Mayor Announces Program to Help Curb Effects of Extreme Summer Heat

June 14, 2017

Launches new $106 million Cool Neighborhoods NYC program, expanding the Administration’s aggressive climate resiliency agenda

NEW YORK—Before the hottest days of the summer arrive, Mayor de Blasio is announcing the launch of Cool Neighborhoods NYC, a new $106 million program designed to curb the effect of extreme heat, and protect against the worst effects of rising temperatures from climate change. This comprehensive city program will involve proactive and reactive measures in heat-sensitive neighborhoods to help mitigate the threat to public health from the urban heat island effect exacerbated during summer months.

“Climate change is a dagger aimed at the heart of our city, and extreme heat is the edge of the knife,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This is a question of equity; hotter summers, exacerbated by climate change, are a threat that falls disproportionately on communities of color and the elderly. We are answering that question with programs designed to protect the health of New Yorkers, expand our city’s tree canopy, promote community cohesion, and more.”

Every year, hot summers cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat-stroke – all outcomes that disproportionately impact older adults and vulnerable populations. Extreme heat kills more New Yorkers than any other extreme weather event, and leads to an average of 450 heat-related emergency department visits, 150 hospital admissions, 13 heat-stroke deaths, as well as 115 deaths from natural causes exacerbated by extreme heat.

Rising temperatures, more frequent and longer-lasting heat events threaten the New York’s livability. The New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPPC) projects up to a 5.7°F increase in average city temperatures and a doubling of the number of days above 90°F by the 2050s. The NPCC also projects that heat waves in the city will increase in intensity and duration.

Cool Neighborhoods NYC is a comprehensive resiliency program aimed at reducing these heat-related health impacts and deaths, by lowering temperatures in heat-vulnerable neighborhoods, strengthening social networks, and improving quality of life for all New Yorkers. The program expands the City’s current heat reduction efforts, like NYC °CoolRoofs, and adds new initiatives like Be a Buddy NYC, and providing climate risk training for home health aides. The City will also work with health departments and other stakeholders across New York State to support an
expansion of the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to assist qualified households in paying utility bills related to the operation of air conditioners.

As part of Cool Neighborhoods NYC, the City announced an $82 million commitment to fund street tree plantings in neighborhoods in the South Bronx, Northern Manhattan, and Central Brooklyn. These areas have been identified as disproportionately vulnerable to heat-health risks, according to the City’s Heat Vulnerability Index, which combines metrics proven to be strong indicators of heat risk.  The City will also invest $16 million to support planting trees in parks and an additional $7 million to support forest restoration across the five boroughs. The City has identified a priority list of 2.7 million square feet of private- and public- roofs in the heat-vulnerable areas of the South Bronx, Central Brooklyn, and Northern Manhattan to conduct strategic outreach to owners and target the successful NYC °CoolRoofs program over the coming years.

Additional key Cool Neighborhoods NYC components include:

Launching Be a Buddy NYC: The City is launching a two-year, multi-stakeholder pilot to promote community cohesion. Through partnerships with community-based organizations, Be a Buddy NYC will develop and test strategies for protecting at-risk New Yorkers from the health impacts of extreme heat in the South Bronx, Central Brooklyn, and Northern Manhattan.

Partnering with home health aides: The City, in partnership with three home care agencies, will promote heat and climate-health information and engage home health aides as key players in building climate resiliency. The agencies will use their continuing education curriculum to educate nearly 8,000 home health aides on climate-related risks and to recognize and address early signs of heat-related illness.

Partnering with news reporters: The City will host a workshop and will conduct outreach to health and medical reporters and meteorologists to improve the way that New Yorkers receive crucial information about heat and the protective actions they need to take to stay safe indoors, and to encourage caregivers and social contacts to check on vulnerable neighbors, friends and family.

Collecting innovative data: The City will invest in the collection of baseline neighborhood-level temperature information to assess current risk, more effectively target new initiatives in the most heat-vulnerable neighborhoods, and in the long-term, provide baseline data to accurately measure the impact of interventions. 

Cool Neighborhoods NYC is led by the Mayor’s Office of Recovery & Resiliency and will be implemented in partnerships with NYC Parks, the Health Department, Small Business Services, Emergency Management, and members of the private sector.

“Adapting New York City for the risks of climate change is one of the great challenges of our time,” said Daniel Zarrilli, Senior Director for Climate Policy & Program and the Chief Resilience Officer for the NYC Mayor’s Office. “Higher temperatures and frequent heat waves, in addition to storms and rising sea levels, present an enormous challenge to the city and its most vulnerable residents. That’s why today’s commitment to the Cool Neighborhoods NYC program will ensure New Yorkers have the tools to better protect themselves and their neighbors from rising temperatures.  This unprecedented investment in heat mitigation is a critical part of our OneNYC program to ensure that New York City is ready for the risks of the future.”

“As we observe high temperature records being broken year after year, the City must take action against the growing threats we face from climate change and extreme heat,” said Jainey Bavishi, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency. “Heat kills more New Yorkers than any other natural hazard, and Cool Neighborhoods NYC is a crucial step towards reducing heat-related health impacts and deaths in neighborhoods at the highest risk. Through a combination of targeted new investments, stronger community partnerships, and innovative new initiatives, we are delivering on our OneNYC commitments to build a more resilient and equitable city.”

“A tree planted today is a promise made to tomorrow – and as stewards of an urban forest 2.6-million trees strong, NYC Parks is focused on making good on the promise of a sustainable future. In the coming decades, a strong and healthy tree canopy will provide crucial protection against a warming climate. Cool Neighborhoods NYC gives us the resources we need, providing more than $100 million for strategic street tree and park tree planting,” said Mitchell Silver, NYC Parks Commissioner

“As global temperatures keep rising to record highs each year, New Yorkers are more vulnerable to extreme heat," said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “In our city, most heat-related deaths happen behind closed doors in homes without air conditioning. These deaths are preventable.  The evidence-based actions our city is taking in the face of a changing climate are needed more than ever in the absence of federal leadership. Cool Neighborhoods NYC is a wonderful example of how local government, communities and residents can work together to make all New Yorkers safer today and in the future.” 

“As temperatures rise during the summer months, the Cool Neighborhoods NYC initiative is helping combat extreme heat and reducing our carbon footprint,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “As part of this initiative, our successful NYC °Cool Roofs program is installing reflective coatings on millions of square feet of roofing across the city. These coatings lower building temperatures, reduce energy consumption, and help cut carbon emissions.”

“Extreme heat is deadly, and our dense urban environment that traps and absorbs heat creates a dangerous situation for vulnerable New Yorkers,” said NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito. “The new programs included in Cool Neighborhoods NYC will help reduce the risks from extreme heat, and New Yorkers can also help us beat the heat this summer by taking preparedness steps like drinking lots of water and checking in on family members, neighbors, and friends when temperatures rise.”

“New York City is investing $1.5 billion to build green infrastructure across the five boroughs that will improve the health of local waterways while also cleaning the air and lowering summer temperatures,” said Vincent Sapienza, Acting Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection.  “Importantly, the increased tree canopy and vegetation in our green infrastructure will improve air quality in neighborhoods with less than average street tree counts and higher than average rates of asthma among young people.”

“The Cool Neighborhoods NYC plan to have home health aides identify at-risk older adults is a wise decision that will save lives, as many olders without air conditioning may choose to stay home during heat emergencies rather than go to cooling centers. The plan exemplifies how we can tap into this existing network of aides to better identify and address heat-related illnesses,” said Department for the Aging Commissioner Donna Corrado.

“As the agency that controls our streets and roads, nearly a quarter of New York City's land mass, DOT is doing our part to combat the devastating effects of climate change,” said Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner at the Department of Transportation.  “As part of the Mayor's Cool Neighborhoods NYC effort, we are helping keep New Yorkers cool by replacing dark-colored asphalt with materials like planted medians that radiate less heat, as well as by adding green infrastructure, lighter-colored concrete, and painted pedestrian spaces throughout the city.  Our Street Design Manual will also make sustainable practices accessible to everybody who constructs or repairs our streets.”

“We all look forward to warm weather in the summer months, but extreme heat pose a very real threat to our most vulnerable residents. This sound investment protects New Yorkers and continues to make our city greener, better prepared, and more resilient against extreme heat and other threats associated with climate change,” said Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Recovery and Resiliency.

“Extreme heat waves during the summer months can come as a severe threat to our most vulnerable populations, particularly the elderly. As temperatures rise year after year due to climate change, these threats will become more acute and it will be on all of us to look out for the health of our fellow New Yorkers. This investment is a positive step forward that will help all residents during the coming months," said Council Member Ritchie Torres.

"Environmental injustice takes many forms and inequity of cooling infrastructure is certainly a pernicious incarnation." said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. "It’s crucial that we take the short and long-term steps required to ensuring all New Yorkers are healthy and happy through the hot summer months. I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Office of Recovery & Resiliency for their focus and creativity in solving this fundamental problem."

“We are honored to partner with the City and the New York City Department of Small Business Services in particular to contribute to cooling our communities. The NYC °Cool Roofs program not only improves the energy efficiency of buildings in our most vulnerable neighborhoods, but it also provides paid training and workforce support to men and women striving to build bright new careers. It's a win-win!” said Jennifer Mitchell, Executive Director, Sustainable South Bronx, a division of The HOPE Program

“With heat waves on the rise it is critical that we protect New Yorkers in the places most likely to experience extreme heat and adverse health impacts. Cool Neighborhoods NYC is a critical step towards improving equity in access to green space and green space benefits in the city. In the Urban Systems Lab we are committed to supporting this initiative with evidence based science and applaud this major investment in trees for urban climate change adaptation,” said Timon McPhearson, Director, Urban Systems Lab, The New School.

“The Natural Areas Conservancy is founded on the principle that science-based land management is the most effective and sustainable way to manage urban natural resources.  We are so pleased and excited that our research in of NYC’s forests has contributed to this incredible investment,” said Sarah Charlop-Powers, Executive Director of the Natural Areas Conservancy.

“Our mission is to strengthen our community by providing a continuum of vital services and activities that enrich the lives of New Yorkers. The continual service that we provide to vulnerable individuals makes us a trusted asset in communicating the risks of extreme heat to those that need it the most. We look forward to incorporating the City’s curriculum into our program in order to prepare our home health aides to keep New Yorkers safe during extreme heat events,” said Judy Zangwill, Executive Director, Sunnyside Community Services.

“Through our homecare services, we strive to empower New Yorkers to get healthy, live longer and be happier in the comfort of their own homes. This last point is crucial when it comes to extreme heat events. The City’s new program will arm home health aides with the tools necessary to keep individuals comfortable in their homes while also identifying warning signs when additional emergency actions are needed,” said Marie Andreacchio, President, Allen Health Care Services.

“New research tells us that, in the not too distant future, cities like New York will be spending a staggering 5.6% of their total economies on urban heat and local climate change if they don't act now to address heat.  In today's money, that makes heat and local climate change a nearly $90 billion challenge for the city,” said Kurt Shickman, Executive Director, Global Cool Cities Alliance.  “New York has long been a leading city in identifying and targeting policy to ease its heat challenge and this new set of initiatives furthers that reputation.  The benefits of these efforts will be seen in the healthier, happier and more prosperous New Yorkers they enable.  The world needs this kind of leadership now more than ever."

“Climate Change is causing cities to get hotter, faster, and with deadlier consequences,” said Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities. “New York City is continuing to tackle this challenge head-on, and doing it in a way that yields a whole host of other benefits for residents through cleaner air, more walkable streets, better collaboration with health workers, and more.  As cities all over the world seek to deal with this challenge, they can continue to look at New York as one of the leaders in addressing the heat island effect, and other impacts of climate change.”

“By targeting investments in parks and open space, cities are leading the way on climate change mitigation and adaptation, while also improving the health and quality of life of their residents,” said Carter Strickland, New York State Director, The Trust for Public Land.  “The City’s generous funding for converting barren schoolyards into playgrounds with plants and trees that are open on weekends and after school hours is enriching the learning environment for schoolchildren, providing additional recreational opportunities for neighbors, bettering public health, shading our cities from additional heat, and absorbing additional rainfall.  Providing multi-benefits solutions is a winning strategy.”

“With all the ills of the world that call for repair and redress, combating climate change may be the great work of our time,” said Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University. “It is, I would say, holy work, taken up on behalf of people separated from us by time and distance; people we will never know, but whose very lives depend upon the actions we take here and now. New York is taking the lead among cities, thanks to the enlightened leadership of Mayor de Blasio. Living as we do on one of the great river deltas of the world, we can’t afford not to rise to the challenge.”

Resources

For more information on what New Yorkers can do stay safe on high heat days, please visit Beat The Heat, the destination for everything you need to know about extreme heat in New York City.

The City’s comprehensive heat resiliency plan, which is a OneNYC initiative, can be found here.

To see the full list of the City’s progress on its OneNYC over $20 billion multi-layered resiliency program, please visit our citywide resiliency map here.

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