PSA is part of NYC Census 2020 campaign to reach historically undercounted New Yorkers before the 2020 Census self-response period ends September 30, 2020
Actor VICTOR WILLIAMS at the world premiere of Shade, in Hollywood. April 6, 2004 (Shutterstock)
NEW YORK – Today, NYC Census 2020 released a new PSA featuring actor Victor Williams. In the PSA, Williams highlights the importance of a complete census count and explains that inaccurate census data could lead to underfunded health care centers in neighborhoods like his native Flatbush. The PSA underscores the importance of the census to the city’s future, particularly as New York City rebuilds after COVID-19.
Currently, close to three-fifths of New York City households have completed the census (60.4% as of September 23). Some neighborhoods, including Williams’ native Flatbush, are outperforming the rest of the city — Flatbush’s current census self-response rate is at 64.2%. But many neighborhoods bordering Flatbush have low self-response rates, including both the southern and northern census tracts in East Flatbush (54.8% and 51.2% respectively), and Borough Park (47.1%). This means these neighborhoods are at risk to lose out on federal funding for critical services, such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and more.
“I applaud Victor for so clearly and concisely explaining how an undercount would harm New York communities,” said NYC Census Director Julie Menin and Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel, NYC Law Department. “We have less than three weeks left of the 2020 census and we’re doing everything we can to remind New Yorkers — from text banks and phone banks to outreach at subways, beaches, and food distribution sites, to more than 30 ads campaigns in 26 languages, we are sprinting until September 30, and Victor’s help is integral to this push..”
“If [the] Census states that 100,000 people live in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where I grew up, but there are really closer to 130,000 residents living in Flatbush, then the hospitals, schools, and community development programs will be severely underfunded,” Williams notes in the PSA. “So how can you impact change? Start by filling out your 2020 Census and work your way up.”
“The 2020 Census is one of the few things you can do in 10 minutes than will positively impact your life for the next 10 years,” said NYC Census 2020 Field Director Kathleen Daniel. “In this video, Victor spells out exactly the positive impact we can make whether in his childhood home of Flatbush, or anywhere else in Brooklyn and New York City. So what are you waiting for?”
Today a complete census count can serve as a powerful step to right systemic wrongs that have robbed Black communities of their fair share of representation and funding, which makes a complete census count one of the great civil rights battles of today.
Throughout history, the census has been used to oppress and disenfranchise. From the shameful and dehumanizing decision to count enslaved Black Americans as “Three-Fifths” of a human being in the census counts before abolition, through the weaponization of answers during the Jim Crow era, the census has been used by the federal government to reinforce a racist power structure. The relationship between the census and Black communities began to shift during the civil rights battles of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. One major change came in the form of Title XIII of the U.S. Code, which established the complete confidentiality of all the census data, and made the sharing of any such data by the Census Bureau with anyone – including any other government agency, law enforcement, or private entity – a serious crime.
In 2010, many majority-Black neighborhoods in New York City, from The Bronx to Queens to Brooklyn, had census self-response rates that were 10 or more percentage points behind the citywide average, meaning that these communities have been missing out on millions of dollars for critical services and the full political representation they are entitled to, from City Hall to the halls of Congress.
Though this gap has noticeably narrowed for many of the same neighborhoods this year, and certain Black-majority neighborhoods, such as Co-op City in The Bronx (75%) and Starrett City in Brooklyn (71.2%), far outpace the citywide average of approximately 60.4%, much more work needs to be done to ensure New York City receives its fair share of $1.5 trillion in federal funds every year and does not lose what could be up to two congressional seats.
New York City continues to close the gap between the city and the rest of the country in terms of census self-response rates. As of September 23, New York City’s self-response rate is 60.4%, and the country’s is 66.2%. In 2010, there was approximately a 14 point gap between New York City’s census self-response rate and the country’s. A recent study found that New York City’s self-response rate increased the most out of any other city in the United States between May 4, 2020, and August 18, 2020.
Important Facts about the 2020 Census:
- The census brings us more money for schools, hospitals, roads, and more. All you need is your address to fill it out.
- The census is available online and by phone this year: my2020census.gov and 1-844-330-2020. You can complete your census from anywhere. You do not need a census form to fill out the census. All you need is your address to start the process at my2020census.gov.
NYC Census 2020 has previously released PSAs featuring artists, celebrities, and public figures with strong ties to New York City, including singer Alicia Keys, rapper Cardi B, actor, and writer Kal Penn, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Late Night host Seth Meyers, and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. These PSAs are part of a strategy to reach historically undercounted New Yorkers and encourage people to self-respond to the census online or via phone, especially during COVID-19.
Additionally, NYC Census 2020 launched the Census Subway Series, a five-week challenge in which two neighborhoods from different boroughs competed against each other to see which neighborhood posts the largest gains in its self-response rate over the week. For the final week, it will be a “Battle of the Boroughs” to see which borough will have the highest increase in self-response.
In addition to bragging rights, residents of the competing boroughs — as well as any New Yorker who completes the census during the final week — may be eligible to win $200 to a local NYC restaurant of their choice. Any New Yorker who completes the census between Wednesday, September 23 and Wednesday, September 30 can enter the contest to win.
All New Yorkers must take a photo of their census completion confirmation page and upload it to the City’s website to enter. Complete rules can be found at nyc.gov/BoroughBattle