By ANGELA MONTEFINISE
New York Department of City Planning Population
Division Director Joseph Salvo is a man of many numbers with one
particular borough close to his heart.
The analyst whose job it is to pour through the
statistics, percentages and facts of the 2000 Census candidly told the PRESS,
"I love studying Queens . . . [it is] completely different than any
Jackson Heights is "the most ethnically diverse area
in Queens," according to Census experts, who say more ethnic
communities live there than anywhere else in the borough.
PRESS Photo By Ira Cohen
Salvo explained that the City’s most populated
borough is "clearly the most diverse in the City," and said that
City Planning borough breakdowns of Census demographic information
released on May 23 prove it.
The statistics show that Queens’ diversity has
actually increased since 1990, with the foreign-born population of the
borough increasing by 36 percent. One million new immigrants were added to
the most populated New York borough since 1990, and of the over two
million Queensites counted in 2000, nearly one million of them were born
outside of the United States . . . making Queens home to the most
foreign-born New Yorkers.
But Salvo’s fascination goes beyond the population
numbers and into the Queens subtleties. "If you look at any one area
in Queens, there is no ethnic group that dominates. Even in Flushing,
where there is a strong Asian presence, no one group is the dominant
ethnicity. You know how many Asian groups there are? Chinese people only
make up 15 percent of the area.
"It is conceivable that an area can have a large
number of different ethnicities, but no diversity, because the groups
stick together and don’t mix. That’s not the case in Queens at all.
Southeast Queens may be primarily black and Flushing may be primarily
Asian, but within those groups is tremendous diversity. I just love to
look at Queens."
For Census takers, the borough’s diversity presented
challenges and language barriers that made the counting tough and the
conclusions tougher. United States Census Bureau Regional Director Tony
Farthing called Queens his, "most difficult task . . . It’s the
most interesting place to look at, but the hardest to tap into." And
as Queens’ immigration continues to grow, and Census Bureau officials
are considering changing the Census’s format for 2010 to help account
for the diversity.
But in the meantime, Farthing maintains that the Census
did get an accurate count of the people in Queens. "Based on that
count, it’s safe to say that Queens is the most diverse borough in New
York City, and probably the most diverse county in the United
States," he added.
At a press conference in Manhattan on May 23, Census
Bureau officials released and explained demographic information for the
five boroughs and New Jersey – information that included ethnicity and
language, was interpreted by New York Department of City Planning
While Korean signs used to dominate the streets of
Flushing, Chinese stores now thrive, census statistics show.
PRESS Photo By Ira Cohen
City Planning worked closely with the Census Bureau and
released borough-breakdowns of the demographic information by Community
Board district and neighborhood on its website this week, complete with
charts and graphs.
In Queens, overall population increased from 1.95
million to 2.22 million people, and 46 percent of those people are
The area of Queens with the most immigration, the
biggest population and the greatest population increase was Jackson
Heights and North Corona, according to Census statistics. That area had a
31 percent population increase since 1990, and has now over 169,000 people
The Woodhaven and Richmond Hill area experienced a 28.3
percent increase in population, and the population of Elmhurst and South
Corona increased by 21.9 percent.
Salvo’s favorite area in Queens is Jackson Heights,
which he said, "Is the most ethnically diverse area in Queens . . .
no doubt about it . . . . The area used to be a working class neighborhood
for Germans and Italians, and over the last 20 years, has become a haven
for a variety of immigrant groups."
The African Queen in Jamaica features an array of West
PRESS Photo By Ira Cohen
He explained, "In Jackson Heights, you still have
pockets of working class European immigrants, you have blacks and Asians,
and you have Hispanics, who come from a variety of countries. Many
Mexicans are moving there from other parts of New York, as well as
Dominicans and Puerto Ricans. The category of Hispanic doesn’t mean just
one group. That group is diverse within itself."
Census statistics for Community District 3 — which
includes Jackson Heights and North Corona — show that 57.3 percent of
the population is Hispanic, and Salvo explained, "There is a mix of
Hispanic culture in Jackson Heights . . . There are also South Asians from
India and Pakistan in Jackson Heights, and large numbers of Caribbean
people. You can really find any ethnicity there."
According to Census statistics, a quarter of all New
Yorkers over the age of 18 have "trouble with English," adding
to difficulties in Census taking, particularly in Queens. Farthing said,
"We definitely hit some roadblocks taking the Census because of
language barriers. But we consciously tried to find Census takers who
could speak the languages needed in certain areas so we could get a
The problem was especially strong in Queens, Salvo
said, noting it was where "the biggest problems with long form
returns were. That means Queens’ data may be skewed somewhat by who
returned the forms." In addition, the Census does not count illegal
immigrants or address the issues of illegal apartments – huge problems
Salvo said, "Queens is even more diverse than the
People in Your Neighborhood
Where there were once Koreans in Flushing, there are
now Chinese immigrants. Where there were once Europeans in Jackson
Heights, there are now Hispanics. Where there were once whites in
Bellerose, there are now South Asians.
Salvo told the PRESS, " You see
Hispanics moving into areas like Maspeth, Glendale, Middle Village,
Jackson Heights and Corona, which used to be havens for Italians, Germans,
Irish and other working class immigrant populations. Those populations
have moved East or out of New York State . . . We see Korean populations
that used to live in Flushing moving further down Northern Boulevard to
Douglaston and Little Neck. These people have been in the country for
several years, and are affluent enough to move. Chinese immigrants are now
Besides internal population shifts, Salvo said there
has been a "tremendous amount of immigration from South Asia, the
Caribbean and South America." The neighborhoods that show this the
most are Woodhaven and Richmond Hill in Community District 9, according to
In 1990, the Census numbers show whites outnumbering
Hispanics in the area two to one, and the Asian population was less than
10 percent. In 2000, Hispanics outnumbered whites, and the Asian
Farthing mentioned the change in Bellerose. "That
change was overnight," he said, "In 1990, that area was almost
all white. Now, it’s mostly South Asian. Indians and Pakistani people
have moved in and taken over the stores. It’s truly fascinating what
The independent firm Claritas – a San Francisco based
company that analyzes Census figures every 10 years – conducted an
extensive study of Census demographics, and announced in July 2001 that
Queens is the most diverse county of over 250,000 people in the country.
The study, conducted every 10 years, measures the
probability that two randomly selected people from a county are of
different ethnicities. Queens scored the highest probability for the
second straight Census count.
Although Claritas Director of Demography Ken Hodges said
it would be "impossible" to judge if Queens is the most diverse
place on Earth, he admitted, "Based on international studies that I’ve
seen, the United States is the most diverse country in the world, so if
Queens is the most ethnically diverse in the United States, it would make
sense that it’s the most diverse place on the planet. But there’s no
way to say that for sure . . . You can just assume."
Salvo assumed there is no "real way" to tell if
Queens is the most diverse place on the planet, but said, "It would
be up there for sure."