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Mayor de Blasio Expands Cool It! NYC to Keep New Yorkers Cool and Safe This Summer

June 24, 2020

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During extreme heat, City will activate 250 new cooling elements and proactively add spray caps to 320 fire hydrants, ensuring no New Yorker in the most heat-burdened communities is more than 1/4 mile away from an outdoor cooling element

NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio today announced an expansion of Cool It! NYC, a plan to help New Yorkers beat the heat this summer. In addition to installing air conditioners for low-income seniors, the City will expand the number of outdoor cooling elements available for New Yorkers to enjoy during extreme heat and refine existing programs to better serve residents in heat challenged areas.

“This summer will be unlike any other in New York City history, and we're focused on safety first,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “From spray showers to misters to fire hydrants, we’re getting creative with how our families can stay cool during periods of extreme heat.”

The NYC Heat Vulnerability Index (HVI), developed by the NYC Department of Health and Columbia University, uses social and environmental factors to understand how health risks during and immediately after extreme heat events compare across NYC neighborhoods. HVI helps the City identify and direct resources to neighborhoods at higher risk during extreme heat. The City is prioritizing the most heat-burdened communities (HVI 5/4 zones) for new public cooling elements and refining existing programs to serve more residents during extreme heat events.

New Cooling Elements & Cool It! NYC Map

To help New Yorkers stay cool this summer, NYC Parks is adding brand new cooling elements within HVI 5/4 zones, and highlighting the existing 950 cooling elements citywide with a new Cool It! NYC map. Parks has identified locations within HVI 5/4 zones where up to 250 new outdoor cooling elements can be added to parks during extreme heat events to create "community oases." These elements will consist of Parks hydrants and other plumbing fixtures that can be adapted to function as spray showers and misting features. By utilizing the map, visitors will be able to find up-to-date information on the closest sprinklers and water fountains in their neighborhood, and with the Leafiest Blocks and Park Tree Canopy categories, easily find Parks' recommendations for blocks and areas with the most shade to help stay cool this summer. 

As cooling elements go online, the Cool It! NYC map will be updated in the coming weeks and activated as necessary during extreme heat events.

Spray Cap Expansion

During heat advisories, DEP and FDNY will proactively install spray caps on 320 hydrants in HVI 4/5 zones, which will help more New Yorkers in these zones get within 1/4-mile walk of a spray feature.

DEP will partner with NYC Service to engage organizations and volunteers to act as spray shower stewards to help expand access to the program. FDNY will continue to work with community residents to activate hydrant spray showers, while collecting information about the number, location and activation frequency of hydrant spray showers to help inform future iterations of the Outdoor Cooling Plan.

Cool Streets and Street Oases 

Through the Open Streets initiative, the City will designate certain Open Streets as “Cool Streets.” These “Cool Streets” will open up blocks with tree-based shade and hydrants as part of DEP’s Cool Hydrant and spray cap program. The first set of “Cool Streets” will be announced in the coming days.

Additionally, DOT will work with their established partners to add new outdoor cooling features to their popular Plaza, Seasonal Streets and Weekend Walks programs. DOT will prioritize sites within high Heat Vulnerability Index zones for new cooling elements.

Reusable Bottle Distribution

DEP will create a reusable water bottle distribution program to promote reusable bottles and remind New Yorkers to stay hydrated. The City will provide 15,000 bottles to elected officials, community boards and partner organizations to distribute citywide. 

Update On Air Conditioners

The City reached out to close to 330,000 eligible seniors, and more than 37,000 seniors opted-in to receive an air conditioner, including 23,200 seniors in private homes and 14,000 seniors in NYCHA buildings. The City has installed a total of 18,274 to date, including 10,362 in private homes and 8,597 in NYCHA buildings. The City’s daily installation rate is close to 1,500 per day.

"As the summer heats - and New York City continues to reopen - we need to give New Yorkers all the resources and opportunities to stay cool and safe these next few months," said Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin. "Whether it's providing thousands of air conditioners to our senior citizens or more spray showers for our children in playgrounds and parks across this city, this Administration will ensure all New Yorkers have plenty of options to beat the heat."

“As the summer heat quickly approaches, and New Yorkers increasingly look to our parks and greenspaces to keep cool, we’re committed to providing new, innovative ways to meet this need,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. "Our brand new Cool It! NYC map highlights existing cooling features, our city’s extensive tree canopy, and new outdoor cooling elements that will be activated during heat emergencies. With our new map, it will be easier than ever for New Yorkers to stay safe and beat the heat!”

“NYC water is cool, refreshing and healthy – and this summer we are working with elected officials, community groups and partner agencies to ensure all New Yorkers can benefit from the champagne of tap water,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza.  “Reusable water bottles will help keep people hydrated while the popular fire hydrant spray cap program provides a safe way to stay cool while also maintaining adequate pressure in our water mains for firefighters and hospitals.”

“Opening hydrants without a sprinkler cap can dramatically lower the water pressure needed to fight fires and save lives, which is why we are partnering with NYC DEP to identify hydrants across the city and install sprinkler caps during periods of extreme heat this summer,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “Water is the most important resource our Firefighters have to battle fires in our city, and this program will ensure New Yorkers can stay cool without impacting the safety of our members and those they serve.”

“The City is taking a multifaceted approach to ensure our most vulnerable New Yorkers are prepared to beat the heat this summer. From expanding the spray cap program to adding new cooling elements in parks and creating street oases, we are dedicated to providing equitable access to safe cooling options in communities that are mostly at risk of the adverse effects of extreme heat,” said NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell.  

“Hot weather can kill and these cooling initiatives are critical to keeping people safe through the summer,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “I also encourage New Yorkers to check on family, friends, and neighbors who are at risk of extreme heat—especially those with chronic physical and mental health conditions—and help them get to a Cooling Center or another cool place if needed.”

"As New York City is focused on an immediate public health crisis, we cannot lose sight of the looming climate crisis and the threats to public health and well-being that it will cause, particularly for the most vulnerable," said Daniel Zarrilli, NYC's Chief Climate Policy Advisor. "Today's announcement will help us protect New Yorkers on the frontlines of climate change from the more extreme and more frequent heat emergencies that we face. As we work to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are putting climate justice at the heart of our recovery and remain committed to ending the age of fossil fuels and investing in job-creating solutions like clean energy, resilient infrastructure, and environmental justice to secure a livable future for New Yorkers."

“Whether it is opening our streets to pedestrians, distributing free air conditioners to our vulnerable seniors or fighting for utility bill relief for those that need it most, addressing the imminent threat that heat vulnerable neighborhoods face this summer is a critical part of climate leadership that must shape a just transition out of this pandemic,” said Mark Chambers, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.

"This summer will be unlike any other. We've come prepared with a plan that puts climate justice into action by prioritizing our most heat-vulnerable communities, many of which have already been hit hard by the pandemic," said Jainey Bavishi, Director of the Mayor's Office of Resiliency. "By taking a multi-pronged approach that includes both indoor and outdoor cooling options, we are maximizing the ways New Yorkers can stay safe, comfortable, and hydrated this summer." 

“Healthy communities are stewarded by residents who look out for their neighbors and care for their environment,” said NYC Chief Service Officer, Anusha Venkataraman. “We are excited to partner with community leaders to expand the cooling programs and keep New Yorkers cool this summer.”

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