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On Staten Island’s North Shore, family poverty rate shows a troubling trend

The 2017 American Community Survey data showed signs of progress for NYC families: the family poverty rate is down across the city, dropping more than a percentage point from 2016. But in Staten Island and on the North Shore in particular, the family poverty rate moved in the opposite direction.

In Community District 1, which encompasses the North Shore, 18.2% of families (which translates to 8,060 families) are living in poverty. That’s a jump from 2016, when the figure was 16.8%, and higher than the boroughwide rate for Staten Island, which is 10.8%. The family poverty rates in the other community districts on Staten Island, CD 2 and CD 3, are 7.3% and 6.3%, respectively.

The findings in our recent assessment of community assets and needs, The North Shore Of Staten Island: Community Driven Solutions To Improve Child And Family Well-Being, show substantial economic disparities between the North Shore and the city as a whole. The new American Community Survey data show that the gap continues to grow. Our report highlights several factors that are likely contributing to the economic struggles of North Shore residents. For one, the community has lower-than-average levels of employment. The North Shore has the eighth lowest labor force participation rate and the tenth lowest employment-population ratio out of the city’s 59 community districts.

This may be due in part to another urgent problem found in the report: the lack of access to transportation in the borough. Staten Island has no subway service to the other boroughs, leaving residents to rely on an overstressed public bus system or their own vehicles to get to and from work. Lower-income residents are far less likely to own a car than higher-income residents, leaving the bus as the only option. Because job opportunities are far more plentiful in Manhattan than on Staten Island, many residents looking for work must also be able to find and pay for childcare not only during the workday but also during their long and often unreliable commutes.

Expanding job opportunities within the borough would eliminate some of these issues for North Shore families and improve economic mobility. Community members we spoke with for this report recommended doing just that by leveraging new commercial and housing developments to employ local job seekers, and promoting opportunities in higher paying sectors.

Transportation also must be vastly improved so that residents in Staten Island have fast, reliable methods to get to and from their jobs and important community assets. Our report, guided by community input, recommends increasing local bus frequency in the least serviced areas, especially parts of Mariner’s Harbor and Port Richmond, and improving real time service information regarding delays and crowded buses. We also believe that piloting transportation services, such as shuttle vans, in targeted neighborhoods with fewer public transportation options will give North Shore families better access to well-paying jobs.

Of course, residents also need to be equipped with the training and skills necessary to work jobs with salaries high enough to allow them to support their families. Expanding training opportunities for workers in fields that pay family-sustaining wages but do not require a college degree, such as blue-collar jobs, can help ensure that an increasing employment rate translates to a lower poverty rate.

To truly be effective, these training opportunities must integrate a variety of necessary services. Child care is critical to allow working parents to appropriately balance their work and family responsibilities. Job readiness resources and support centers, such as the recently opened Staten Island Computer-based Testing and Applications Center, are also important to help prepare and connect residents to employment. And ESL courses are needed so that single parents, English language learners, and other vulnerable people can take full advantage of programs that will help them move up the economic ladder. Taken together, these efforts can help reverse the troubling trend of rising family poverty on the North Shore and ensure that all Staten Island residents have access to the opportunities they deserve.

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