Single men, not parents, dominate Downtown’s growth

By Patrick Hedlund

Curious about the new neighbors moving in Downtown?

They’re still more likely to be young, single, successful and college-educated men, according to census figures of Lower Manhattan unveiled before the community board last week.

The presentation, offered by Joe Salvo, the Department of City Planning’s population expert, at Community Board 1’s Executive Committee last Wednesday, Oct. 10, featured a comprehensive look at Lower Manhattan census data from 2000 through 2005. Salvo said Lower Manhattan is the fastest-growing part of the city.

The data, however, would not be useful in determining school-enrollment projections, Salvo said, something the community board would like to address in making its pitch for new school construction.

His findings showed that while Lower Manhattan’s population continues to expand, non-family residents have dominated that growth.

Board chairperson Julie Menin said she doesn’t think Salvo’s report weakens the board’s case for more schools.

“I think it really serves to embolden the views that we’ve had all along, which is we know we’re the fastest-growing neighborhood [in the city],” she said. “We’re going to continue to have explosive growth in the neighborhood.”

Menin also stated that the study only covers a period until 2005, which doesn’t factor in growth over the past two years. She said new residential developments built since then have been marketed specifically to families, touting family-friendly floor plans and area public schools.

“Even in the data from the past few years, its irrefutable that new families are moving in,” she said, adding that the board’s staff will conduct further studies to determine figures since 2005. “The city did not seem to be able to provide new data for the last two years, so we’ll do it ourselves if we can’t get it from the city.”

According to Salvo, who cited figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Lower Manhattan continued to rebound from the post-9/11 exodus by welcoming in an additional 9,000 new residents over the five-year period.

Salvo also reported that Department of Buildings estimates indicate that 6,300 new residential units have been added to the study area — a swath of land that primarily reflects the board’s boundaries but also includes a small bit of Community Board 2.

The Census Bureau usually does not conduct surveys for areas with populations under 65,000, he said, but made a special exception for rapidly-growing Lower Manhattan, which contains about 43,000 residents.

Salvo noted the area’s shift from industrial-commercial use to residential use over the study period, adding the number of new housing units jumped by about 25 percent.

So who’s moving into these new homes?

Mostly non-families, according to Salvo, which he defined as a single person living alone, or two or more persons unrelated by blood, marriage or adoption. A large imbalance of men moved Downtown during that period, while the rest of Manhattan stayed balanced between male and female residents.

“Lower Manhattan is experiencing a substantial net increase in population due to migrants,” Salvo reported, noting that about 60 percent of these new residents moved from other parts of the borough. “In 2005, over 20 percent of the population got here in the previous year. It’s huge.”

Working-age males, defined as men between 25 and 44, have dominated the residential surge, representing some of the most skewed data in all of Manhattan, according to Salvo.

He also reported that college students residing in Downtown dorms have been removed from the study, as the approximate 5,000 students in Lower Manhattan had previously skewed the non-family figures.

“[Lower Manhattan is] overwhelmed by fairly wealthy, single individuals” in their 20s and 30s, he said, with the majority coming from Manhattan but many from out of state.

While the data show that new families account for some of the residential uptick, Salvo said non-families still dominate the statistics.

Additionally, 70 percent of the total Lower Manhattan population has a bachelor’s degree — compared to just 26 percent across the city — and many moved to the area so that they could walk to work, he noted.

“There’s no question that Lower Manhattan continues to grow,” Salvo said. “It’s growing much faster than any other community.”

The number of workers in Lower Manhattan, however, has tapered off, dropping by about 10 percent, or from 386,000 workers in 2000 to 348,000 in 2005. The rest of Manhattan, he informed, has seen a 7 percent increase in workers.