No doubt, Nassau County’s –– and, specifically, the Town of Hempstead’s –– demographics are a-changin’. For 10 years, Hempstead has seen a steady increase in its immigrant population, particularly in Valley Stream, Elmont, Floral Park, Hempstead, Roosevelt, North Woodmere, Inwood and North Wantagh.
As Bob Dylan sang, “Your old road is rapidly agin’.”
The Nassau County United Redistricting Coalition is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group working to ensure that fair election maps are drawn throughout the county, including in the Town of Hempstead. Member groups include Common Cause, La Fuente-the Long Island Civic Participation Project, Latino Justice, the League of Women Voters, Long Island Civic Engagement Table and the New York Civil Liberties Union.
In many parts of Hempstead, more than a third of residents are foreign-born, coming primarily from Central and South America, according to the coalition. Those statistics should be no surprise. From 2000 to 2010, the Hispanic voting-age population grew across the county by more than 45,000, or 48 percent, to nearly 138,500. Hispanics now account for 13.5 percent of Nassau’s voting-age population, up from 9.3 percent in 2000.
A number of South Shore neighborhoods now have Hispanic majorities. The largest population subsets are Salvadorans and Guatemalans, many of whom have escaped abject poverty and brutal war.
Most first-generation Hispanic immigrants are legal, documented workers, United Redistricting says. They come wanting to make a better life for themselves and their families, and so they are willing to work hard building new roofs and cleaning homes, contributing to the local economy.
These newcomers are literally changing the face of southern Nassau County. In a recent analysis, United Redistricting wrote, “Many parts of Nassau increasingly resemble the socio-economic profile of outer-borough New York City: urban density, lower-middle- to middle-class income households, a workforce concentrated in the blue-collar and service sectors, and an increasing core immigrant population.”