Numbers Are In:
Jackson Heights resident Bryan Pu-Folkes drives through the highways and
byways of the borough he calls home, he is “awestruck” by the level of
diversity he encounters on every corner.
founder of the non-profit immigrant advocacy group New Immigrant Community
Empowerment (NICE) said, “Queens is a very unique place. It has people
from all over the globe who speak something like 140 languages. It’s
really something very special and very different.”
added, “We’re one of the most diverse places on the planet.”
week, the United States Census Bureau helped back up that statement when it
released the results of the 2002 American Community Survey. The survey is a
set of detailed demographic questions that will replace the Census
Bureau’s long form in 2010.
Community Survey showed that Queens has the second largest foreign-born
population of any county in the United States, with 46.6 percent of people
born outside of the country’s borders. That number puts Queens right
behind Miami-Dade County in Florida, which has the largest foreign-born
population in the United States at 51.4 percent.
results thrilled Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who said after the
survey’s Sept. 3 release, “Queens County continues to be a magnet for
immigrants in search of the American Dream.”
noted that the large foreign-born population in Queens also leaves the
borough in a unique – and sometimes difficult – position. “And while
we embrace this wave of immigration to what is already the nation’s most
extraordinarily diverse county, it brings additional challenges related to
language and cultural differences,” she said.
agreed. “Those people born outside the country have different needs that
need to be addressed,” he said. “We have to seriously look at those
needs, and work on policy changes and social changes to help the
foreign-born population thrive here.”
has done her part in the effort, forming the Queens General Assembly – a
diverse organization that looks to improve communication and information
sharing between racial and cultural groups.
the group Pu-Folkes created and is now executive director of, is also one
agency trying to help immigrants in Queens, raising money for their needs,
improving their access to governmental programs and fighting to help their
voices get heard in the political arena.
topic NICE is focused on right now is immigrant voting rights. Pu-Folkes
explained that under New York State’s current policy, immigrants must
become citizens before they can vote, even if they’re already legal
said NICE is looking to change that rule, and explained, “Even after a
legal immigrant passes the citizenship test, it takes the INS between three
and five years to grant citizenship because of backlog. If the State
legislature allowed legal residents to vote, then immigrants could have
their voices heard even while they’re waiting.”
addition to that and other State policies, Pu-Folkes said NICE is also
continuing its Government Access and Accountability Campaign, which looks to
improve communication between City Councilmembers and new immigrants.
campaign requires Council members who signed on in 2001 to hold town hall
meetings in a variety of languages and send information to constituents to
keep them up to date. In addition, it requires Council members to distribute
evaluation forms that allow constituents to rate their performances, ask
questions and make requests.
said the campaign is going to “pick up steam” over the next two years,
and he said, “This Council is doing a much better job than the group
before, but there is still room for massive improvement . . . If we’re
talking councilmanic district, there are districts in Queens with more than
50 percent foreign born populations, like District 25, 20, 21 and so on.
It’s important that those leaders reach out to those people.”
test the campaign, NICE began a pilot program in two Queens districts –
Councilman David Weprin’s District 23 and Councilman Hiram Monserrate’s
District 21. Pu-Folkes said, “Both have really worked hard to help
immigrants in their districts.”
suggested education reform, and said, “Maybe we could put something in our
curriculum that would help kids become tolerant boys and girls, who accept
differences and embrace each other’s cultures.”
added that there should be more interaction between ethnicities, either
through town hall meetings or neighborhood events. NICE has held several
town hall meetings to bring people together, and has one planned for Sept.
16 at the Elmhurst/Jackson Heights Senior Center at 71-05 Broadway.
town hall meeting will be from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and will be completely
community and immigrant led, Pu-Folkes said. The meeting will be translated
into several languages besides English, including Bengali, Punjabi, Spanish
and Chinese. In addition, Pu-Folkes said, “If someone needs another
language, we will provide it there.”
he said there is work to be done, Pu-Folkes also called the Census results
“positive,” and said, “Queens could be looked at as a model of
diversity. That’s why I think it’s important for us to do all we can to
help immigrants succeed here.”
may have only the second largest foreign born population in the United
States, but its residents still claim it is the absolute most diverse place
on the face of the Earth.
Mike Bloomberg, Borough President Helen Marshall and former Borough
President Claire Shulman have all been quoted as calling Queens – with its
multicultural mix of food, shops and people – one of the most diverse
places on the planet.
could it be that Queens is actually not the most diverse county in the
nation? Could it be that it’s not even number two?
the United States Census refuses to interpret its numbers and discuss
something as ambigious as diversity, two independent entities have actually
done so – and the results are mixed.
to a survey conducted by the Associated Press, Queens is actually not the
most diverse county in the country – Hawaii County is.
survey puts Queens fifth on the top 10 list of most diverse counties, with
Hawaii County taking the prize and the Bronx taking second. Although a
separate survey conducted by the independent firm Claritas stated that
Queens is the country’s most diverse county, the Associated Press stands
by its results.
AP applied USA Today’s Diversity Index – which measures the probabilty
that two people chosen at random in a county will be of different
ethnicities or races – to about 4,000 counties in the United States, and
found Hawaii County to be on top.
to a spokesperson from the Associated Press, “The survey is absolutely
correct...We used Census data. There’s no two ways about it.”
representatives of the California firm Claritas – which analyzes Census
data for clients such as Newsday – claims
that their company also used 2000 Census figures to do their survey, which
also measures the probability of two random people being of different
ethnicities. That company’s survey found Queens to be number one. Hawaii
didn’t even make the list.
Although representatives from both organizations defended their findings, they also speculated that the difference in results probably stems from the Census’ new breakdown of ethnicities and how the two organizations incorporated those changes into their surveys.
companies incorporated the categories of
“white,” “black,” “American Indian,” “Native Hawaiian
and other pacific islander,” and “Asian” into their formulas, but
incorporated the categories of “two or more races” and “Hispanic”
Associated Press weighed “two or more races” more, while Claritas
weighed “Hispanic” more.
difference in math accounts for the difference in diversity numbers –
Queens has nearly three times the number of Hispanics than Hawaii does,
while Hawaii has more than four times the number people who identify
themselves as “two or more races” than Queens.
some research, the Trib found arguments for both counties. Queens has
a much larger percentage of foreign born residents – Hawaii County
didn’t even crack the top 200. Hawaii, on the other hand, has a larger
number of people with mixed heritages and backgrounds.
is filled with ethnic enclaves, while Hawaii’s population is mixed.
question of which is more diverse will probably never be solved. The only
person to take a definitive stand was Borough President Helen Marshall. She
said, “No one’s more diverse than us. No question about it.”