Who Counts in the Census? A Few Suggestions

The City’s Challenge Opens up Debate for Who Actually Matters in New York


This summer, the City of New York revealed a “mistake” that proves a belief I’ve held for years: people living in parts of Queens and Brooklyn don’t matter. For those who missed the news, early this August, city officials filed a challenge to the results of the census Bureau’s 2010 population count. Apparently, the Census missed around 50,000 people in the Queens neighborhoods of Astoria and Jackson Heights and the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge.

Lady Liberty welcomes everyone to her shores. Well, almost everyone. (Richard derk/los angeles times/MCT)

My reaction when I heard this: “I wish I could pretend Brooklyn didn’t exist!”

Apparently these numbers actually matter because data from the census is used in configuring federal spending and Congressional districts, so the mayor has good reason to fight for a higher number. But I think the Census Bureau has something here: maybe some New Yorkers shouldn’t count.

I do think they may have picked the wrong people to ignore; I don’t know much about the other three neighborhoods, but I know Astoria as a land full of blessed people who care little about whether or not someone is legal! Also, they have that whole diversity thing, including my favorite ethnicity, the Greeks. Any survey that misses a culture that gave us Tina Fey is a sad, boring survey indeed.

Yes, the census may have overlooked some important areas of the city, but there are definitely some residents of the five boroughs that most people would agree shouldn’t be counted with everyone else.

First among these is anyone who has ever starred in a reality show (i.e. “Mob Wives,” “Real Housewives of New York,” “Jersey Shore”). Sure, they may entertain us for a few episodes every year, but do we really want to count these attention-whoring, talentless creatures as part of New York? That’s not exactly the image we’re going for, right?

Next up on the “does not count” list: cabbies. Now, I don’t have anything against cab drivers–they get you anywhere in less time than it would take to apparate–but I do question whether or not they should count as humans. They obviously never sleep, eat or bathe, and I’m 90 percent sure that they have cell phones attached to their heads. Does that sound like something that should be counted in a human census? Sorry cabbies, I’ve been on to you ever since I saw “Men in Black.”

Another group of “people” whose human status I question is subway conductors. Again, I respect and appreciate everything they supposedly do, but I’m just not convinced that they exist. To most people, subway conductors exist as a disembodied voice, and if you do catch a glimpse of one, he or she is seldom more than an upper half. These “people” are obviously just robots with very human features.

Roosevelt Island is another mysterious entity that I’m pretty sure is a myth on par with SNL tickets and the end of construction. I’d be surprised if the Census Bureau would risk sending anyone to explore that unknown land.

Anyone familiar with my previous writing might expect me to use this opportunity to go on a rail against hipsters, but, always the contrarian, I’m actually all for them counting. Please, let us count them all so we may gather their data and hunt them down, one-by-one.

Unlike hipsters, anyone who has ever called New York “the Big Apple” should definitely not count on the census. Come on, the only easier ways to know you’re not from the city is either wearing an “I <3 NY” shirt or taking photos of any landmark. Along these lines, anyone who can’t give directions to the nearest Starbucks from any given location probably hasn’t spent much time in New York or is above mainstream coffee shops and should only count as half a person.

I’m hesitant to include the Upper East Side in New York’s census figures, at least until they realize that Manhattan is more than just their apartments and their offices and that New York is more than just Manhattan and a couple distant airports.

Finally, to make up for all these groups suddenly removed from New York’s official population, I propose adding the following to the 2020 census: rats as one-fourth of a person each, Fordham students as three people each, horses (for police or carriages), the Statue of Liberty as however many people visited her and,of course, every diner as 100 people each. This new approach would give a much truer picture of New York.