Foss: Governor should address population loss

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should address the state's population loss at his State of the State, but it's unlikely he will.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo should address the state's population loss at his State of the State, but it's unlikely he will.

It’s a new year, which means it’s also time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to give his annual state-of-the-state address. 

I don’t know what the governor will say this year, although his office has provided some clues, releasing policy proposals with lengthy titles such as “Developing an Innovative Strategy to Build High Speed Rail in New York” and “Banning the Use of Single-Use Styrofoam Food Containers in New York State.” 

So far, over two-dozen policy proposals have been released. 

Unfortunately, not one of them directly addresses what might be the biggest crisis facing New York: A steady decline in population that shows little sign of abating. 

According to the Albany-based think tank the Empire Center, since 2010 New York has lost nearly 1.4 million residents to other states, more than any other state in the country. Last year New York led the nation in population decline, losing 76,790 residents between 2018 and 2019. 

It’s a dubious distinction, and one the governor has proven incapable of discussing honestly, in the past attributing the outflow of residents to poor weather. 

If history is any guide, Cuomo will adopt a relentlessly upbeat tone in his state of the state, all but ignoring a problem his administration clearly has no idea how to fix. 

Those of us who live upstate, where deaths are outpacing births, don’t have that luxury. 

Although it’s worth noting that upstate’s population troubles appear to be spreading downstate. Between 2017 and 2018, Long Island, New York City and the lower Hudson Valley, all lost population. 

The governor is unlikely to mention any of this in his state-of-the-state speech Wednesday, but don’t be fooled: The state’s population loss matters. 

It signifies the hollowing out of once-vibrant communities, and the hope many residents have that life will be better somewhere else. It speaks to the state’s high cost of living and lack of economic opportunity, especially for young people. 

In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau will release 2019 population estimates for counties, cities and towns. 

What I can tell you now is that between 2010 and 2018 some Capital Region counties experienced growth, while others suffered declines. 

Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga counties all saw their populations increase, while Montgomery, Fulton and Schoharie counties all saw their populations drop. 

A mixed picture, to be sure. 

I’d like to hear the governor speak candidly about New York’s changing demographics. 

I’d like to see him and the Legislature join forces to come up with some ideas for reversing a trend that doesn’t bode well for the state’s future. I’d like to see our political leaders take the fact that so many residents are fleeing the state a little more seriously. 

I don’t expect to see any of this, of course. 

And that’s a shame. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.   

Categories: News, Opinion


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