By: Edwin Martinez
Buffalo, New York is being rapidly reshaped as blacks, Latinos, Asians and immigrants surge into the north, while gentrification by whites is widening into neighborhoods like the Niagara and Ellicott districts, according to the most recent census figures.
Some of the largest population gains since 2000 were recorded in places that not long ago might have been considered marginal, including downtown, the Westside and the Niagara district neighborhoods, as well as the Medical campus area, registered large gains.
The number of Hispanic and African American residents declined in the Ellicott and Niagara districts, but increased in the Blackrock, Riverside, upper Delaware districts and in the towns of Tonawanda and Grand Island.
The black population shrunk by double digits in the Ellicott and Fruit belt area but jumped north of the city and in Cheektowaga.
The non-Hispanic white population swelled on the Lower Westside, downtown, Elmwood Village but declined in Blackrock, Riverside and Delaware.
Diverse racial, ethnic and immigrant enclaves have proliferated in Buffalo and especially its suburbs since 2000, but that increase generated only negligible inroads against historic patterns of racial segregation, according to analyses of the new data. Most whites in the metropolitan area and most blacks in the city still live where a majority of their neighbors are of the same race.
The latest figures are the single largest data release in the Census Bureau’s history, providing a look for the first time since 2000 at a variety of characteristics, including income, race, immigration and commuting habits for people in areas as small as just a few square blocks. Based on samples taken from 2005 to 2009, the five-year American Community Survey is separate from the 2009 survey, which probably better reflects the full impact of the recession, and from the 2010 Census, which is supposed to count people at every address.
Since 2000, decades of white flight eased and the proportion of non-Hispanic white Buffalo resident increased slightly, to 46 percent. So did Buffalo’s proportion of Hispanic residents, to just over 15 percent. The proportion of blacks declined by a percentage point, to 37.0 percent, and the share of Asian residents rose to nearly 2 percent.
Buffalo foreign-born population increased since 2000, about 16 percent..
But many of the biggest gains in diversity were in the suburbs, generated by newly arrived Hispanic and Asian immigrants, and their American-born children. Their population increased in every ring town surrounding Buffalo.
In 2000, on average, a black suburbanite lived in a neighborhood that was 47 percent black. In 2005-9, that neighborhood would have been 53 percent black, the analysts found.
In 1970, whites in the metropolitan area were likely to live in a neighborhood that was 92 percent white, a figure that declined to 86 percent in 2000, and to 83 percent in 2005-9.
Buffalo is among a group of metropolitan regions where the Great Migration created large black ghettos, and where very high levels of segregation have proved very resistant to change.