choice mollified those offended by the Freedom Center's proposed content, Pataki faced heated criticism for his action. Two World Trade Center Memorial Foundation board members resigned in protest. Some critics charged he was curbing public debate and setting back the rebuilding process.

Since it was designed specifically for the site, plans for the Freedom Center will never be realized. Its planners expressed "deep disappointment" after the decision, calling it a "setback to one of the most ambitious and promising service and civic engagement programs in this country."

The High Cost of Art

The plans also called for a performing arts center designed by Frank Gehry's company. Initially, the Joyce Theater, a dance venue, and the Signature Theater Company, which features plays, were slated to share that building. Both are located elsewhere in the city and wanted to expand into Lower Manhattan.

Last year, the Signature left. In this case, the problem was logistics. According to the Times, the Bloomberg administration determined that having two institutions share the space was driving up costs and creating logistical problems. When the city offered to move the Signature into another location in the area, the company accepted without hard feelings.

The prospect for any performing arts center, though, remains somewhat vague. Discussing the Gehry building, the World Trade Center Web site, run by developer Larry Silverstein's company, said, "Funding details for the project have yet to be worked out, and construction cannot start until 2010 or 2011 because the site will be occupied until then by a temporary exit from the PATH train."

The city had said it would raise money for the center -- but not until the memorial and museum managed to amass $350 million needed for that project. Now that goal has been met, but as Downtown Express reported in April, there is no indication the city government is seeking support for the performing arts building. "

Meanwhile, Avi Schick, chief executive of the Empire State Development Corporation, has proposed -- in what he said was just an " idea or a concept" -- moving the performing arts center from the trade center site to the land above the subway station now being built at Fulton Street and Broadway.

Kate Levin, commissioner of the city Department of Cultural Affairs, has said the city and Lower Manhattan Development Corp. are working on a feasibility study for the theater, but there is no indication of when it will be completed.

"The performing arts center continues to be put on the back burner, and that's a huge mistake," Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1 told Downtown Express.

The revised plans for the entire site, due to be presented to Gov. David Paterson later this month, could provide further indication of whether rebuilding officials think arts still have a place at Ground Zero.

Searching for a Space in Lower Manhattan

When the Drawing Center withdrew from the project amid concerns over content control, it was left without a home in Lower Manhattan. But administrators still feel they made the right decision.

"We're still looking for a space in Lower Manhattan," said Gold. "We looked at additional sites down by the seaport, and we're continuing to look. New York is a very complicated real estate market. It's hard."

According to Gold and others in the arts world, space has been a major problem for cultural institutions in Manhattan. Many have the means to grow but can't find a place to do it. And arts advocates said that because of the economy, many cultural groups are facing greater fiscal pressures in recent days, making it hard even for successful institutions to afford Manhattan real estate.

The Drawing Center wanted to be at the trade center site not because of some specific link to 9/11, but because they valued the location. Its decision to withdraw is looking even wiser as the rebuilding process remains complicated and slow.

"We weren't specifically wed to that site because of what its holds," Gold said. "It was a wonderful opportunity that turned out not to be such a great opportunity. I don't think we're giving up anything by not being there."

As for Signature, the city proposed that it move to a space planned for the site of Fiterman Hall, the Borough of Manhattan Community College building currently undergoing decontamination. That sites future, like so much near ground zero, also remains in doubt.

Signature, though, thinks the move away from the trade center site still makes sense.

"The city said it was going to be too costly to do it, and I think they're right," said James Houghton, artistic director of the Signature, told the Times last year. "Frankly, it's refreshing to get this straight talk about it. I don't think anyone wants to build a $700 million performing arts center."


Harlem's Shifting Population

This is the text version of the chart included in An Affluent, White Harlem?

Townhouses in Harlem sell for millions of dollars and Columbia University continues to expand there, as the city foresees even greater changes again. Andrew Beveridge examines what it could mean for the future of America's most famous black community.

Population and Racial Composition Harlem and New York City, 1910 to 2006
  Central Harlem Greater Harlem Rest of NYC

* Numbers do not add up to 100 percent. The remaining Harlem residents are HIspanics, who were not listed separately until 1980, and individuals who identified themselves as members of other racial groups.

Sources: 1910 to 1940, Census Tract Data from National Historical Geographical Information System, Compiled by Andrew A. Beveridge and Co-workers; 1950, Ellen M. Bogue File, as edited by Andrew A. Beveridge and co-workers; 1960 through 2000, Tabulated Census Data from National Historical Geographic Information System; 2006 Data from American Community Survey, U.S. Bureau of the Census. Boundary Files from National Historical Geographic Information System 1910 to 2000, U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2006. All data and boundary files available from Minnesota Population Center. Since results are tabulated from the sources indicated, they may not necessarily match Census published figures for population and race.

BLACK 9.89% 4.28% 1.73%
WHITE 90.01% 95.64% 98.12%
Other 0.10% 0.08% 0.15%
total population 181,949 593,598 3,191,961.84
BLACK 32.43% 12.28% 1.46%
WHITE 67.47% 87.60% 98.39%
Other 0.15% 0.14% 0.15%
total population 216,026 652,529 4,767,727
BLACK 70.18% 34.82% 1.99%
WHITE 29.43% 64.78% 97.80%
Other 0.39% 0.40% 0.21%
total population 209,663.38 580,277.29 6,168,983.97
BLACK 89.31% 48.32% 2.65%
WHITE 10.48% 51.38% 97.10%
Other 0.21% 0.31% 0.25%
total population 221,974.31 576,845.91 6,677,186.53
BLACK 98.07% 57.52% 5.64%
WHITE 1.76% 41.89% 94.03%
Other 0.17% 0.60% 0.33%
total population 237,467.79 593,246.28 7,078,649.58
BLACK 96.71% 58.53% 10.71%
WHITE 2.94% 40.55% 88.62%
Other 0.35% 0.92% 0.67%
total population 163,632.28 467,633.59 6,829,199.34
BLACK 95.42% 63.53% 18.48%
WHITE 4.28% 34.44% 79.82%
Other 0.29% 2.02% 1.70%
total population 157,178.07 430,567.1 7,083,454.85
BLACK 94.17% 58.76% 22.20%
Hispanic 4.32% 28.46% 19.45%
WHITE 0.62% 10.29% 53.98%
Other 0.89% 2.49% 4.37%
total population 108,236 339,490 6,732,149
BLACK 87.55% 52.37% 23.93%
Hispanic 10.14% 33.94% 23.90%
WHITE 1.50% 10.85% 44.74%
Other 0.80% 2.85% 7.43%
total population 101,026 334,076 6,988,199
BLACK 77.49% 46.03% 23.67%
Hispanic 16.82% 38.02% 26.47%
WHITE 2.07% 10.45% 36.11%
Other 3.62% 5.50% 13.75%
total population 109,091 354,057 7,654,221
BLACK 69.27% 40.54% 23.40%
Hispanic 18.58% 38.24% 27.22%
WHITE 6.55% 14.80% 36.06%
Other 5.60% 6.42% 13.33%
total population 118,111 374,854 7,838,724


An Affluent, White Harlem?

A Harlem street, 1943
Harlem street scene, 1943.

Lenox Terrace, where U.S. Rep Charles Rangel had four apartments, now qualifies as a luxury building. Townhouses in Harlem sell for one, two and even more million dollars, as real estate developers build new condos in Hamilton Heights and elsewhere, Meanwhile Columbia University arranges to get much of West Harlem declared blighted so its expansion in Harlem, past the Fairway grocery store and Dinosaur Barbecue, can march on.

With the recent city rezoning of the area (see related story), many residents fear they will be pushed aside by new development. What is happening to Harlem? Is it becoming white? Is it becoming a neighborhood for the rich?

Harlem has gone through many changes since 1910. How far the latest transformation will go, though, remains to be seen.

As with many New York neighborhoods, defining Harlem's boundaries can be difficult. Central Harlem follows the definition set out by Gilbert Osofsky in his 1966 book Harlem: The Making of a Ghetto. The southern edge starts at 96th Street on the East Side; at Fifth Avenue and Central Park it goes up to 110th, and then cuts over to 106th Street on the West Side. The northern boundary of the area in most places is 155th Street, though it extends a bit further up on the East Side. Central Harlem is basically north of Central Park and east of Morningside and St. Nicholas avenues.

Prior to 1910, most of Harlem's settlers were middle class, including many notable African Americans. In the 1920s, an efflorescence of culture known as the Harlem Renaissance occurred, and the Apollo Theatre and the Savoy Ball Room were founded. As the "great migration" of blacks from the American South continued, and the size of the black population expanded, an area of concentrated poverty developed. Kenneth Clark's 1996 book, Dark Ghetto, certainly was influenced by Harlem.

Click on the image for full graph or view a text version here.

The changes in Central Harlem and New York City are shown in the table. In 1910, Central Harlem was about 10 percent black, Greater Harlem was a little more than 4 percent black, while the rest of New York City was less than 2 percent black. By 1930, Central Harlem was over 70 percent black and Greater Harlem was about 35 percent black, but the rest of New York City was still less than 2 percent black. In short, by 1930, during the Harlem Renaissance, Central Harlem had become very definably black area in a largely white city. By 1950, Central Harlem was about 98 percent black, while Greater Harlem was 57.5 percent black.

Central Harlem lost more than half of its population between 1950 and 1980, and Greater Harlem also saw its population drop as well. This was a period of sharp economic decline in New York City, especially for the black community. This also marked the era of urban renewal, and many older housing units were razed either for public housing projects or for other apartment developments. The new developments did not come close to housing the same number of people. Almost all of the people who remained in Central Harlem, though, were black.

Since1980, Central Harlem has become less black, and by 2006 a smaller percentage of the population was black than in 1930. Meanwhile, the white and Hispanic populations rose. In 1980, there were 672 whites in Central Harlem, constituting about 0.6 percent of the population. By 2006 that figure had increased to 7,741 or about 6.6 percent. Hispanics accounted for 4.3 percent of Harlem residents in 1980, the first year they were classified separately. In 2006,that number reached 18.6 percent.

In short, there had been a turnaround of sorts in Harlem. The white population that had moved to Harlem by 2000 was distributed in many different areas. Between 1980 and 2000, there has been a decline in the concentration of blacks in Harlem. Furthermore, according to the 2006 American Community Survey, the overall decline in black population has continued.

In the early days of Harlem, the black community there was quite diverse, especially when African Americans in Harlem were compared to those who lived elsewhere. During the period of the rapid influx into the area, the level of concentrated poverty increased in Harlem. That accelerated during the 1950s through the 1970s with urban renewal, housing deterioration and a decline in population. At the same time, areas such as Southeast Queens attracted affluent black families.

Now it appears that areas of Harlem are sought after once again. By 2000 and 2006, there were areas of some highly affluent black and white residents. Median household income in Central Harlem had increased from about $13,765 in 1950 to over $26,161 in 2006, in 2006 dollars. Still, this figure is well below the median of $46,285 for the rest of New York City.

Harlem has changed from an impoverished area with a few middle-class families to one where some middle-class people, including a few whites, have moved in and made their homes. In some parts of Harlem, blacks have been joined by Hispanics, but that percentage has not grown much since 2000. Rather, the new residents of Harlem seem to be non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic, who consider themselves to be "other race," neither black nor white. The traditional townhouse areas around Strivers Row, Sugar Hill and Marcus Garvey Park have undergone a rebirth. Stores and restaurants catering to the affluent have opened in West Harlem, while Magic Johnson opened a Starbucks and a Multiplex on 125th Street, near where former President Bill Clinton has his office suite. Columbia University's expansion will bring more change to West Harlem.

What these changes portend for New York City's iconic black neighborhood is hard to fathom. On the one hand, new residents mean that Harlem will have more diversity of income, occupation, educational level and race than it did in the 1970s and 1980s. At the same time, the large stock of public housing and the relatively low income means that high levels of poverty will continue to be a feature of Harlem. Harlem will not lose its black majority or its high concentrations of poverty anytime soon.

Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and been in charge of Gotham Gazette's demographics topic page since 2000. The opinions expressed are his alone. 

The School Divide Starts at Kindergarten

The recent baby boom in New York City led to an increasing squeeze in the search for the best school for the budding kindergartner or first grader. Unlike other recent spurts in enrollment, the latest surge has had the great effect in Manhattan, especially among highly affluent non-Hispanic white families

percentage  of students in private schools

The number of white toddlers (ages 0 to 4) in the city has increased greatly. In decades past, white families and more affluent families would often leave New York City for the suburbs, where the schools were small and elite (at least according to who lived there) and open to all residents. Now more of these families prefer to stay in New York City.

The impacts of the new trend are reverberating throughout New York City's elementary schools -- public and private, elite and neighborhood. One of the city's top elementary schools, Hunter, saw 1,550 children apply for 48 slots. The large increase in students sitting for the private school exams document that this is indeed the year of the crunch.

Many affluent parents have seen public school Gifted and Talented programs as a viable - and free -- alternative to private schools, but critics have long maintained the system unfairly favored these children, shortchanging those in poorer black and Hispanic areas. This year the city adopted a standardized test with uniform standards to select those eligible. However, we now know that this method resulted in a much less diverse program according to the New York Times.

Finally, just getting ones child into a neighborhood school seems to have turned into a difficult process for some. Confusion, competition for limited slots and changes in the selection methods for the relatively few desirable elementary programs seem to be the order of the day.

Who Goes Where

Which kids go to public schools and which attend private schools in New York City? Which get into the sought after programs, such as Hunter or the Gifted and Talented programs? What do we know about the location, race, ethnicity and economic standings of the families of New York City's elementary school parents, public and private, gifted and not so gifted?

To answer some of these questions I pieced together data from the Census and the Department of Education, and created some simple maps. Beyond this, using some estimates based upon reasonable guesses of the test outcomes, I was able to get some idea of the composition of the Gifted and Talented programs. Simply put, the kids who find their way into the preferred programs, whether public or private are much different than the average New York City elementary kid. They are much more likely to be from intact, higher income families and to be non-Hispanic white.

Private School Kids are Different

Now that Gossip Girl is on TV, and Horace Mann's violations of academic and due process have been exposed by New York Magazine, outsiders may sense that private school kids are different from public school kids, at least in high school. Of course, most private schools are not at the rarefied financial and academic levels of Collegiate, Brearley, Spence, Horace Mann, Ethical Culture and the like. Indeed, the vast bulk of private schools in New York City are run by the two Catholic archdioceses, while there are yeshivas, along with a few Lutheran, Muslim and other religious schools.

In 2006 about 22 percent of 518,000 elementary students (kindergarten through grade 4) attended private school according to the census's American Community Survey. Table 1 compares the elementary private school kids with those attending public school.


Non-Hispanic White
Non-Hispanic Black
Non-Hispanic Asian
Non-Hispanic All Other
Married Couple Family
Male House-holder No Wife
Female House-holder No Husband

Only about 17 percent of the public school kids are non-Hispanic white, compared with about 57 percent of the private school kids. The private school kids are also less likely to be Hispanic, black or Asian than public school kids. While about 79 percent of kids in private school come from married couple families, only half the public school kids do. The median family income of the private school kids is $63,000 almost double that of public school kids with $33,750. Most of those parents who chose private schools for the children are willing and able to pay the tuition. Many, many public school families never could.

Map 1 presents the percent of elementary children by sub-borough (which follow the boundaries of community planning districts, except that two in lower Manhattan and two in the Bronx are combined.) As that map makes plain, in the Upper East Side of Manhattan (the home Gossip Girl) more than half of all elementary kids attend private school. This percentage is quite high in other parts of Manhattan, as well, including the Upper West Side and midtown and downtown. It is in exactly in these areas that the baby boom for non-Hispanic whites has occurred in the last few years.

In Brooklyn, the percent of children attending private school is especially high in Williamsburgh and Greenpoint, as well as in Borough Park. Here, of course, there is a high concentration of observant Jewish parents, Also in Brooklyn, the area including Sheepshead Bay has relatively high private school enrollment. Private schools, even the religious ones, cater to the parents with some means and enrollment is concentrated in those areas.

Deciding Who's Gifted

The rejiggered selection criteria for slots in New York City's Gifted and Talented program, requires taking a test, usually in kindergarten, and scoring in the 90th percentile. Students who clear this hurdle are likely be from non-Hispanic white families and from affluent families. Many of their parents can afford pre-school, lessons, nannies and the like. When their children take a test, even at age four or five, they are prepared and have a huge advantage over other students.

Percentage of Students accepted into Gifted Programs

The Department of Education has not released full data about the racial and Hispanic composition, as well as the eligibility status for "free or reduced lunch program," of the admitted students. What we do know is that the number of students qualifying for gifted and talented slots radically changed for many districts between last year and this year. This year District 2 in a large swath of Manhattan had 15.2 percent of its students qualifying, while District 3, on the Upper West Side, qualified 22.3 percent. Most districts were well below 5 percent. Map 2 gives the overall rate of gifted and talented students qualified compared to the total in the cohort. These figures include all students who would be eligible for the first time for Gifted and Talented programs this year, whether or not they applied.

The percent of non-Hispanic whites and the percent not qualifying for free and reduced lunch is highly correlated with percent qualifying for Gifted and Talented programs. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of Kindergarten, I found that non-Hispanic whites are much more likely than non-Hispanic blacks or Hispanics to score in the 90th percentile or above on a cognitive test. Their performance does vary by which test -- math, language or general knowledge -- is being used.

Since New York City now uses similar tests to screen for gifted and talented, I assumed that non-Hispanic whites would outperform Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks, and would have a 150 percent greater chance to meet the cutoff for the Gifted and Talented classes. For 100 non-Hispanic blacks and 100 non-Hispanic whites, this means that if 10 non-Hispanic whites meet the cutoff only two non-Hispanic blacks would do.

Performance on tests taken at kindergarten is highly influenced by the student's family environment of the student. This means the actual difference between white students and other may be even greater in New York City, where there are very high differences in income and education between non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites, especially in Manhattan.

The results of the estimates are shown in Table 2.


Non-Hispanic White
Non-Hispanic Black
Non-Hispanic Asian

Non-Hispanic whites and Asians almost triple their percentage, while the percent non-Hispanic black and Hispanic plunges. In short, students accepted in the Gifted and Talented program are not all representative of the students in New York City, and less so this year than last year.

As the baby boom in Manhattan shows little sign of ebbing, we can expect the middle class kindergarten crunch to continue. Parents here can chose between many types of private and religious schools, selective schools, their neighborhood elementary school or gifted and talented program. But the suburbs are just a short train ride away, and many have lots of slots for new elementary school students available to anyone who can afford to live there.




Housing Squeeze Shows No Sign of Easing

housing costs rise

To anyone look for an apartment in New York's City "free market," affordable housing can seem to be an oxymoron. While a well-known real-estate developer recently claimed that any housing rented or sold in New York City was affordable to the particular renter or purchaser, when the usual standards are applied many New Yorkers live in unaffordable conditions.

Generally, affordable means spending no more than 30 percent of household income on housing. For a household with an income of $100,000, affordable housing then would mean rent, utilities and other charges (but not phone and cable) or mortgage, maintenance and utilities would amount to no more than $2,775 per month. For New Yorkers at 80 percent of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development median ($56,570), which the department considers the top of lower income, the figure would be about $1,575.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s recent report that 28 percent of New York households who rent spend more than half their incomes on housing and his call for increased federal subsidies, public housing and other government measures served as yet another reminder of the severe problems of housing affordability in New York City and the lack of government action to remedy it.

In 2000, 36.7 percent of New Yorkers lived in unaffordable units. By 2006, that the percentage had increased to 46.0 percent, which means that about 280,000 more New York City households now live in non-affordable housing than they did eight years ago. An analysis by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development using the 2000 Census showed that one fifth of New York City households then spent more than half of their income on income. By 2006 that had increase to almost one quarter. (More results are in the accompanying table below.)

housing costs rise
An analysis of American Community Survey data shows that paying for housing poses an increasing burden on less affluent New Yorkers. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development defines extremely low-income households as those with incomes of less than $21,251 for a family of four; very low income as families of four making less than $35,419; and low income families as those with incomes of below $56,760 for a four-person household. Click on image for full table.

These results were produced using the latest available American Community Survey data. I performed the same analysis that HUD had done for the 2000 Census. Of those New York households classified as low income, 71.9 percent lived in unaffordable housing, an increase from increased from 62.6 percent in 2000. The number of these less affluent households spending more than 50 percent increased from 38.9 percent to 45.1 percent during the same period. (The accompanying table has more detail.)

This can be attributed to a number of developments. The median house value almost doubled from 2000 to 2006, and many people stretched their budgets to buy in what they saw as a booming market. Rents at complexes such as Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were increased to luxury levels, while many buildings left Mitchell-Lama moderate-income housing program. Meanwhile, it was reported last week that private companies are buying up inexpensive apartments in the hopes of converting them to higher priced buildings once the current tenants leave. With fewer and fewer rent-regulated apartments available, it is no surprise that an affordable apartment in New York City is becoming scarcer and scarcer.

The mayor's PlaNYC2030 for sustainable growth acknowledges the affordable housing issue. The plan expects a net increase of about 300,000 homes to accommodate the growth of the population from 2005 through 2030. To accommodate the housing needs, it outlines a series of steps, including a large number of residential “upzonings” to make it possible to build higher density housing than is now permitted in many areas in the city, housing within easy access to transit and an effort to create and preserve affordable housing using city land, subsidies, and incentives.

This is not the mayor's first attempt to address the housing crunch. The results from New Housing Marketplace to promote moderately priced homes brings into high relief just how difficult it is to make housing more affordable here. That plan calls for 165,000 units of affordable housing: about 73,000 preserved and about 92,000 newly constructed. After four years, the Independent Budget Office found that about 40,000 units were preserved and 24,000 units were new. At the same time, the city lost 280,000 affordable apartments and houses in the last six years. The challenge, according to the Independent Budget Office, is to build new homes affordable to low and moderate income households, as well as to middle-income households.

Unfortunately, Weiner is right. To create affordable housing requires subsidies and funding on a scale undreamed of since before the Reagan administration. The reason for this is obvious. Those most in need of affordable housing, cannot afford market rate housing. Yet, one can go only so far to use market rate housing to subsidize lower priced rate housing.

Density bonuses, set asides, 80/20 arrangements, etc., do help. But New York City need more than 1 million more affordable units along with significant efforts to make sure that the recent losses do not continue. There is little chance that the city, state or federal government will be willing to pay the bill for that. In the meantime, the search for affordable housing in New York will become more and more difficult, and more residents will abandon the search and move elsewhere or not even bother to come here.

Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and been in charge of Gotham Gazette's demographics topic page since 2000. The opinions expressed are his alone. 

A Religious City

When commentators discuss parts of the country where people hold strongly to religious beliefs and practices, they rarely include New York. In fact, for much of its history, people from the rest of the U.S. have tended to view the city as a godless metropolis in a largely god-fearing land.

The statistics, though, tell a very different story. If belonging to a religion translates to being religious, New Yorkers are very religious when compared to Americans as a whole. The proportion of people identified as adhering to an organized religion in New York City makes the five boroughs as religious as many places in the so-called "Bible Belt." Yet people here belong - and do not belong - to different religions than residents of other parts of the country.

An estimated 6.8 million New Yorkers - or more than 83 percent of the population -- were identified as being affiliated with some organized religion in 2000. This rate of adherents is higher than all the states except Louisiana - even slightly higher than Utah. (These numbers include those who were said to be affiliated with many different religious groups and were adjusted to take into account non-reporting and other factors.)

Since 1990, though, there seems to be some decline in religious affiliation in New York City. In 2000, three-fifths of all New Yorkers were reported as affiliated with one or another religious body and so were called religious "adherents." The number was down to 4.8 million from just over 5 million in 1990. (These are the unadjusted figures.)

Where the Religions Are
  New York City New York State United States
All Religions (adjusted)
Adherents 6,682,139 14,366,781 173,046,520
Rate 83.44 75.71 61.49
All Religions (Unadjusted)
Adherents 4,783,779 11,459,836 141,364,420
Adherence Rate 59.74 60.39 50.23

The data used here are from the Religious Congregations and Membership Survey sponsored by the Association of Statisticians of Religious Bodies and distributed by the Association of Religious Data Archives. These data ask representatives of each congregation for the number of members they serve. Data on religious adherents was released February 1 and are available through www.socialexplorer.com Social Explorer and from the www.thearda.com Association of Religious Data Archives.

Where the Religions Are
  Brooklyn Manhattan Queens Staten Island Bronx
All Religions (adjusted)
Adherents 2,359,578 1,374,628 1,411,006 396,026 1,140,902
Adherence Rate 95.71 89.42 63.29 89.25 85.61
All Religions (unadjusted)
Adherents 1,552,336 1,075,375 1,072,693 332,964 750,411
Adherence Rate 62.97 69.96 48.12 75.04 56.31

Looking at the whole metropolitan area, which includes 39 counties in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as Pike County, Pennsylvania, almost 79 percent of the population are adherents, making the metro area 31st out of 276 in terms of religious affiliation. Virtually all the metropolitan areas reporting a higher proportion are in the South, including Lafayette, Louisiana, with the New York City area having a higher proportion of adherents than the Salt Lake City or Little Rock area.

Furthermore, New York State is the fifth most religious state. Only Louisiana, Mississippi, Utah and North Dakota have a higher proportion of religious adherents.

At the other end of the scale, West Virginia, Maine, Nevada, Washington and Oregon have the smallest percentage of their populations identified as belonging to an organized religion. Between 35 percent and 40 percent of their residents are adherents, compared to New York State's 75 percent. Metropolitan areas in those states have similarly low rates of religious membership.

A Diversity of Faiths

Religious though New York City may be, its mix of religious, as with its mix of residents, differs greatly from the rest of the United States. New York City is much more Catholic (62 percent versus 44 percent) and much more Jewish (22 percent versus 4.3 percent) than is the rest of the United States.

While smaller in number, Muslims and members of various Eastern Orthodox churches also have more members proportionately in New York City than in the state or the country. For example, slightly more than 2 percent of New Yorkers attend mosques, compared to only about a half of 1 percent of all Americans.

Protestants are much less well represented among New York City's religious members. In New York City 4.2 percent of religious adherents belong to evangelical Protestant churches and 6.5 to mainline Protestant churches, compared to 28.2 percent and 18.5 percent, respectively, for the nation as a whole

The pattern of religions varies throughout the city. Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn have a higher proportion of Jews and Muslims, while Staten Island and the Bronx are much more Catholic. Manhattan has the highest proportion of mainline Protestants, while Brooklyn leads in terms of Evangelical Protestants.

Where the Religions Are:
Percent of Total Adherents
  Brooklyn Manhattan Queens Staten Island Bronx
Catholics 58.8% 52.5% 60.0% 79.6% 77.5%
Evangelical Protestant 5.5% 3.0% 3.9% 2.8% 4.2%
Mainline Protestant 6.6% 9.3% 5.7% 4.3% 4.7%
Jewish 24.4% 29.2% 22.2% 10.1% 11.2%
Muslim 3.7% 3.4% 4.9% 2.4% 1.6%
Eastern Orthodox 0.7% 1.8% 2.7% 0.6% 0.5%
Other Religions 0.2% 0.7% 0.7% 0.3% 0.3%

Measuring Religion

The data presented here represent one method of measuring religion in the United States. Other measures, such as the American Religious Identification Survey estimate religion by asking individuals their religious identification.

Both approaches to measuring religion have some biases. However, the general patterns found seem to be the same. Both identify New York City and State as quite religious and the Pacific Northwest to be much less so. They also corroborate one another in terms of the patterns of religion identification and membership in the city. In the s religious identification survey, taken in 2001, about 13.4 percent of New York State residents did not identify with any religion. Estimating the number of people affiliated with any religion, though, particularly for Muslims and Jews, poses difficulties. The Census does not ask people about their religious affiliation.

To look at the figures for about 150 religious denominations by county and state, go to www.thearda.com or to www.socialexplorer.com A book was recently published that presented much more detail from the ARIS: Religion in a Free Market. Further analysis of data similar to that presented here can be found in The Churching of America, 1776 to 2005.

Where the Religions Are
  New York City New York State United States
% of Adherents By Group      
Catholics 62.0% 65.9% 43.9%
Evangelical Protestant 4.2% 4.9% 28.2%
Mainline Protestant 6.5% 11.3% 18.5%
Jewish 21.9% 14.4% 4.3%
Muslim 3.5% 2.0% 1.1%
Eastern Orthodox 1.4% 1.0% 0.7%
Other Religions 0.4% 0.5% 3.2%

Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and been in charge of Gotham Gazette's demographics topic page since 2000. The opinions expressed are his alone.

Will the 2010 Census "Steal" New Yorkers?

Throughout the 1990s, New York City's population appeared to grow from about 7.35 million until it reached slightly over 8.0 million for the first time ever. Since then, growth continued, and by 2006 New York City was said to have somewhat in excess of 8.2 million people. As preparations ramp up for the 2010 Census, most would expect that that count will register New York City's continued gains. Yet when the Census numbers are announced, New York City's renewed growth could appear to have halted and even reversed -- not because fewer people actually live here but because of new Census procedures.

Censuses, including the ones in the United States, are really about two things: power and money. The main use of the count is to reapportion Congress and redraw lines for the state legislature and local government bodies. Simply put, every extra person in New York City (and by extension New York State) leads to extra power for the state and the city, and to additional government funds.

The growth in largely Democratic New York City in 1990s, as depicted by the Census, along with declines in population in more Republican areas upstate, led to a serious problem for the GOP-dominated State Senate. Instead of simply shifting some seats from Republican areas to Democratic ones, as the Census would seem to have indicated, the Senate tried to instead solve its dilemma by adding an extra seat to the body and forcing massive redrawing of lines in New York City, while keeping them largely intact in Long Island and upstate.

Counting More New Yorkers

While more people did live in New York City 2000 than in 1990, a large share of the growth in population recorded by the 2000 Census is due to the efforts of the Population Division of the Department of City Planning and its director Joseph Salvo. Indeed, perhaps half the growth can be attributed to their efforts to include formerly overlooked households in the Census and make sure they were counted. Some of these households were never reached, so the data on them came from their neighbors, with the Census Bureau filling in some of the blanks. Now the bureau headquarters in Washington is challenging the methods and approaches that led to New York City's surprising growth. In effect, it claims, some of the households counted do not actually exist.

For the 2000 count, the Census Bureau allowed local authorities to examine and update the local address file and add the following types of units:

  • New construction
  • Conversions of buildings from non-residential to residential use
  • Garages converted to residences
  • Attics or basements used as apartments
  • Subdividing that yields apartments

The city planning department counted both doorbells and mailboxes to try to assess the many different types of conversions that had taken place. Many of these homes, of course, are illegal and do not have an official Certificate of Occupancy. Nonetheless, many people live in such apartments and should be counted. In 2000, the planning department suggested the addition of 439,069 additional housing units. The Census Bureau eventually accepted about 370,000 of these residences, including about 86,000 after an appeal by the city. The homes from the appeal alone would have added on the order of 200,000 to 250,000 New Yorkers to the Census.

Since 1960, the census has sent long forms, requesting more detailed information, to a certain percentage of homes. The 2010 Census will no longer have a long form. The questions that formerly were part of the "long form, are now administered yearly in the American Community Survey, which began in 2005 and first was released in 2006.

Beyond that change, the planning for the 2010 Census includes a much more restrictive definition of what constitutes a household. Indeed, Census staff suggests that if there is any question about how many units are in a given structure they will consult with the property owner, who very likely may have illegally divided it, to find out how many unites are "actually" in the building. Some landlords, of course, will be loathe to report their illegal units, and will deny their existence. Furthermore, there seem to be plans to send only one form to each address, even though there are many instances where two households share a mailbox. If these procedures are put into place, New York City could very well lose hundreds of thousands of population in the 2010 Census Count.

An Alternative Plan

Joseph Salvo suggests that the Census use a method called update and enumerate. In that method, questionnaires are not mailed. Instead Census workers walk blocks with a list of addresses in hand, knock on doors, update addresses and count residents. This method is used in other places, such as resorts and Native American reservations, where it is difficult to ascertain the number of households in a given area. In sections of Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, where there are many households and residents in some structures, such a method done properly would lead to a more accurate count than mailing forms.

The 2010 Census will be used for reapportionment and redistricting and population estimates, as well as providing the basis for all population reporting for the community survey in the coming decade. As such, its accuracy is vital for New York City and the share of power and money it will have both in the United States and in the state.

Unless New York City's special characteristics are taken into account, it is plain that the city will be a loser in the 2010 Census, as it was for decades and decades until 2000. We are lucky to have Joseph Salvo and his Department of City Planning team as our advocates. Without them, New York City would have never officially reached the 8 million made and in 2010 could turn out to be below it once again.

(The discussion of LUCA in the 2000 and 2010 Census is drawn from Joseph Salvo's presentation to New York Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, September 27, 2007. That presentation is available on the Web site. My presentation on the results from the American Community Survey is available here. Any opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.) Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and been in charge of Gotham Gazette's demographics topic page since 2000. The opinions expressed are his alone. 

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