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New York Leaves ‘Nasty’ Reputation Behind as Families Crowd In

New York Leaves ‘Nasty’ Reputation Behind
Residential buildings line the west and east side of Central Park in this aerial photo taken over New York. Photographer: Keyur Khamar/Bloomberg

Martin Fridson said suburban friends used to chide him for raising two children in Manhattan.

“Central Park had a national reputation as being a very dangerous place,” said Fridson, 58, global credit strategist at BNP Paribas Asset Management Inc. Raised in Detroit, he has lived on the Upper West Side, near the expansive park, since 1980 and said that outsiders don’t always see the benefits city dwellers appreciate.

“People sort of wondered how you could possibly raise children in New York,” he said of the city that in the last decade has persevered through a historic terrorist attack and a severe financial crisis.

“Their perceptions are out of date,” Fridson said, describing a “tremendous renaissance” on Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues near his three-bedroom apartment.

Manhattan’s population grew 3.2 percent to 1,585,873, outpacing New York state’s 2.1 percent growth over the past decade, according to 2010 Census data released yesterday. The boost defied fears of urban flight after the Sept. 11 attacks and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

New York City, the most populous place in the country with 8,175,133 residents, also attracted more residents at the same time that its crime rate fell, census and city data show.

Felonies Decline

The incidence of seven major felony offenses declined to 105,115 in 2010, down 43 percent from 184,652 in 2000, according to the New York City Police Department. That includes reports of murder, rape, robbery and burglary.

“The city itself has turned around the perception that it’s just a nasty, dirty place to live,” said Peter Francese, a demographics analyst who founded American Demographics magazine, now part of Advertising Age. New York has “created the perception that it’s not only safe, it’s hot,” he said.

The median co-op and condo sale price increased to $880,000 in 2010, more than double the 2001 figure of $430,000, according to a report this year by real estate appraiser Miller Samuel Inc., which covers the greater New York metropolitan area. The report was based on sales by Prudential Douglas Elliman, a real estate firm with more than 60 offices.

‘Influx of Demand’

“I’m not so sure we would have had the influx of demand for people to make this their home” if former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and current Mayor Michael Bloomberg hadn’t focused on “the small stuff, like graffiti on the subways, trash and quality of life issues,” said Jonathan Miller, president of New York-based Miller Samuel.

Bloomberg, 69, yesterday said the decennial count fell short in counting the city’s residents -- and that may affect the city’s share of federal aid. Bloomberg, citing an increase in immigrants and reports of overcrowding, said New York was shortchanged by 225,000 people in the 2010 Census.

He said the census couldn’t have been accurate in finding a 1,343-person increase in the borough of Queens, which has experienced growth and overcrowding in the past decade because of an influx of immigrants.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “We will try to show the Census Bureau where they erred.” The Bloomberg administration will formally challenge the findings, said Mark LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Further Examination

Census director Robert Groves said yesterday that the agency would further examine population numbers. He said that the “specific” issue of an undercount in New York had yet to be addressed, and that an analysis and samples will be pursued through 2012.

“This is the time when many mayors receive counts that disappoint,” Groves said. “We haven’t drilled down yet, and we will do so.”

Young white professionals are responsible for the bulk of the growth, and many are choosing to stay in Manhattan after they have children, according to William Frey, a demographer at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

“These are people who can afford to have kids in Manhattan,” Frey said. “Most of the people who move to the city are young, and if they have kids they’re going to be there for a longer period of time.”

Jeff Bloch, 51, is raising his 7-year-old daughter and 5-year old son in midtown Manhattan as a single gay father. He said he wanted his children in a place of diversity.

“It’s truly a terrific place to raise kids because everything is in walking distance, and they’re exposed to so many wonderful things like the theater, the culture,” said Bloch, a self-employed media trainer.

Subway Rats

Bloch grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and said his children’s memories of childhood will be far different from his. His daughter, Julia, has asked to sit by the window while riding the subway so she can look for rats, and she caught Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” on an outdoor screen by Lincoln Center last summer while walking home from a picnic, he said.

Manhattan had the fastest-growing white, non-Hispanic population of any count in the state, adding 8.2 percent for a population of 761,493. Statewide, the number of white non-Hispanics fell 3.9 percent to 11,304,247.

The number of white, non-Hispanic children in Manhattan rose 22.5 percent to 77,556. Asian children rose 2.7 percent to 19,520. Black children fell 30.2 percent to 38,199, and Hispanic children fell 21.3 percent to 88,438.

Black Population Falls

The number of blacks in Manhattan fell 12.5 percent to 205,340; citywide, it fell 5.1 percent to 1,861,295. It was the first time since the 1850 Census that the number of blacks declined.

The largest gains across the city were among the Asian population, which grew 31.8 percent to 1,028,119. Hispanics rose 8.1 percent to 2,336,076. Non-Hispanic whites fell 2.8 percent to 2,722,904. They are still the city’s largest racial group, making up 33.3 percent of the population.

Interpreted another way, two of three New Yorkers are now minorities, according to the census data.

While Wall Street was at the center of the credit crisis that began in August 2007, the New York economy has recovered faster than much of the nation as the city benefited disproportionately from the government bailout of the financial system. Jobs in the finance industry grew 1.5 percent in New York in December from the year-ago period, compared with a 0.8 percent loss across the U.S., according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Housing Market

“We didn’t have the kind of subprime crisis that the rest of the country had, where mortgage brokers clustered large volumes of subprime loans in contiguous counties,” said Rae Rosen, senior economist at the New York Fed. “As a result, New York City didn’t suffer comparable job losses for residential construction workers or mortgage brokers.”

The housing market also held up better because co-ops comprise three-quarters of owner-occupied residences and their boards have done a better job of vetting the finances of borrowers than banks did, said Miller of Miller Samuel, the consulting firm.

“Density in New York City is all about property land values, because if there’s a five-story building that’s not returning to its owners much in the way of income, they’ll rip that building down and put up a 30-story building,” said Francese, the demographic analyst.

“The demand for residential real estate outstrips supply, hence you go up,” he said. “You can’t build out over the East River, for God’s sake.”

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