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Apr 16, 2010 1:53 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

U.S. Census workers are still plugging away on the East End

Apr 16, 2010 1:53 PM

Knocking on the doors of strangers’ homes—disconcerting and even frightening work for some—has become second nature for two 2010 Census takers on the East End.

In fact, Nancy Greenberg of Sag Harbor and Gayle Reisig of Southampton, who work for the U.S. Census Bureau, say that the people they have interviewed might be standoffish at first, but usually warm up once they start making their way through the federal questionnaire, which requires the names, ages, races and ethnicities of people living in each house or apartment.

“I haven’t met any resistance,” said Ms. Reisig, who became a census taker after she lost her job when the Ann Taylor Loft in the Bridgehampton Commons closed. “I try to make them realize it’s a good thing. There’s no reason not to cooperate.”

Still, some East End women do not want to give their ages during the interviews, which typically last about 10 minutes, Ms. Reisig said. In those instances, she just leaves that line blank and chalks up the experience to vanity.

To date, the gathering of information for the 2010 Census, which began last month, is about 63 percent complete in Suffolk County, just shy of the national average of 66 percent, according to a map on the 2010 Census website. Workers hope to complete their work by early May, so that the data they are collecting can be used by the government to help divvy up an 
estimated $400 billion in federal 
aid each year, and help determine the election districts for members of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to U.S. Census officials.

More than 900 census takers began going door-to-door to visit the approximately 96,000 homes on the North and South forks on March 22, as part of the federal government’s “update and enumerate campaign.” In that type of campaign, which is also underway in parts of Maine, Alaska and Texas, census takers must physically knock on doors and ask questions. The approach, which is far more time consuming than just mailing out the questionnaires, is usually employed only in areas that feature a large number of second-home owners or where post office boxes are popular. The Census Bureau is mailing questionnaires to the rest of the country.

Ms. Greenberg, a crew leader for the U.S. Census who is working in Sag Harbor and its surrounding communities, said she is only about one-third of the way complete. She thinks that her task is taking longer than expected because the South Fork has a large seasonal population, requiring that she return to the same homes and apartments multiple times.

Another potential obstacle is that certain landlords could be preventing census takers from getting accurate household counts. Isabel Sepúlveda de Scanlon, who started Organizacion Latino Americana, a support group for Latino residents, said that she has had some people tell her that they were not counted. Those people think that their landlords might have misled census takers about the number of people living in their homes, fearing crackdowns from Southampton Town Code Enforcement, she explained. Southampton Town Code prohibits overcrowding in homes.

“There are a lot of people who want to be counted, but the owners of the houses that are against the code ... they’re not going to offer the information that they have four or five families in the house,” Ms. Sepúlveda de Scanlon said.

Ms. Greenberg emphasized that census workers take oaths that they will not share any personal information that they gather for 72 years. The Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service also cannot view personal information over that time, Ms. Greenberg said.

Even though some landlords might be lying to census takers, Ms. Greenberg said that workers are trained to take people at their word. In a situation like the kind Ms. Sepúlveda de Scanlon described, census workers would not push the person who answered the door to release more information.

“That’s not our job,” Ms. Reisig said.

Ms. Greenberg added that if census takers ever feel threatened or in danger, they are told to walk 
away immediately.

Ms. Sepúlveda de Scanlon said that anyone who has had a census taker come to his or her home, but was not counted, should contact her. She said that it is very important for the Latino community in Southampton Town to be counted, as she thinks that it has exploded since 2000—the year of the last U.S. Census.

“I’ve really seen it grow,” she said, adding that she has lived here since 1991 and thinks that the student population in some school districts is more than 40-percent Latino.

Although she and other census workers are equipped with placards that feature some of the census questions in 51 different languages, Ms. Reisig said that, to date, she has not interviewed anyone who speaks Spanish. Most of the time, she said the homes she visits appear to be vacant—at least in the early spring.

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Oh, guess what? "The census doesn't ask for citizenship status". (surprise, surprise) Heaven forbid our government do anything to stop illegal immigration. What a joke.
By reality 101 (137), East Hampton on Apr 16, 10 5:57 PM
The census is to count PEOPLE
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Apr 20, 10 5:11 PM
I never received a form and the census worker appeared 5 days before the deadline on April 15 for mailed forms. She said they didn't send out any forms out here they just sent the workers. Just like our Government to waste some more tax dollars.
By Dr Spock (36), Hampton Bays on Apr 16, 10 6:51 PM
The census is doing a better job than last time and the time before that. Last time I had three visits from census in addition to a form mailed to us, plus found several census forms stuck into my gate with addresses for places that didn't exist. Ten years before, nobody counted us, by mail or in person. This time we got a mailed form, then shortly thereafter a census guy stopped by.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Apr 16, 10 11:16 PM
We should havw received the form by mail. What a waste of money to hire door to door people. You only send people if you do not receice an answer in a certain time period.
By bughouse@optonline.net (3), Southampton on Apr 17, 10 5:02 PM
We should havw received the form by mail. What a waste of money to hire door to door people. You only send people if you do not receice an answer in a certain time period.
By bughouse@optonline.net (3), Southampton on Apr 17, 10 5:03 PM
I answered 5 people live at this address.. then I wrote according to article 1 section 2 of the US Constitution you are not allowed to ask any more questions and I won't answer anymore.

By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Apr 17, 10 6:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
The social security program is failing, medicare is failing, the swine vaccine program was a bust,the US Post Office is failing, the Census is having problems,how can the government run a health care program?? Everything they are involved in is all screwed up!! God help us all!!!
By bayview (160), Southampton on Apr 17, 10 6:03 PM
It's more complex than that.

It's not the government, it's the people that RUN the government, and fail to regulate society, and our economy properly. Too many would rather line their own pockets at our expense, than actually make a difference.

Thank the stars for those that choose to be Public Servants, instead of politicians. There truly are too few of them, and it is somewhat our fault as well. A fickle lot indeed, the people are...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 20, 10 10:30 PM
We need an accurate count. On the east end we recieve such a little amount of federal aid as its based on the population numbers. Casual observation shows we have grown nd we need federal money to aid in our growth.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Apr 18, 10 7:59 AM
Thank you to all those hard working census people. They need the work, they are polite and intelligent. Good luck!! And don't take any hostility personally.
By MaryB (19), East Hampton on Apr 19, 10 12:49 PM
I live in Southampton Town and have yet to see a Census person. A lot of other people I have talked to have not seen one either. Does anyone know where they are or when they are supposed to come to your house?
By favaunt (24), Sag Harbor on Apr 25, 10 6:21 PM