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Buffalo population declines by 857, latest census estimates

Construction cranes, the Buffalo Billion and political pronouncements of rebirth haven’t yet reversed one troubling trend: The city is still losing population – albeit slowly.

Buffalo’s population continued a slow decline from 2013 to 2014, according to census estimates released Thursday.

The city lost another 857 residents from July 2013 to July 2014, according to census estimates, which peg Buffalo’s current population at 258,703.

The percentage decline is small – only about a third of 1 percent.

Looking back over five years, census estimates show Buffalo’s year-to-year drops resulted in a full 1 percent population loss – or 2,622 residents – since the 2010 census, which had put the city’s population at 261,325.

What’s more, the city’s decline came at a time when Erie County’s population increased by about 1,000 residents – to an estimated 922,835 last year from an estimated 921,883 a year earlier. Since the 2010 census the county’s population increased slightly, by 3,771 residents – almost half a percent, estimates show.

“Buffalo’s population loss continues to slow down, and ultimately, by the next census period, we will see the city’s first population growth since the 1950s,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said. The next full census will be taken in 2020.

“At one time,” Brown added, “Buffalo was losing population at a much faster pace, so the population loss is slowing, and at a point will be eliminated and begin to see population gains.”

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz did not return a call to comment Thursday.

Meanwhile, Niagara Falls continued to see its population slide during the five-year period, if less precipitously than in the past. The city’s population dropped by almost 2 percent or by 253 residents, to 49,219 last year from 50,129 residents according to the 2010 census. Mayor Paul A. Dyster said Niagara Falls, like the rest of the region, has been losing population for nearly two generations.

“Am I concerned? Yes. But I’m more concerned about what happens when we have another full census in 2020 than I am with this most recent estimate,” he said. “However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t already strategies underway for trying to address population loss.”

Dyster said part of the potential fixes include growing employment and strengthening the city’s economy, along with offering more attractive housing opportunities, particularly in the city’s downtown core.

Other upstate cities also experienced slight population declines. Between 2013 and 2014, Rochester’s population dropped by 0.27 percent and Syracuse’s declined by 0.62 percent. New Rochelle in Westchester County saw a 3.3 percent population drop while Utica’s population was down 2 percent.

Buffalo’s slight population decrease also contributed to a lowering of its ranking among the country’s largest cities, dropping in to No. 76 last year from No. 73 in 2013. As a result, Buffalo dropped below Jersey City, N.J.; Chula Vista, Calif.; and Orlando, Fla.

And other cities in the U.S. are on Buffalo’s heels. In 2010, Buffalo had 7,619 more residents than Fort Wayne, Ind. By 2014, Buffalo’s population was only 181 greater than Fort Wayne’s.