July 10, 2008

Cities Still Losing a War of Attrition

By Tim O'Brien, Times Union, Albany, N.Y.

Jul. 10--ALBANY -- Fifty more people are calling Schenectady home.

But 431 people left Albany.

The U.S. Census Bureau released its latest population estimates Wednesday, with the data showing the predictable trend: Most suburbs continue to gain as cities see further slides -- with some exceptions.

In Schenectady, the latest figures show the population growing from 61,481 in 2006 to 61,531 last year. That's still down from where the city was at the last full census of 2000, when 61,821 called the Electric City home.

Saratoga Springs continues to see growth, from 28,589 in 2006 to 28,782 in 2007.

In Albany, Mayor Jerry Jennings said he is pleased because the city's population decline is less than half a percent. Albany now has 94,172 residents, down from 94,603 in 2006.

"It's more stable than in the past, but I am not sure how accurate it is," he said. "It's encouraging that it's stabilized."

In Troy, the city saw 75 fewer people calling the Collar City home, with the population dropping from 47,819 to 47,744.

Albany and Troy weren't alone among upstate cities. Buffalo's population of 272,632 was down 0.93 percent over the year; Rochester, at 206,759, was down 0.49 percent; and Syracuse, 139,079, was down 0.78 percent, according to the estimates.

New York City grew by 23,960 people in the 12 months ending July 2007, for a population of 8.27 million. The city has been steadily growing for years and remains a magnet for immigrants and young people.

While the state's population growth has been centered for years on the metropolitan area, some suburban communities in the Hudson Valley were among New York's fastest growing, including Wurtsboro in Sullivan County (7.9 percent), the Hasidic enclave of Kiryas Joel in Orange County (5.2 percent) and Wappingers Falls in Dutchess County (4.8 percent).

Nationally, New Orleans, hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was the fastest-growing large city, growing by 13.8 percent to 239,124. This follows the city having the largest rate of population loss since 2000.

Of the Capital Region counties, only Albany saw the number of residents decline, from 299,637 in 2006 to 299,307 last year.

Rensselaer County grew from 154,731 to 155,318. Saratoga County continued to attract people over the Twin Bridges, with 1,188 people moving closer to the racetrack for a total county population of 215,852. Schenectady County saw a rise in population from 150,213 to 150,818.

Colonie's climb slowed a bit, with only 124 new residents among its 2007 population of 81,759. Still, the Capital Region's largest town is up from 79,258 residents in 2000.

Bethlehem saw a small bump too, with only 42 more people among the 33,127 calling the town home. Guilderland surprisingly lost 31 residents, with a population of 34,831. Still, the town is well above the 34,050 population it had in 2000.

Guilderland Supervisor Ken Runion doesn't think that's accurate.

"It's probably because what they do is they forget to include our SUNY dorms in our population," he said. "Every time there is a census, we have to go back and show them where the line is."

Some 1,500 University at Albany students live within town lines, he said. But he notes his own household accounts for a drop of two since his sons moved to Savannah, Ga.

Associated Press contributed to this report.


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