Buffalo is losing about 300 people a month, causing the population to plummet to a new low of 300,000, the city's top planner says.
If the estimates prove true, the city will have lost about 28,000 people since 1990 and be nearly half of its record high in 1950.
"We're still losing 297 people a month," said city Planning Director Kevin Greiner. "Is that a trend that will continue forever? We hope it isn't."
U.S. Census figures, due out next month, will reveal a 4 percent drop in Buffalo's population from July 1994 to July 1996, Greiner said, the latest in a series of declines.
Preliminary reports indicate the city's population is about 300,000, down from 312,965 in 1994, he said.
Greiner made his comments while talking about the need for a new citywide master plan, a document that will stress the need for business growth.
Lawmakers said the decline shows that Buffalo needs to do more when it comes to improving schools, creating jobs and stabilizing neighborhoods.
"It's way more than a wake-up call," said University Council Member Kevin Helfer. "This is not good news . . . But frankly, I don't think it's just Buffalo."
Where people are moving to is not clear, but previous trends indicate many of them relocate to the suburbs.
Others choose to leave the region for better job opportunities in places like Florida, Georgia and Virginia.
"I have no reason to believe those patterns have changed," said Peter Rogerson, a professor of geography at the University at Buffalo. "I expect a lot of people are going to the suburbs."
Rogerson said he expected the city's population to decline again but was surprised by the magnitude of the drop.
"That's a pretty good clip," he said. "I would have expected it to go down but not that quickly."
The decline dates to 1950, when the city's population peaked at 580,132.