LI towns' population grows incrementally

In this file photo, Hempstead residents attend a

In this file photo, Hempstead residents attend a meeting on the census. (April 9, 2010) (Credit: John Dunn)

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Long Island's towns showed incremental population growth in 2009 over the previous year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's population estimates for towns and villages released Tuesday.

The numbers also showed that the largest percentage increases since 2000 occurred in the East End towns.

The bureau's estimates highlight relatively flat growth in Nassau County, which saw a 1.7 percent increase since 2000 with an estimated 2009 population of 1,357,429. Suffolk's population was estimated at 1,518,429 in 2009, up 7 percent since 2000.

The 2009 population estimate for Hempstead Town in Nassau, the town with the Island's largest population, was 764,982, up from 755,924 in 2000, a 1.2 percent increase.

"It's encouraging to see continued growth in a town that's 98 percent developed," said Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray. "We're such a mature suburb that any growth is a positive sign. A lot of other communities that are this mature in development actually have seen declines."

But at least one village official was concerned that the census estimates were inaccurate. "Whatever the calculation they use, we see more people in this village," said Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall.

According to the bureau, the village had 53,971 people, up from 53,761 in 2008, but a drop since 2000, when the census recorded 56,554 people. Hall said garbage output and water usage suggest a larger population than the estimate.

Meanwhile, the East End towns, whose populations are smaller overall, show the biggest percentage gains, with Riverhead Town leading the way: A 28.8 percent increase since 2000.

"Riverhead's the place to be," said Supervisor Sean Walter. "We're sort of the transition town between the high density of Brookhaven and the low density of Southold."

Walter explained that Riverhead is attracting people looking for the rural character of Southold and the more "metropolitan feel" of Brookhaven, such as shopping malls.

He said development of several retirement communities along the Middle Road corridor has helped increase the population, which was estimated at 35,654 in 2009, up from 27,680 in 2000.

He said the population was close to an ideal maximum of between 42,000 and 45,000. "I venture a guess by the next census we will be largely built out."

Walter said the town's priority was economic development of its Main Street in downtown Riverhead, with restaurants and shops, and "the redevelopment of the EPCAL property with high-tech jobs."

Frank Zappone, deputy supervisor for Southampton Town, said he wasn't surprised by the 2009 estimates showing the town with 61,527 people, up from 54,712 people in 2000, a 12.5 percent increase.

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