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Part 2- REBNY Report Falsely Blames Landmarking for Empty Storefront Syndrome

Recently, I responded to a portion of a recent “report” by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) that (incredibly, but predictably for REBNY) blamed the retail vacancy crisis impacting our city on landmarking and historic districts. In that case, they misrepresented and inflated the number of days until storefront permit is issued by the Landmarks Preservation Commission by 40-60%. Today I will look at another REBNY misrepresentation regarding population levels.

Change in population Number of Households Section  

Another misleading section of REBNY “report”.

REBNY wants you to think that if a neighborhood achieves historic district designation, a mass exodus of people ensues, with only a few strolling zombies left and no foot traffic, resulting in no one shopping and stores closing. REBNY asserts the number of households in the West Village declined by 9.7% from 2000 to 2016, as if this was a unique trait only to this area. It is unclear what they refer to as the West Village and where any of their numbers come from, but I looked at a variety of sources and found them to be misleading.

For this purpose, I  looked at population trends in 14 Census Tracts over time.[1]

I looked at Census Tracts 55.01, 55.02, 57, 59, 61, 63, 65, 67, 69, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79.

According to NYC Planning Population FactFinder the number of households in this area in 2000 was 40,816, and in 2010 it was 38,582[2]. This reflects a decrease of 5.5% as opposed to the 9.7% claimed by REBNY.

The Social Profile Change Over Time (2006-2010 to 2012-2016) Data actually estimates a change in Number of Households decreasing from 37,206 to 36,906, a change of less than 1 percent. [3]


The REBNY derived change in household number also obscures a lower rate of decrease for Population overall.

According to NYC Planning Population FactFinder, the population of this area in 2000 was 68,483 and in 2010 it was 66,880.  This reflects a decrease in population of 2.3%.[4]

And the population estimate for 2016 is 66,772, a decrease of 8 people from 2010 and representing an overall decline from 68,483 (2000 ) to 66,772 (2016) of just 2.49%.

So the decrease was not nearly as dramatic as REBNY would have you believe.  And while the overall population of New York City has increased over the last fifteen years, there are almost as many parts of the city where the population has decreased as parts where it has increased, making this a very common phenomenon.

Population decreases are not only common, but do not correlate with landmark or historic district status.

This map below of New York City census tracts verifies that a decrease in population is not uncommon, as the areas in tan to brown show a decrease in population from 2000-2010.  The map shows clearly that areas with no or few Historic District protections, such as Lower East Side below Houston, East Harlem and Washington Heights also experienced a decline in population.

Map of population increases and decreases in Manhattan census Tract 2000-2010. Source: https://www.wnyc.org/story/121226-sam-roberts-nyc-census-final-numbers/

 According to the WNYC Manhattan map, of 297 total Census Tract based on US Census data, from 2000 to 2010, 129 Census Tracts experienced or 43% of census tracts in Manhattan experienced a decline in population during that time.  Despite what REBNY would have you believe, this is not an isolated phenomenon in the West Village, or one that could even remotely be attributed to sensible zoning protections and historic districts.

For the 62 total census tracts located below 14th Street, 35 experienced an increase in population while 27 census tracts experienced a decrease in population for a comparable rate of 44% census tracts evidencing a decline in population.

Stay tuned as we explore and expose other inaccuracies and misrepresentations found in the REBNY report.

[1] We referred to Census Tracts 55.01, 55.02, 57, 59, 61, 63, 65, 67, 69, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79.

[2] https://popfactfinder.planning.nyc.gov/profile/483/census?mode=change&reliability=true

[3]  But according to these numbers from Population FactFinder from 2006 to 2016 the number of households in West Village changed from 37,206 to 36,906, a difference of less than 1%.  And yet REBNY in their mysterious math represented the change in households as going down 9.7% from 2000 to 2016.

[4] https://popfactfinder.planning.nyc.gov/profile/483/census?mode=change&reliability=true

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