Posted on October 29, 2021 at 5:25 p.m. by West Sider
By Brendan Rascius
The latest census report showed a surprising increase in the number of residents at a well-known New York City address – Central Park. But why exactly the numbers have increased so much is a mystery.
According to the 2020 United States Census, 129 people live in Central Park, an increase of over 400% since the 2010 census, when 25 people reported living there. At least 90 cities in Texas have reported having fewer residents than Manhattan’s largest park.
Who are these self-proclaimed inhabitants of the famous grove?
An official with the New York office of the US Census Bureau said that “112 of (129) people were counted in other non-institutional settlements,” which include homeless shelters, vehicles, tent camps and other “unprotected outdoor locations.” “
There are no homeless shelters in the park, and it is not entirely clear whether those named as residents are homeless. The Census Bureau did not have an answer to how the inhabitants of the park completed the census – if, for example, someone had walked around the park distributing forms. Several park employees declined to say whether those listed as residents could be homeless. People who live near the park were more open.
Sam Landa, an undergraduate student at Columbia University who lives in Central Park West, said he frequently notices people on the outskirts of the park. “I almost always saw someone sleeping on the benches right next to the park if I came home at night. I have certainly seen people in the park too, but not as regularly, ”said Landa.
Kendyl Tabshey, a customer support specialist who exercises regularly in Central Park, has also noticed homeless people on benches.
“I only really started noticing it when Covid started,” Tabshey said.
Michael, a 38-year-old New Yorker who regularly sleeps on benches in the North Woods section of the park, said it was a convenient place to stay. “Nobody bothers me here.” He said he did not remember filling out the 2020 census. He also declined to provide his last name.
A city employee questioned the accuracy of the census results. “Due to the very small numbers found in this census tract, the statistics for Central Park may not be reliable enough to draw conclusions,” said an official with the Planning Department. “It is not possible to disentangle the reality of man-made noise when considering changes of less than 300 (people).” Stephen Eide, a social policy researcher at the Conservative Manhattan Institute, also advised against “trying to draw firm conclusions from data on homeless people on the streets.”
While the number of homeless residents in the park is contested, homelessness across the city in recent years has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. According to the coalition, the number of single homeless adults is 107% higher than it was a decade ago and three-quarters of single homeless adults are men.
Daniel Herman, a professor at Hunter College who studies homelessness, attributes the increase in homelessness in the city in part to the lack of affordable housing. “While there has been significant progress in the development of supportive housing for single adults with mental disorders and other disabilities, the problem is that the increase in the supply of PSH (permanent supportive housing) and other affordable housing options do not meet the growing demand. “said Herman.
Central Park is not the only green space in the city to welcome permanent residents. According to the census, 122 people reported living in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and 12 in Rockaway Community Park in Queens.
Residents inside and outside city parks will not be officially counted again until 2030.