September 13, 2006
Village Census Takes Shape
A groundbreaking vision for a new "immigration-blind" census that aims to accurately portray the Greenport village population is now only weeks away from becoming a reality.
Earlier this year, Greenport Mayor David Kapell announced plans for a new census geared toward painting a more accurate picture of the village's population.
The proposed new tally is aimed toward including part-time, seasonal homeowners — or what the committee has termed "non-traditional residents" — and Latinos who contribute significant numbers to the village canvas but have not been counted.
Originally, the goal was to count each of the individuals who have been living and working in the village, with an emphasis on providing services to everyone.
But, while the intrinsic goals of the project remain the same, the logistics have changed. This week, Kapell announced there have been new developments regarding the information-gathering process.
Now that logistics have been discussed, the process is moving along quickly, with the goal being to conduct the census by the last two weeks of October. By November 1, the survey will be complete, and by later that month, analytical results will be available.
Since the census proposal was presented to the public, a steering committee charged with spearheading the project have identified two difficulties: Asking for a lot of information, and doing a complete head count.
To that end, consultants have suggested an alternative — conducting a 20-percent sampling.
"We're in the process of developing a map, which will be used by a group of 20 canvassers, all community members," said Kapell; 10 are bilingual and 10 are English-speaking. The canvassers will travel in pairs; 10 pairs will cover 20 households.
The map will be given to a statistician to ensure unbiased results.
A true cross section of the community is essential, "because these results have to be defendable. They're going to come under attack as soon as we release them," said Kapell.
Opponents will always look to find fault, said the mayor. "You have to do your homework. That's why we spent a lot of time to make sure we know what we're doing before we started."
Assuming the map represents a true cross section, the sampling can be used "within a very small margin of error, using statistics to extrapolate the real numbers."
Scientific methodology will be employed so results "are within 4%."
Collecting a sampling will streamline the process. In addition, said Kapell, the committee has decided the questionnaire distributed to residents "is going be very simple. The fewer questions we ask, the more likely we're going to get people to answer."
Non-traditional residents demand services just like everyone else. "Whether they're here seven days a week or one day a week, we still have to maintain and light the streets in front of their houses; we have to provide them with sewer and utility capacity."
Kapell said he is relying on Sister Margaret Smyth, of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, as well as other members of the committee, for outreach regarding the immigrant population.
A letter will be sent out to the entire community informing them of the process.
In other census news, the Horace Hagedorn Foundation, a Port Washington-based philanthropic organization, has stepped up to foot the entire bill.
Another $1000 has been donated by Brian Madden of Uniondale-based Liberty Title; Madden owns a second home in East Marion.
The only cost to taxpayers will be the few hundred dollars needed for postage for the mailing to residents.
The idea for the census was originally sparked when Kapell was moved by the sight of approximately 500 Latinos crowded into a Christmas Eve service at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church. "They are our neighbors; their children are our children's classmates. But they are living without rights in a separate, largely invisible world within our own."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the most recent federal census in 2000 showed a population for the incorporated village of 2,048, with the number of Latinos numbering 353, or 17.2%. Those numbers, said Kapell are unbalanced, "inadequate, and obsolete."
The next federal census will not be taken until 2010.
An accurate count is crucial to provide needed services, said Smyth. "We want to know how many children there are, how many elderly," she said. Knowing the exact number of children will help determine the impact on incoming kindergarten classes. "Nobody has an exact number," she said. "You can't plan."
Although Kapell hoped to have the entire survey process completed by June 1, the process took longer than anticipated. "More important than rushing is making sure that we do it carefully and get it right. Now we have a strategy," he said.