By Carla Zanoni
Preliminary data shows that Washington Heights saw a decrease of close to 10 percent, with 15,554 people leaving the area since 2000. In Inwood, which is statistically linked to Marble Hill across the Harlem River in the Census report, the population has dropped by nearly 5 percent, with a decrease of 2,341 people.
At State Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s office, staff members are still processing the information, crunching numbers to try to find explanations.
"Our initial reaction is that we are concerned and perplexed," said Ibrahim Khan, Espaillat’s deputy chief of staff, noting that anecdotal stories of overcrowded areas and bustling streets in Upper Manhattan seem to tell a different story. "At the end of the day, this flies in the face of everything we see in the district."
Caitlyn Brazill, director of policy and communications for New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, said experts at the school are doing the same number crunching, looking at building planning data to identify shifts in housing or other factors to explain the decline.
So far, they have come up empty-handed.
“There is no sort of smoking gun that really clarifies the change,” she said.
The statistics were not a surprise, though, to Community Board 12 chair Pamela Palanque-North, who said demographic surveys taken in the past five years showed decreases, something she attributes largely to a lack of affordable housing options in the area.
"We have a lot of uprooting that is going on, a lot of retirement along with traditional families who have gone to warmer climates and a little less stress," she said.
One need only look at the amount of available public school seats throughout Washington Heights as evidence, she said, where one decade ago overcrowding at schools was an issue of concern.