While Staten Island Stagnates, Brooklyn Booms

Young families have contributed to Brooklyn's population growth

Young families have contributed to Brooklyn’s population growth. | Photo: Brooklyn Magazine

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.

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8 comments to While Staten Island Stagnates, Brooklyn Booms

  • alen

    even with a car staten island sucks. you have to pay tolls to get on and off the island. driving is a nightmare on the BQE in rush hour. and there is nothing to do.

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  • Joe R

    helllloooo the VZ bridge costs $15 to cross! Even with a resident pass its still too much. No one is coming to visit you and forget about public transportation. waitiing at bus connections in the ghetto is not how i want to start my day or night out.

  • Alan

    Send an R express train to the SIR like the planned to in the ’20s and upzone around the stations. There you go, more Brooklyn.

  • Thank you TSTC for following this issue.

    Please let me be quite clear – given the existing mass transit infrastructure and the stock of housing, moving to Staten Island is very difficult if you are a renter and not an automobile owner. Only 31% of Staten Island residents live within walking distance of passenger rail service – and that service (the Staten Island Rapid Transit) is not connected to the regional commuter rail network or NYC Subway System. Staten Island has the longest average commute in the nation, the longest average mass transit commute in New York City and the greatest percentage of extreme commuters (90+ minutes)in the nation. Auto ownership is unfortunately, critical to Staten Island residents. Finally, with over 600 Million Dollars collected each year on the Port Authority and MTA Bridges at Staten Island toll booths, the cost of access to the Other Boroughs and New Jersey is very high. I am not surprised that these factors are impacting population growth during this protracted recession.

  • Nan c

    SI is the only Boro/County that the subway rapid transit doesn’t touch. That is why traffic is so intolerable (congested) and unaffordable (unconstitutional tolls). We need to go back to the purposes of the American Revolution. It was a revolt against Great Britain’s oppressive practices. I am older than many bloggers/posters. I was educated in the 1950s. My history books taught we would not have private toll roads. So just as the current Pres legislates outside his powers at some time the government saw a way around this by putting tolls on roads and bridges. However, these were supposed to sunset after the initial cost was recouped. A toll road was allowed if there was a parallel free road. Research the facts as reported at the time.

  • Jonathan

    This Island is the worst place on earth. Nothing to do or see. No culture either. I’m in Rossville and I have nothing to do besides go to the gym. There never seems to be an event on this Island and when there is I have to waist gas getting there. In Brooklyn it would just be a train ride away. Saving money sounds so much easier in BK then it does on SI

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