Brooklyn Boro

Mayor enlists Brooklyn Public Library to help with 2020 Census count

August 5, 2019 Paula Katinas
For Brooklyn libraries, the 2020 executive budget calls for $105.9 million, down from the $106.4 million proposed in the Fiscal 2019 Adopted Budget. Eagle file photo
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Your local Brooklyn Public Library branch will be playing a pivotal role in the 2020 Census.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Aug. 1 that NYC Census 2020, the city’s census outreach campaign, is pumping $1.4 million into a partnership between the city and its three library systems — the Brooklyn Public Library, the New York Public Library and the Queens Public Library — to ensure that all New Yorkers are counted.

The federal government conducts a census once every 10 years to count the number of people in the U.S. The 2020 Census will determine where the federal government allocates more than $650 billion in funding across the country. In addition, the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives is determined by the Census.

“Hundreds of billion dollars and fair political representation are at stake in the upcoming 2020 Census,” said Borough President Eric Adams, who launched his own effort, #MakeBrooklynCount, last year.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Brooklyn is considered the hardest to count of all 62 counties in New York State, according to Adams.

City libraries will be assisting New Yorkers in filling out the census form, which will be available online for the first time in 2020. Libraries will also help get the word out about the census to immigrant communities and host informational sessions about the survey’s importance, officials said.

“Our partnership with the public library system will help all New Yorkers stand up and be counted,” de Blasio said in a statement.

Linda Johnson, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, said the BPL is on board.

“As one of the most trusted and democratic institutions in the borough, Brooklyn Public Library is where every individual can be counted and the information they submit will be confidential and secure,” she said.

The city enlisted the library systems for a reason, according to NYC Census 2020 Director Julie Menin. “Our job is to get every New Yorker counted in next year’s census, and we’ll only be able to do our job by partnering with the libraries, which serve as among the most trusted voices in communities across the city,” she said.

The latest effort is part of the city’s overall $40 million investment in census outreach, which is also slated to include a community-based grants program, a field operation and multilingual media and marketing efforts.

Wayne Ho, president and CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council, said he hopes the city-library partnership will lead to traditionally undercounted communities being counted.

“CPC applauds the inclusion of census support for libraries across New York City and celebrates the enhanced services provided in historically undercounted communities. Asian-American and Pacific Islander New Yorkers continue to grow in numbers and should be accurately counted in the 2020 Census,” said Ho, whose organization has an office in Sunset Park.

In communities like Bensonhurst, there is growing concern that large numbers of residents won’t be counted in the census. More than half the population of Community Board 11, which includes Bensonhurst and Bath Beach, is foreign-born.

CB11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia told board members at a meeting in June that it’s important a concerted effort be made to convince residents to participate in the census. “Let’s start speaking about it,” she told the board.

Member Ligia Guallpa, who is also the executive director of the Worker’s Justice Project, a nonprofit organization that assists immigrants, said that while she is applauds the census partnership between the city and the libraries, she is eager to see the city expand its outreach to include grassroots organizations.

“The mayor should be engaging the faith community, community organizations and schools. We should make sure we are all on the same page,” she said. “There is fear within the immigrant community around interacting with government agencies. That’s why we have to talk to them about what the census is about.”

Residents who deal with religious institutions or community-based organizations have come to trust those institutions, Guallpa said. It makes sense to employ them in the census effort because they could be successful in convincing residents to participate, she said.

But with the survey coming in 2020, time is running out to mount an outreach effort, Guallpa said. “There is a sense of urgency,” she said. “I still think it’s do-able, but we have to get started.”

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