NEW YORK — Hours after the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that New York is among seven states that will lose a U.S. House of Representatives seat based on its once-in-a-decade population count, Mayor Bill de Blasio laid the bulk of the blame on the state government.
“I’m very proud of what we did in the city, because we’re in the middle of a pandemic and we launched a massive grassroots effort to get people counted, and we managed to reach the same level of 2010, when there was no pandemic. I mean, that is a miracle,” de Blasio told anchor Errol Louis in his weekly “Mondays with the Mayor” interview on “Inside City Hall.”
“What’s troubling to me,” de Blasio continued, “is that the state of New York clearly did not go that extra mile. They did not put the resources in. They held back money they should have devoted. I mean, for God’s sake, if the state had invested in the census, could you have found 89 more people to count? Sure, easily, and many, many tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands more, potentially.”
The census announcement particularly stung to New York because it fell just 89 residents short of retaining all of its House seats. Critics like de Blasio are blaming Gov. Andrew Cuomo, accusing him of not doing more to push more New Yorkers to respond to the census — although California spent $100 million, much more than New York, on census outreach, and both states are losing one seat.
But the razor-thin margin will likely lead to questions over how the count was tabulated and whether New Yorkers were undercounted. Advocates and lawmakers had raised concerns that there would be a depressed response to the census in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. They also feared some undocumented immigrants would not respond after the Trump administration attempted to add a citizenship question to the census. Some argued the cumulative effect would be population undercounts for states with higher numbers of undocumented immigrants, resulting in the loss of congressional seats.
But Texas, which has a growing population of undocumented immigrants, gained two seats. The Lone Star State added about 4 million people to its population since 2010, according to the Census Bureau, as people flocked to cities such as Austin, Houston and Dallas, as well as their corresponding suburbs.
Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Oregon and Montana will each gain one seat in the House, while California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are joining New York as states that will lose one seat.
While de Blasio lamented about the quality of the census count and called it a “lost opportunity by the state government,” he emphasized what the city is doing to recharge its economy, namely pumping $30 million into a campaign to boost tourism and bringing city workers back to their offices starting next week.
Even still, New York state has been losing congressional seats since 1953, and critics have accused the state of enacting policies that would spur New Yorkers to leave, while not rolling out the welcome mat to entice new residents. For example, opponents of the recent wealth tax that the state legislature passed — which is set to make New York City residents subject to the highest combined local and state personal income tax rates in the nation — said the move would drive people away.
"We didn’t lose these New Yorkers to places like Florida and Texas ‘because of the weather,’" said State Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt. "We lost them because we tax too much, we spend too much, and we fail to offer the opportunities that are available in more affordable states."
While the mayor conceded there’s a draw to the Sun Belt region “for a variety of reasons,” he argued New York City’s economy remains diverse and vibrant and still draws people from around the world.
“New York City has never had a problem, in recent years, attracting people who want to be here,” he said. “We’ve had our all-time high of population in recent years, and, until the pandemic, an incredibly booming, diverse, effective economy, and we’re going to get that back.”
Did you know you can now watch, read and stay informed with NY1 wherever and whenever you want? Get the new Spectrum News app here.
Watch the full interview above.
Looking for an easy way to learn about the issues affecting New York City?