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Dominicans Gaining On Puerto Ricans In City…Population Explodes 55% Here Since '90

Dominicans Gaining On Puerto Ricans In City


October 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

If present population trends continue, Dominicans will surpass Puerto Ricans as the city's largest Hispanic group before the end of the decade, a study has found.

The mushrooming growth of Dominicans – their population increased by 51 percent during the 1990's to 554,638 – would very likely alter the city's political landscape, where Puerto Ricans dominate the Hispanic leadership, one of the study's authors said. It would also have a subtler impact on education, where, for example, the 21,600 Dominicans are already the largest nationality at the City University of New York.

The analysis, written by Dr. Ramona Hernández and Dr. Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz for the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute and based on United States Census data, also found that Dominicans are spreading beyond their base in Washington Heights, attracted by cheaper rents and larger apartments across the Harlem River in the west Bronx. The number of Dominicans in the Bronx doubled during the 1990's, and there are now almost as many Dominicans in the Bronx, 181,450, as there are in Manhattan, 185,808.

Ever since they began arriving to New York in great numbers in the 1940's, Puerto Ricans have been the city's most visible Hispanic group, producing politicians like Herman Badillo and Fernando Ferrer, transforming public schools with bilingual education, and flavoring the city's music, literature, theater and cuisine.

The turnabout in the city's Puerto Rican population – it fell 12.8 percent to 789,172 in 2000 from 896,763 in 1990 – has been evident for several years as Puerto Ricans moved to the suburbs or retired to Puerto Rico. What was less clear was the Dominicans' comparative ascendancy, a shift documented in census data by the CUNY study and attributed to steady immigration and the growth in children born to Dominicans here.

Dr. Félix Matos Rodríguez, director of the Center of Puerto Rican Studies, expressed some skepticism about the predictions, noting that the Dominican surge of the 1990's was fueled by a robust economy and a relative freedom of travel, conditions that have not been replicated after 9/11.

Adolfo Carrión Jr., the Bronx borough president, said that it was less important whether the city's population was increasingly Puerto Rican or Dominican than that the Dominican growth might eventually produce the city's first Hispanic mayor.

"I think that every Latino will connect with, say, a Freddy Ferrer not because he's Puerto Rican, but because they have a representative that gives them a place at the table," he said.

In the United States as a whole, the Dominican population almost doubled during the 1990's to 1,041,910, and if those growth rates persist, Dominicans will by the end of the decade surpass Cubans as the nation's third-largest Hispanic group. Mexicans and Puerto Ricans will still be larger nationwide.

The study found that Dominicans are still among the poorest New Yorkers, with 32 percent qualifying as poor compared with 19.1 percent for New Yorkers over all. A major reason, the study said, was the prevalence of families headed by single women.

Over all, native Dominicans do not have high rates of high school and college education. But in 2000, close to 60 percent of all Dominicans born here and older than 25 had some college education.

A Dominican Boom Population Explodes 55% Here Since '90


October 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

One of every 10 New York City school children is now Dominican. Roughly 8.5% of CUNY students can trace their roots to the island nation. And while still low, Dominican family incomes grew 16% over the 1990s.

These were among the broad brush strokes yesterday in a new CUNY portrait of the city's Dominican community, which grew a whopping 55% from 1990 to 2000, the report found.

The growth has been so large that if current trends continue, Dominicans likely will overtake Puerto Ricans as the largest Hispanic community in the city sometime this decade - a trend with far-reaching political implications.

The community's total population reached 554,638 in 2000. At the same time, the city's Puerto Rican population slipped about 12% - to 789,172 in 2000 from 896,763 in 1990 - as more moved to the suburbs or retired to their homeland.

"It shows that we are moving forward," said Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat (D-Bronx). "We have become a senior member and equal partner in New York City."

The city's burgeoning Dominican population already can claim a few victories. City Council members Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn) and Miguel Martinez (D-Manhattan) can both trace their roots to the Dominican Republic, as can Espaillat and Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D- Queens).

"One thing we know is that Dominicans will continue to elect Dominicans to political posts - there is no question about that," said Ramona Hernandez, co-author of the City College's Dominican Studies Institute study.

Goin' courtin'

Others, including Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Pataki, aren't waiting to court the growing community.

Over the summer, for instance, Pataki opened a Republican State Committee satellite office in Inwood, a heavily Dominican - and Democratic - section of northern Manhattan.

State leaders hope the office will serve as a base camp in their efforts to peel away Hispanic voters from the Democratic Party.

It's also no accident that Bloomberg has visited the Dominican Republic three times since he was elected. Puerto Rico, by comparison, has rated two mayoral trips so far.

One of Bloomberg's six press officers, Lark-Marie Anton, is Dominican and is focused largely on getting his message out to the city's growing Hispanic media market.

"Before any report," said Bloomberg communications chief Bill Cunningham, "the mayor has always been reaching out to various groups within the Hispanic community."

There have been some growing pains. About 32% of Dominicans still live in poverty, a higher rate than any other major group. Nearly 40% of Dominican households are headed by single mothers, compared with the 22% citywide average.

But the overall picture, many agreed, was one as old as New York: that of a young immigrant group that grows in size over decades, works its way up the economic ladder and ultimately looks to grab its share of political power.

Dominicans by the numbers

New York City population:

2000: 554,638

1990: 332,713

1980: 125,380.

Population by borough (2000):

Manhattan: 185,696 up 36% (from 1990)

Bronx: 181,450 up 108%.

Queens: 95,267 up 82%.

Brooklyn: 89,567 up 62%.

Staten Island: 2,545 up 122%

Per capita income (1999):

Dominican $11,065.

U.S. average $22,086.

Poverty rate (N.Y.C. 2000):

Dominican 32%.

City average 19%.

Dominicans in public education:

City public schools 10%.

CUNY 8.5%.

Source: CUNY Dominican Studies Institute

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