Feature

Only in America: Central Park, Pop. 25?

The Census Bureau really did leave no rock unturned, counting two dozen mysterious residents of New York City's most famous park. Who are they?

The story: New York City's population barely increased in the last decade — by an anemic 2.1 percent, according to the 2010 census. But one section of the city, Census Tract No. 143, grew by a "stunning 39 percent"... to 25 people, The New York Times reports. The thing is, nobody knows who these 25 self-identified residents of Tract 143 — better known as Central Park — are. They're not city workers. And the Census Bureau can't confirm the suspicion that the Central Park 25 are homeless. "Who were they, then, these two-dozen-plus urban pastoralists who had told census takers, in the count last year, that their address was none other than Central Park?" wonders Alan Feuer in The New York Times. "Bench-dwellers? Gentry displaced from the Dakota? Schnauzer owners on an endless stroll? No one knew."
The reaction: I thought "homeless encampments in the park" were a thing of the past, but presumably the 25 mysterious residents are vagrants, says Scott Sendrow in The Slightest. Or maybe Donald Trump is "squatting in the back room of one of the ice rinks." Hey, it's not just Central Park, says Jaya Saxena in Gothamist. Flushing Meadows in Queens is home to 56 people, and "apparently five are living in Greenwood Cemetery." So why are the "crafty hobos camping out near the Bethesda fountain" getting all the press? Regardless, we're "just jealous that they don't have to pay for the best real estate in town."

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