A new report from the office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has shed light on the statewide numbers derived from the 2020 U.S. census.
The report breaks down the census numbers from each county and town in New York in more granular detail, with categorizations of the population by age, housing status and race.
In the 2020 census, Greene County had a total population of 47,931, down 1,290 since 2010, which represents a 2.6% decrease in population since 2010.
“The census was taken before COVID hit, so I question the loss of the overall population,” Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said. “Pre-COVID, 30-plus percent of our housing stock was a second home. We question whether or not people have now made those their full-time home. Because people have either moved out of the New York City metro area or they can telecommute now when they couldn’t before.”
The town of Coxsackie saw its population decrease 6% in the census, with its 2020 population listed as 8,382, a number that Town Supervisor Richard Hanse questioned.
“What concerns me is that this will cost us federal money,” he said. “When you think of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding, that was based on population. When we lose population, we lose money. I don’t really know how accurate the census numbers are. But it stands, it’s not going to go away because of its inaccuracies. Why didn’t people fill them out? I don’t know. I think COVID may have reduced the number of enumerators. I also think there’s a general distrust of the federal government out there. I also think there’s a lack of people understanding the importance of the census. But losing population costs us money, even if it’s a fictitious loss of population. That’s what bothers me.”
Hanse said that based on his first-hand experience around the town that he doesn’t believe that the town lost 6 percent of its population since 2010.
“I do think it could be inflated,” he said. “I base that on this has been a very good year for mortgage tax and I don’t think it’s a lot of people refinancing. If you look at the real estate industry in the Town of Coxsackie, people are coming in. People are fleeing downstate and they can work from home now, so they don’t have to pay the costs of living downstate. They can live a better life up here and still work. So I really don’t think we lost that number of people.”
The Town of Lexington was down 4.3 percent in population in the report, while the Town of Athens was down 4.2 percent.
In the 2020 census report, the vacancy rate in Greene County stands at 30.6 percent, with 8,853 vacant housing units available in the county, including seasonal occupancy.
“That’s data that doesn’t really sit well with us,” Groden said. “When you have 30 percent of your housing stock that was previously a second home, that means that the census form isn’t going to be filled out at that home, it’s going to be sent to wherever the primary home is. That 30 percent isn’t necessarily such a bad number in normal times. But because of the pandemic I’d question if some of those people have now moved here. We don’t really know that data and you didn’t really see a corresponding increase in the school population because people moved out of the metro area and moved kids as well. Kids may have already been out of those households and they had a vacation home here.”
In the county, the youth population under the age of 18 has fallen 12.4 percent since 2010, with children representing 17.3 percent of the county’s population, down from 19.3 percent from a decade ago.
“We’ve seen that number for many, many years projected to come down,” Groden said. “We’ve looked at that when we think about our community college, where probably 95% of the student population that attends the college are intracounty students. We’re not pulling students from Binghamton. So that youth number is a disturbing number because how do we keep our populations at the school where the school can continue to operate as they have for so many years?”
Groden said the declining youth number could be a mix of factors, including families moving out of the area or simply having fewer children than in previous generations.
“I’m one of six kids and in my neighborhood when we grew up we were a small family,” he noted. “When I was a kid, we had families with eight, 10 or 12 kids. So I definitely think that’s part of it. Because usually both parents are working, so it’s not easy to leave kids at home because you need to have day care options. Are we truly having a net migration of people from births to deaths? I’m not sure.”
In the census report, Greene County’s population was broken down by race, with 82.4% of census respondents listed as white (non-Hispanic), down from 87.1% in 2010. The Hispanic population in the county is listed at 6.5%, up from 4.9 percent in 2010. The Black population in the county declined in 2020 to 4.5% of the population from 5.3% a decade ago, while the Asian population in Greene rose to 1%, up from 0.8% in 2010.
The Town of Hunter saw the biggest growth in the county over the last 10 years, as the town’s total population of 3,035 residents marks an 11.1 percent increase since 2010.
“I think it’s exciting to be in the Town of Hunter and we have a very high quality of life that people are attracted to,” Hunter Town Supervisor Sean Mahoney said. “We have a lot of great amenities here on the mountaintop. I think the pandemic really showed a lot of people just how good we have it up here and it’s attracting a lot of people. We look at it through a positive lens.”
The town has seen population growth at the same time that Hunter and the village of Tannersville are hoping to build 80 units of affordable workforce housing, which Mahoney stressed would not be limited to workers from the region’s ski resorts.
“It’s meant to be affordable workforce housing for people that work everywhere on the mountaintop,” Mahoney said. “Of course, being a ski area, we would hope that the employees take advantage of it, but it’s not meant exclusively for them. This is for EMS workers, teachers, restaurant workers. It’s for everybody. The school has a need for affordable housing for people who work there. We have people that work for the municipality that are being displaced from their homes that could use this. So it’s wide-ranging.”