According to the Citizens’ Committee for Children (CCC) of New York, Community District 1 of Brooklyn (i.e. Greenpoint/Williamsburg) has the highest child poverty rate out of all 59 New York City districts, with 55% of the children in our neighborhood living below the poverty line. New York City’s overall child poverty rate is 30%, by comparison. In a block-by-block analysis, the heaviest concentration is in the south, on the blocks just north of its Flushing Avenue border. These numbers were part of CCC’s biannual “Keeping Track Database,” which was released earlier this month. The city’s second and third most impoverished neighborhoods for children are, respectively, University Heights in the Bronx and Brownsville in eastern Brooklyn.
Child poverty is back on the rise in Greenpoint and citywide after experiencing a brief respite. In 2000, child poverty in the neighborhood was just above 50%. It dipped under 50% by mid-decade, but then rose to where it currently stands amidst the “Great Recession.”
For purposes of this study, “poverty” is defined as the federal “poverty threshold,” which is a $23,050 total income for a family of four. The general poverty rate for the city, which takes into account both children and adults, is 21%. The reason the child poverty rate is higher than the general poverty rate is complex, though not unique to Greenpoint. Due to a higher frequency of single-parent households and larger-than-average families amongst America’s poor, households tend to have more children than adults.
Community District 1’s relationship to child poverty is something of an anomaly within the city. Of the seven community districts that have concentrated child poverty levels higher than 50%, Greenpoint/Williamsburg is the only one without a majority Black or Latino population. Furthermore, by other metrics of child safety, children in Greenpoint/Williamsburg are reasonably well off: the adult unemployment rate is comparatively low, and health indicators for infants are positive. We have one of the lowest rates of infant mortality in the city (52nd of 59 with 2.4 deaths/1000 live births) and the second-lowest rate of low birth-weight babies. Our child abuse report rate is also low, with 29.9 reports per 1,000 children, as compared to 51.1/1,000 citywide. Juvenile arrests are lower than the city average, and “youth idleness” (defined as young people who are neither in school nor employed) is kept in check as well. Furthermore, amongst Community District 1 schoolchildren, reading and math levels for grades 3-8 remain on par or better than the city as a whole.
The 55% child poverty cited in the study came from a single year of data collected by the U.S. Census., which Courtney Wolf –a Senior Policy Associate for Research and Data Analysis with CCC – warns may be too small a sample size to accurately gauge concrete truths about the neighborhood. However, even on the larger sample of the 3-year trending average (2009-2011), District 1’s 49% child poverty rate is still 20% higher than the city as a whole.
Given the high rate of child destitution, Ms. Wolf and the CCC are fighting both Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo for rolling back spending on the city’s underage have-nots. Mayor Bloomberg’s preliminary budget takes $217.9 million from the city’s children, most notably in cuts to childcare, after school programs, runaway/homeless youth services, infant mortality prevention, and mental health treatment for children 0-5 years old. Cuomo’s state budget, meanwhile, also cuts afterschool spending and runaway/homeless youth services, while eliminating the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program entirely, a service that helps protect youth in foster care seeking permanent homes.
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