Update: This story was updated on March 30 with figures from the recently released 2010 census.
U.S. census data released last month confirms what many Five Towners have already known: The Latino population of Inwood has grown significantly over the past decade, nearing the number of whites who live in the area.
In 2000, the number of Latinos in Inwood numbered 2,454, or 26.3 percent of the total population. The population has now reached 4,190 people, or 42.7 percent, according to 2010 census data. About 4,702 whites, or 48 percent, currently live in Inwood, down from 4,966, or 53.3 percent, in 2000. The number of black Inwood residents has remained consistent.
Peter Visconti, associate director of Five Towns Community Center, which is very active in helping residents of Inwood, said the changes are most apparent when looking at the School District 15 population. “The bottom line is the Lawrence school population has changed — the changes are tremendous,” he said. “Now in the Lawrence School District, minorities are the majority.”
From the 2006-07 to 2009-10 school years, the percentage of Latino students has increased from 30 percent to 37 percent, according to demographic information collected by New York State on the Lawrence School District. Meanwhile, the percentage of white students in the district has dropped from 43 percent to 33 percent. Of course, a large factor contributing to this is increased private school enrollment within the district.
“We constantly monitor the demographics of the community on a regular basis,” said Lawrence Deputy Superintendent Gary Schall. One of the initiatives Schall pointed to was preparing ESL students for the English Arts Regents. Schall said the district had 100 percent attendance for the exam.
Visconti said that when he first started at the Five Towns Community Center in the 1970s, the Inwood community was mostly made up of Italian-Americans and African-Americans. Now, with the changes, the center has to act fast to meet the needs of new residents. To do so, it has hired Latino staffers, started the Hispanic Association, built a soccer field and began offering services such as ESL.
Still, Visconti and Inwood Community Group President Gregory Nunn pointed out that the census data might have missed many residents, especially those who are undocumented or living in illegal housing. “We just wish everybody was counted in the census. We believe we have more,” Nunn said. “They have to get some more housing down here. There is no way — we didn’t build more houses.”
Census data supports Nunn’s sentiment. Over the past decade, only 21 housing units were added to Inwood’s stock, bringing the total to 3,153.
“They’re great neighbors and we’re glad to have them,” Nunn said. “We just want safe places for them to live.”