On days when New York’s heat and humidity reach levels dangerous enough to issue a heat advisory, such as Thursday, the city designates more than 500 places as official cooling centers, where people can go for free to stay cool and safe. stay.
But some of the neighborhoods that need the centers the most — with the hottest temperatures, fewest green spaces and most households without air conditioning — have the least per capita, city surveillance found in a study released Thursday.
The worst affected areas are in central Brooklyn, downtown Queens and parts of the Bronx. The most depressed is the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, where only two refrigeration centers were open to 162,400 residents during last month’s heat wave.
That’s despite having the city’s highest heat vulnerability rating, a measure of risk that considers social and environmental factors, including poverty, access to parks and temperature. Street surface temperature can vary tens of degrees, depending on a neighborhood’s tree cover, infrastructure and location.
The controller, Brad Lander, called on the city to immediately open more refrigeration centers in deprived areas such as East Flatbush – for example by extending opening hours in more libraries and senior centers – and to make them easier to find and accessible to, for all residents.
“As deadly heatwaves become more common due to climate change, New York City must protect its residents from dangerous health effects,” he said in a statement.
As the planet warms from the effects of fossil fuel burning, cities like New York are grappling with increasing heat risks and heat inequality. About 370 New Yorkers die each year from the heat; the New York City Panel on Climate Change predicts that by 2080, that number could be 3,300. And because of historical racism in zoning and planning and other social factors, the risks are much greater for lower-income and Black New Yorkers.
The number of centers per capita varies widely, even in warm, low-income areas; Brownsville, in Brooklyn, has 17.3 centers per 100,000 population, compared to 1.2 in Elmhurst and Corona in Queens.
One of the study’s most notable findings: It’s difficult to find cooling centers at night, even though the inability to cool down at night is one of the leading factors in heat illness and death.
Of the 542 centers on the city map during the July 19-25 heat wave, only half were open on Saturday and 83 percent on Sunday. Only 11 percent were open in the evenings, the study found, and many were closed even during peak daytime hours.
And nearly half are senior centers, meaning younger relatives can’t access them, along with the elderly. Of the senior cooling centers, 22 percent had no wheelchair access and less than half had extended hours.