While New York state and The Weekender’s mid-week home, New York City, were clear losers in the recently released 2010 U.S. Census results, my weekend residence, Chatham, not only held its own but gained substantially. It was a winner in the bottom line tally and in the more granular analysis of what the numbers say about the last 10 years and foretell about our future as a community.
New York state and City lost because their populations each increased by an anemic 2.1 percent, rising to 19,379,102 and 8,175,133, respectively, while the national increase was 9.7 percent to 308,745,538. That will cost New York state two seats in the House of Representatives and tens of billions of dollars in reduced federal funding over the coming decade. In truth, this federal funding is merely the return of money New York individuals and companies pay to Washington and in this regard, New York doubly loses because we always pay in much more than is returned. The late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan fought a senatorial career long fight in an attempt to redress this chronic imbalance, but was only marginally successful.
The state will say about the census tally, and already has, that there was a major undercount due to the difficulty of getting immigrants, mostly in New York City, both lawful and undocumented, to “stand up and be counted.” This, despite the legal bar on the Census Bureau using its procedures to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. There clearly is much truth in the state’s undercount complaint, but as the 1980s, 1990s and last decade, any court challenges will prove fruitless and at best, New York state and City will claw back a minor fraction of the federal money they claim entitlement to using the Census Bureau’s formal dispute procedures.
The good news is that most of the Hudson Valley, and Chatham in particular, bucked the trend in New York state toward population stagnation and a steady rise in the median age of its populace. Orange, Rockland and Dutchess counties registered second, third and fourth (to Saratoga’s first) in population percentage increase. Every one of the counties in our region (save Columbia) both grew and also exceeded the state’s overall rate of growth. Though Columbia was statistically flat, adding a total of two people, the “Census Tract” encompassing Chatham was the county’s champion and a leader in the state, growing at the robust rate of 13.4 percent. While New York state, as a whole, looks a little bit more like 20th century America and a tad less like the multi-racial/ethnic nation we increasingly are becoming, Chatham is rapidly beginning to look like America’s future.
Virtually all of Chatham’s growth came in people identifying themselves as neither (non-Hispanic) white nor black. Chatham residents identifying themselves as Asian, Hispanic, Native American and “multiracial” registered gains at rates of 113 percent, 125 percent, 200 percent and 350 percent, respectively. While some of these seemingly huge percentage gains were made on small bases, the truly extraordinary increase in the entire non-white/black group, and in every one of its sub-categories, paints a clear picture of rapidly increasing diversity. One doesn’t have to strain to see tangible and delightful evidence of that diversity in the ingredients stocked by local food vendors, in area restaurants, shops and in the increasingly diverse educational and cultural opportunities in our community.
When The Weekender’s family first set foot in the village of Chatham in August 1987, it was a great place. It’s better, more diverse and more interesting now. A big part of that is the increasingly open and welcoming attitude toward newcomers, even people from Manhattan.