April 3, 2011

Tompkins County Grows 5 Percent, Adds 5,000 Residents Over 10 Years

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Correction appended

While Tompkins County remained an island of growth — adding 5,000 people — the neighboring counties, Cayuga, Schuyler, Chemung and Tioga saw sharp decreases in size. Seventeen upstate N.Y. counties reported losing residents.

According to the new census, 101,564 people live in Tompkins County. Of that, an estimated 30,000 students attend Ithaca College, Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College. The census also reported that Asian American and multiracial populations grew faster than the white population in the area and now make up more than 20 percent of the county.

The City of Ithaca grew by 2.5 percent to a total of 30,014 residents, while the Town of Ithaca increased almost 10 percent to 19,930 people.

Collegetown especially swelled in the past decade — increasing by 22 percent, or 1,000 additional residents — to a total of 5,600 people.

Tompkins County Legislator Pam Mackesey ’89 (D-District 1) attributed the sharp rise in the neighborhood’s population to recent construction projects.

“Nobody was surprised that Collegetown increased due to all the development and the apartments that have been built in the past 10 to 15 years,” Mackesey said.

Collegetown’s dramatic population growth has strained some public services offered by the municipality, Ithaca officials said, including a dearth of parking.

Mackesey acknowledged that Ithaca has gradually responded to the increased demand.

“That is an area where the demand for [TCAT] bus service has increased over the past 10 years — we probably have greater bus service to that area,” Mackesey said.

The neighborhood has experienced growth particularly along the corridor between Dryden Road and College Avenue, the census reported.

Central Collegetown is the densest neighborhood in upstate New York, with a population density ratio of 33,000 residents per square mile, according to the census data.

The 2010 census showed that most upstate metropolitan areas shrunk dramatically in the past decade, with Buffalo losing 10.7 percent, Rochester losing 4.2 percent and Syracuse losing 1.5 percent of their residents.

Still, Tompkins County has sustained population growth due to its major educational and research employers, according to Tompkins County Legislator Michael Lane (D-14th District).

Lane said that, although Tompkins County has the lowest unemployment rate out of any New York county, many area residents face economic difficulties.

“The state looks at our unemployment numbers and they think we’re doing wonderfully,” Lane said. But Tompkins County “has a lot of underemployed people — a lot of people working two or three jobs to try to make ends meet,” Lane said.

He also mentioned that Cornell contributed to the county’s problems with its administrative streamlining program, including its nine percent workforce reduction.

“Cornell went through a period of laying off and early retirement for a lot of employees,” Lane said.

Tompkins County had an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, in January, below New York State’s 8.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

“We have a more stable economy in Tompkins County in general,” Tompkins County legislator Mackesey said.

“I also think that we have a county and community here that is attractive and offers things to people — a kind of rural environment with an urban texture,” she said. “It’s why we have continued to grow and other counties have declined.”

According to the 2010 Census, New York State grew by 2.1 percent to 19.4 million people, the third most populous state in the country. The U.S. population grew by 9.7 percent. Due to the lower growth, New York is expected to lose two congressional seats in the nationwide redistricting, according to the census.

Correction: The headline of a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Tompkins County added 3,000 people. In fact, it added 5,000.

Original Author: Max Schindler