77,062. That’s New Rochelle’s official population according to the brand new figures released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is an increase of 4,880 or 6.8% from the 2000 count of 72,182.

New Rochelle’s population growth was notably robust compared to the New York State average of 2.1%. In our region, White Plains had a comparable increase of 7.1%, while Mount Vernon and Yonkers actually experienced population declines.

Growth is associated with both challenges and opportunities. If carefully planned, it can strengthen our economy and cultural energy. Without careful planning, it can overburden services and infrastructure. Striking this balance properly was a central focus of my recent State of the City Address, and is also at the heart of municipal documents such as our Sustainability Plan and Comprehensive Plan.

But, let’s put aside the equivocation for a moment: as an indicator of a community’s health, growth is a clear positive. The fact that people want to live in New Rochelle is good news for our city and bodes well for our future.

In addition to enhancing our understanding of New Rochelle’s size and composition, Census information also has important practical implications. First, many formula-based grants are based on the Census. Second, political representation at every level must conform with the most current population counts. So, for example, the 2010 Census data will be the basis for establishing new City Council district lines, a process that will unfold in April and May.

There will be lots more demographic information to sift through in the days ahead. For now, I am just proud to be one of the 77,062 people who call New Rochelle home.