CENSUS 2010: Orange population growth rate 2nd highest in state, but lower than expected
Sullivan and Ulster also recorded increases
By Chris Mckenna
Orange County grew faster than all but one other county in New York over the past decade, but not nearly as quickly as the Census Bureau had estimated, according to 2010 census figures released Thursday.
The results of last year's population count show that Orange County grew 9.2 percent from 2000 to 2010, reaching 372,813. That growth rate ranked second among New York's 62 counties, trailing slightly behind Saratoga County's 9.5 percent.
Sullivan County had an unexpectedly high growth rate â€” high by New York's sluggish standards â€” of 4.8 percent during that same time, which ranked 12th in the state. Its population is now 77,547. Neighboring Ulster County grew by 2.7 percent to 182,493.
census fast facts
Pockets of growth
According to the 2010 census data, growth over the past decade in Sullivan and Ulster counties was concentrated in just a handful of municipalities.
In Sullivan County, 61 percent of the population increase came in the towns of Thompson and Mamakating.
In Ulster County, the Town of Shawangunk added 2,310 people, representing 49 percent of the county's population increase. Add in the towns of New Paltz and Lloyd, and just three towns with less than a quarter of the county's population accounted for 93 percent of its growth.
In Orange County, the head count rose more dramatically, and the gains were more dispersed than in Ulster or Sullivan. Still, the Village of Kiryas Joel accounted for 22 percent of the county's growth.
Around the state
New York City seemed to undergo a whirlwind of construction during the past decade, with new apartment buildings sprouting in every part of town, but the 2010 census found only modest growth in population.
Census figures released Thursday put the city's 2010 population at 8,175,133, a 2.1 percent increase from 2000. The tally was challenged immediately as inaccurate by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said he believed the count overlooked many recent immigrants.
The 2010 numbers will be used by officials drawing legislative districts for the next decade. New York's current 29-member House delegation will drop to 27, its lowest level since 1823. The U.S. Census Bureau in December previously reported the state's population grew by 2 percent in the past decade to 19.4 million.
Staff and wire reports
The new figures were the first actual population counts for every municipality and county in New York since the 2000 census. While they mostly confirmed some easily observable trends from the past decade â€” Orange County's pre-recession housing boom and steady growth in the Village of Kiryas Joel â€” they also sharply differed in many instances from the annual population estimates the bureau has put out.
Orange County, for example, was thought to have grown by 12.4 percent by July 2009, and would likely have risen even higher by the actual 2010 count. Instead, the 10-year growth rate came in at 9.2 percent.
Kiryas Joel, meanwhile, was estimated to have added more than 10,000 people in nine years, an amazing 78 percent growth rate. But it turned out to have grown by just over 7,000 in 10 years, for a still-robust pace of 54 percent. Its new population is 20,175.
For much of the decade, Orange County played host to a land rush, as developers churned out new housing for a wave of New York City-area transplants. Figures compiled by the Internal Revenue Service capture that mass migration: About 4,000 people left New York City for Orange County each year for the first seven years of the decade.
Legions of new commuters settled, transforming once-rural areas into bedroom communities and packing schools with more pupils.
The new census data shows that much of the region's growth occurred where expected, if at slightly lower levels than estimated. The towns of Wallkill, New Windsor and Newburgh â€” all places that had heavy residential development in the last decade â€” each added more than 2,000 residents.
But so did two unexpected places: Middletown and the Town of Shawangunk, in Ulster County. The Census Bureau estimated last year that Middletown had added a meager 548 people in nine years. But by 2010, the city's population was 28,086, an increase of 2,698, or almost 11 percent since 2000.
Shawangunk, thought to have grown by 5.2 percent as of 2009, actually grew by 19 percent and wound up at 14,332 by 2010.
Kiryas Joel added more people than any other municipality in the region in the past decade â€” and did so within its modest 1.1 square miles. Leaders of that Hasidic community have long attributed its rapid growth to internal factors: large family sizes and the tendency of newlyweds to settle in the bride's home community.