New York City’s total population hit an all-time high in 2012, according to Census data released earlier this month. That growth, however, wasn’t evenly dispersed among the five boroughs.
Staten Island had been one of the faster growing New York counties in recent decades, but the most recent data shows that its growth is slowing down. Between 2010 and 2012, Staten Island grew by only .4 percent, while other boroughs saw rates of growth around 2 percent. In 2011, Staten Island actually lost population.
The stagnation in the borough’s population is likely related to aging, with Staten Islanders who bought homes in the second half of the 20th century to raise families now empty-nesters, and many looking to downsize. The lack of interest in the single-family dwellings they’re leaving behind is similar to the challenges that the metropolitan region’s suburbs are facing as young people leave in droves and young families opting to move to walkable suburbs with greater transportation choice. According to Jonathan Peters, an economist at the College of Staten Island (quoted in the Staten Island Advance):
“To come to Staten Island, you are probably going to be a home buyer, and you are probably going to want to have a car,” said Peters, noting those factors put limits on the type of person who would move here during a tepid economic period.
While it “won’t come as much news to the riders of the L subway line” as Mayor Bloomberg put it earlier this month, Brooklyn led the five boroughs with a 2.4 percent increase between 2010 and 2012, adding roughly 69,000 residents. This growth represents slightly more than the entire population of Portland, Maine or Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is a key reason why advocates and elected officials are calling for a comprehensive transportation and land use plan to address accommodating Downtown Brooklyn’s growth.
Despite being part of the same city, the differences between Brooklyn and Staten Island are vast. But perhaps the key difference is that Brooklyn’s accessibility to transit and the ability to live without a car makes it more appealing to a wider swath of the population. While recent initiatives to support transit-oriented development on Staten Island are welcome, the borough will have to do more to reverse its population slide and begin attracting disparate groups like young professionals and recent immigrants — not to mention the young families taking over Bay Ridge and Williamsburg — once again.