Staten Islanders: Have You Filled Out the Census?

What is the Census?

Currently, social media and television ads are bombarding Staten Islanders about the United States Census. But many people are probably wondering — what exactly is the Census?

The Population and Housing Census (also known simply as the Census) is used to determine the number of people living in the United States and its five territories. The U.S. Census Bureau (a non-partisan government agency) administers the Census every ten years.1

Why Is the Census Important?

The Census provides decision-makers with an accurate assessment to determine the needs of the community. It helps these leaders allocate funding towards the Staten Island community for services such as hospitals, roads, and schools.

Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding are put toward bettering communities across the country. 1.5 trillion dollars will be spent every year for the next ten years to fund many federal programs including Medicaid, student loans, and low income and tax credit loans.

Where Does the Money Go?

In 2016, New York State received $34,588592,000 for Medicaid, $4,922,406,430 for Medicare Part B, and $777,387,531 towards special needs grants based on Census data.3 Furthermore, Census data helps the Federal Government decide how many representatives each district has in the House of Representatives. The Census data assists in drawing legislative districts at the state level. 

How Will the Census Impact Staten Island?

The Staten Island Analogy

You are planning to throw the “party of the decade” (socially distant of course due to COVID-19). In order to have enough food for the party, you tell your friends and family to confirm their attendance. You decided to purchase pizza from your favorite local Staten Island eatery, Denino’s, for the 25 people that RSVP’d to the party. On the day of the party, 50 people show up but you only have enough food to serve 25 people. This leaves you scrambling to provide food for all of your guests, which results in smaller portions of pizza to ensure all 50 people are fed. 

Tying it Together

Now let’s go back to the concept of filling out your Census questionnaire. If there are 50 people in your Staten Island neighborhood, but only 25 people complete their Census, more people are at the party than the ones that confirmed their attendance. The federal funding allocated for the next ten years to improve the potholes and provide bus services in your neighborhood will only be enough to serve the 25 people in your neighborhood that completed their Census, not the entire population.

Similarly to the “party of the decade,” the resources must be evenly distributed amongst the actual population. If only half the population completed their Census and reported living in the neighborhood, the number of resources given to the entire neighborhood population will be smaller as a result. Why should you get a smaller slice of pizza when you have the ability to get a whole slice for yourself? This is why it is imperative that you fill out your Census.

The Bottom Line

Not filling out the Census means an undercounted Staten Island population. This may result in an inaccurate representation in government and may prevent our communities from obtaining adequate resources.

Quick, Easy, and Important To Do

Staten Island UAU Census
United Activities Unlimited is part of the SI Counts Coalition working to make sure every Staten Islander completes the 2020 Census. Photo: UAU

It only takes 10 minutes to complete 10 questions that will impact our community funding for the next 10 years. The Census does not ask questions about your income, citizenship status, social security number, or any credit card information.1

This year it is even easier to fill out the Census. You can:

  • Complete it online.
  • Call 1-844-330-2020
  • Fill out the questionnaire mailed to many households this past spring.

You can still fill out Census if you lost the Census code. It is quick, fast, and will help determine our futures for the next 10 years. 

Staten Island – Let’s Do This

Staten Island Project Hospitality Census
Project Hospitality is part of the SI Counts Coalition and a staffer is tabling at a recent outside sporting event to make sure attendees finish their Census. Photo: Veronica Gambon

Many Staten Island organizations have been working hard since February to help “get out the count” to make sure all Staten Islanders respond to the Census. Due to COVID-19, many of these organizations had to adjust their original outreach plans to ensure the safety of staff and the public.

Motivate Your Family and Friends

Staten Island continues to have the highest Census self-response rate compared to the other four boroughs. Our borough has even beaten our own Census self-response rates from 2010 — but we can still do better.

Let’s make sure every single person in Staten Island doesn’t “miss the boat.” Encourage others to complete their Census questionnaire before the October 31st deadline. We can continue to have the highest response rate in the City and get the resources we deserve for the next decade. Come on Staten Island, let’s leave our mark and show everyone we are no longer the “forgotten borough.” 

United States Census 2020. “What is the 2020 Census?” 23 Sept. 2020

Moulton, Sean and Long Steven. “The Important of the 2020 Census, Explained in Dollars and Cents.” 26 March 2020. 

Reamer, Andrew. “Counting for Dollars 2020: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds.”

Bail Reform in NYC: Stop the Misinformation

by Kelvin Richards

NYC’s Upsurge in Violence

Bail reform is good for NYC but what is hurting the narrative is the misinformation about it.

I understand after the recent death of George Floyd and the changes in 50-A, chokehold, and diaphragm laws with the NYPD, we have seen an uptick in violent crimes. I will assert that those upticks have generally been because the NYPD have reduced the amount of proactive and preemptive policing that would have normally lead to an arrest of people with guns. This slowdown has also significantly emboldened shooters around the city.

What We Can Do About It

To reduce the violence, we need to stop demonizing the police. The police are not the enemy here. The problem is accountability.

Because people feel that police officers who abuse their discretion are not held accountable for their actions, they do not trust the system. This erosion of trust makes it harder for effective community policing, which has nothing to do with bail reform.

Separating Fact From Fiction on Bail Reform

I’ll divorce the facts from fiction when it comes to bail reform. Let’s look at the pre-bail reform system and the post-bail reform system:

Before bail reform

People who had bail set on them were usually forced to plea guilty to lesser
included offenses because it increased their chances of going home sooner.

For example, here on Staten Island, most misdemeanor cases go to trial in or around six to eight months after arraignments (first day in court after an arrest). For felonies, it could take anywhere from a year to two before you actually have your day in court in front of a jury of your peers.

Most people then weigh losing their jobs, relationships, housing, school, etc while waiting for months for a trial against pleading guilty to something that will get them home in weeks.

The assistant district attorneys know people will choose to go home instead of sitting in jail. They make very sweet offers on cases they know they cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt for a guilty plea on a lesser included charge. Clients will almost always jump on a plea deal knowing very well they could win their case if they sat in jail for months. Sometimes winning have a different meaning if your back is against the wall. Maybe winning to you is going home to see the birth of your child, or keeping your apartment or job.

Accepting these pleas increases the clients’ criminal record/history, spinning the wheels of the revolving doors of the criminal justice system. When they get arrested again, they already have a record and the process starts again.

After bail reform

With the new bail reform in NYC, people charged with non-qualifying offenses do not have to fall into this trap. They get to go home and continue their lives while their case goes through the system. Some graduate high school or college or complete drug programs. Some get married and start a family. The key phrase here is non-qualifying offenses.

People against bail reform spread fake news and say if you commit any crime in NYC, you get to go home because of bail reform. This is not true. All qualifying offenses have bail set on them and some cases get remanded (held without bail).

Qualifying offenses are

  • sex cases
  • gun cases
  • shooting cases
  • violating an order of protection cases
  • robbery cases,
  • tampering with a witness, etc.

Most violent cases are bail eligible but we don’t hear about them. All we hear about is a “get out of jail free” card. The reason for this is simple: fear mongering and blaming the recent shootings on something that has nothing to do with it.

What Bail Reform Misinformation Does

The worst part about this misinformation is it adds up and confuses bad people with guns. They think that they can get out of jail free. In the end, the police falling back emboldens these people, bail reform misinformation further encourages them, and the saga continues.

Let us be responsible and come together to work towards a safer and better NYC.
Remember to keep an open mind and separate the facts from the fiction.

Help Staten Island’s ComeUnity Fridge

What Is the ComeUnity Fridge?

Staten Island ComeUnity Fridge

Next to the Good 2 Go barbershop in Mariner’s Harbor is the Staten Island ComeUnity Fridge. It is a wooden shelter that houses a refrigerator and shelves. Colorful artwork decorates the space and bulletins are pinned to one side. An herb garden is growing in a painted plastic bin. The ComeUnity Fridge adds a pop of warmth and color to the urban, concrete sidewalk it sits on.

Written across the top of the shelter, in both English and Spanish, is the phrase, “Take What You Need. Give What You Can.” The ComeUnity Fridge calls out to all who live in the multicultural neighborhood. It is an inviting space that welcomes both those who need help and those who want to help. 

The ComeUnity Fridge is a local volunteer group’s answer to this area’s food insecurity problem. Mariner’s Harbor is a food desert. Food deserts are areas where residents have limited access to healthy and affordable foods. 

Staten Island ComeUnity Fridge

A Greater Need for Donations

The ComeUnity Fridge was almost completely empty and the shelves had limited cans and shelf-stable products on them during our visit.

The near-empty refrigerator and food pantry indicated an insufficient amount of food donations to keep the project going. We spoke to the founding volunteer, Alexandra, about this observation. People and businesses stock the refrigerator, she said, but it is often empty 20 minutes after being filled. There is a greater need for donations and the volunteers are having a hard time keeping up.

How You Can Help the ComeUnity Fridge

Staten Islanders are well-known for coming together during times of trouble. Food insecurity has reached record highs during the pandemic. Low-income neighborhoods like Mariner’s Harbor are living in this reality and need help from the greater Staten Island community to combat this problem.

  • Money– The ComeUnity Fridge has a GoFundMe and a Cash App ($Forestavefridge) for monetary donations that they use to buy food for the fridge. Every little bit counts and every little bit helps. 
  • Time– Volunteer to help stock and clean the fridge and to maintain the space.
  • Food Donations
    • Individuals can bring donated food to the fridge at any time. 
    • Grocery Stores If you are a grocery store or market with excess fresh fruit, vegetables, or prepared foods, the ComeUnity Fridge can really use your help.

As per Alexandra, the ComeUnity Fridge is hoping to find more fruit stores and small markets to collaborate with. If you fall into this category and can offer assistance, you can reach out to the ComeUnity Fridge directly to set up a donation schedule. Email them at