the hempstead conspiracy

Anil points to this list, which claims to rank the 100 largest cities in the United States by population.
Scanning the list brings up all the cities you’d expect, in roughly the order you’d expect (New York, L.A., Chicago, Houston, etc.), until you get to No. 14: Hempstead, New York, population 755,924.
Hempstead, New York?
I’ve never heard of Hempstead. Growing up, I was a geography geek. (Aside: Growing up, I was every kind of geek. But I was, nonetheless, a geography geek.) I used to read the population tables in the World Almanac for fun. I remember that New Orleans was just a hair ahead of Jacksonville in the 1980 census, and I remember thinking it was unfair that Jacksonville was 759.7 square miles in size, versus only 199.4 square miles for New Orleans. It was like Jacksonville was cheating or something. But the point is that I paid attention to city population counts. I knew my Rochester from my Raleigh and Richmond, my St. Paul from my St. Petersburg and St. Louis.
And I’ve never heard of Hempstead. Google tells me it’s a Long Island suburb, home of Hofstra. How could I have missed it all these years?
But…here’s a World Almanac list of the 10 largest cities in New York according to the 2000 census. NYC, Buffalo, Rochester, Yonkers — all represented. But Hempstead is nowhere to be found! The 10th-biggest city on the list is wussy Utica, population 60,651 — less than a tenth of what Hempstead claims. And yet the big H is unrepresented.
And…here’s a list of the largest 243 cities in the country, direct from the U.S. Census Bureau. Again, no Hempstead!
My keen journalistic spidey sense is tingling! Perhaps Hempstead doesn’t exist! Perhaps it is a figment of some warped census-taker’s imagination! Perhaps Hempstead is where Osama is hiding!
Further evidence: this site, which claims Hempstead has only 56,000 residents.
Sadly, this PDF clears it up somewhat. Apparently, NYC, Buffalo, Rochester, etc. are counted as cities by the census bureau, while Hempstead is just a “town.” A 755,000-person “town.” (Brookhaven, Islip, Oyster Bay, and North Hempstead are all also alleged “towns” with 200,000-plus people.) So I guess, for some reason, towns like Hempstead don’t count for census ranking purposes. Why that is I couldn’t guess. I mean, it’s not unincorporated — it has a town government and everything.
In any event, I think al-Qaeda is involved.

6 thoughts on “the hempstead conspiracy”

  1. Pretty impressive to see Utica on the list considering what a great decay that city is. Well not really impressive, just a reflection of the void that is upstate NY.

  2. Speaking of the social sciences, do you remember Oregon Trail? I was reminded of this game about a week ago and the troubles I had when attempting to cross the rivers/avoid dysentery… still one of the best computer games ever.

  3. I grew up near Hempstead (just to the south, in Massapequa), but it wasn’t until I moved away that I learned that the town was apparently a big agricultural resource for cannabis. They just didn’t teach that history in grade school, for some reason….

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