BY Lisa Colangelo
Fewer than half of the people who live in Queens have returned their census forms and time is running out.
The participation rate in the nation's most diverse county is currently 47% - second worst in the city - compared with 50% in the Bronx, 54% in Manhattan and 52% on Staten Island.
Only Brooklyn ranks lower, with 42% of its residents returning the form for the decennial count, officials said.
"Anyone who thinks ignoring the census forms doesn't have consequences is just wrong," Mayor Bloomberg said during an update on Wednesday at City Hall.
"That low response rate could have really serious complications and consequences for our city. It's been estimated that for every person not counted in the census we lose about $3,000 in federal aid a year," Bloomberg said.
More than money is on the line.
Census counts are used to determine the number of state and federal elected officials needed to properly represent city residents.
The mayor's office released numbers showing how each neighborhood census tract is responding. Almost 63% of the people in the Fort Totten, Clearview and Bay Terrace area returned their census forms. Running a close second is the Douglas Manor, Douglaston, Little Neck section with 62%.
On the flip side, only 33% of the people in South Ozone Park responded. Rosedale and South Jamaica had equally low response rates of 37%.
Response rates from residents of Woodhaven, Middle Village and Maspeth have yet to hit the 50% mark.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke visited Queens yesterday with Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens and Bronx) to remind people how important it is to get an accurate population count.
"We cannot afford for New York to be undercounted in the 2010 Census," said Crowley, who spoke to a gathering of local leaders at LaGuardia Community College.
Starting next month, census workers will start knocking on the doors of people who haven't returned their forms. Immigrants and undocumented residents may be reluctant to disclose information, officials said.
"The biggest barrier is a groundless fear," Bloomberg said. "The information you write on your census forms will not be shared with other government agencies."