New York - City Growth May Affect Party Power in Albany
New York - New York City accounted for two-thirds of the state’s population growth since 2000, according to census estimates, suggesting that after redistricting is completed in 2011, the State Legislature could remain controlled by Democrats for years to come.
As of July 1, 2009, census estimates released on Tuesday show, the city’s population was a record 8,391,881 — just shy of the 8.4 million that city demographers predict it will hit when the 2010 census results are released.
Though the city’s gain of more than 45,000 people since the year before represented a growth rate of only 0.5 percent, it was the largest numerical increase of any city in the country. From 2000 through 2009, the city grew by 383,000, or nearly 5 percent.
In 2000, 42 percent of the state’s population lived in New York City. In 2009, 43 percent did. Because redistricting is done on the basis of population and the city is overwhelmingly Democratic, the balance of power in Albany is likely to remain the same or perhaps shift even further in favor of the Democrats.
“Whoever ends up in charge of redistricting,” said Andrew A. Beveridge, a Queens College sociologist, “will find it virtually impossible to ignore the fact that the population and power shift from upstate to downstate continued unabated.”
Since 2000, most of the state’s double-digit population gains outside New York City were recorded in the city’s suburbs, including Harrison, Montgomery, New Paltz, Old Westbury, Peekskill, Rye Brook, Sleepy Hollow, Southampton and Woodbury.
The highest growth rate, 78 percent, was in Kiryas Joel, the Orange County enclave where Hasidic Jews predominate.
Meanwhile, cities in economically distressed parts of the state like Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse experienced population declines of 6 percent to 8 percent.
With the Assembly firmly in Democratic hands, whichever party controls the State Senate typically plays a pivotal role in redistricting. Democrats now hold a two-vote margin.
This year, a number of candidates for state office have pledged to support a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw the lines on the basis of the 2010 census for the following decade, beginning with the 2012 elections. That would make it more difficult for either party to tinker with the redistricting.
After the 2000 census, Republicans tried to squeeze as many sparsely populated districts as possible into the upstate region, favoring their party, while adding numbers of heavily populated districts in the metropolitan area, which is more Democratic.