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The Record, Thursday, March 22, 2001

Census math puzzles Teterboro

By YUNG KIM, Staff Writer

If you believe the recent census count, all of 18 people call Teterboro home, making it the state's smallest municipality.

There's just one problem: Forty-five folks live there.

And about half of them have put down roots in a new apartment complex that's not hard to miss, because there are only two residential streets in the square-mile, heavily industrial borough.

So what happened? No one seems to know.

Borough Manager Paul Busch speculates that timing was key, because the 12-unit apartment complex opened just a short time before the actual counting of heads.

Still, there were 45 residents by the beginning of 2000, several townspeople said. And the Census Bureau did its count in the spring.

A Census Bureau official said she does not know how Teterboro's numbers could be off, but said every town was counted the same way.

"We go after everyone to make sure they are covered," said Linda Morris, a population information assistant for the Census Bureau.

Before the census forms are mailed to residents in any town, census officials are sent to scour back streets in search of inhabitants, Morris said.

They also scan post offices and housing records to know exactly where to send the forms, she said. Every resident is supposed to receive a form and, if it is not returned, a census worker is sent to the address.

Residents acknowledge there has been a lot of moving around in their tiny town. When the apartments opened on Vincent Place in the fall of 1999, some people who lived on Huyler Street relocated there.

Tiffany Massaro, 16, of Huyler Street did a double-take when she read that Teterboro had a population of 18.

That couldn't be right, she reasoned, because her six-member family would account for a third of the population.

"I knew that was wrong," she said. "There's more than that on this street."

Tiffany's parents attribute the undercount to a lack of tangible signs of a community, such as a school or police or fire departments.

Teterboro children are bused to South Hackensack or Little Ferry schools. Little Ferry and Moonachie provide police coverage, and Hasbrouck Heights handles fire coverage.

"Santa Claus doesn't ride through here on a firetruck," said Tiffany's mother, Maryrose Massaro.

"You can miss Teterboro if you sneeze while driving through on [Route] 46. People think those planes are our neighbors," she said, referring to the traffic at Teterboro Airport.

Teterboro's official slide in population -- it had 22 people in 1990 -- allowed Pine Valley in Camden County to move up a slot and become the state's second smallest municipality, with 20 people. It had 19 at last count.

But Thomas Redanauer said neither Teterboro nor Pine Valley is truly the state's smallest municipality. Tavistock, also in Camden County, has them both beat, said Redanauer, its borough administrator.

Tavistock has 12 people, all living in four houses on a golf course, he said.

But in 1990, the Census Bureau managed to find 35 people in the borough. To protest the overcount, Redanauer sent the bureau a municipal map highlighting the four homes and their residents.

The latest count has Tavistock with a population of 24 -- a decrease of 31 percent, but still double the actual population.

"The Census Bureau can't count," Redanauer said.

The way it looks now, Teterboro will officially remain New Jersey's smallest municipality. And residents will just have to get used to it.

There doesn't seem to be a move afoot to protest the final number, as the borough did a decade ago -- when it successfully demanded a recount after the Census Bureau initially turned up only 11 residents. In fact, the undercount hasn't created much of a stir at all. When The Record last week asked townspeople to gather for a portrait to show that there are indeed more than 18 people living in Teterboro, no one -- that's no one -- showed up.

But things could be looking up.

"This is not a terrible thing," Busch said, thinking about the recent surge in population. "I think we will be the fastest growing borough next time around."

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