After a few days of extreme heat, Mayor de Blasio launched a $106 million initiative on Wednesday to protect New Yorkers from the risks of dangerously high temperatures this summer. The Cool Neighborhoods program aims to lessen the effects of the “urban heat island effect,” a problem that occurs in New York City due to its abundance of heat-holding asphalt and concrete and lack of greenery. According to Gothamist, to reduce heat-related health risks and deaths, the city plans on planting more trees on streets and in parks, supporting forest restoration efforts and painting roofs of homes in vulnerable areas with reflective white paints.
A bioswale absorbs polluted storm water and prevents runoff that could seep into waterways through the sewer system
The initiative, led by the mayor’s Office of Recovery & Resiliency, will target neighborhoods most susceptible to heat-related risks, according to data from the city’s Heat Vulnerability Index. About $82 million of the initiative will fund street tree planting in neighborhoods of the South Bronx, Northern Manhattan and Central Brooklyn. In these vulnerable areas, the city has targeted about 2.7 million square feet of private and public rooftops to conduct strategic outreach to owners. As part of the city’s CoolRoofs service, these roofs get a coat of heat-reducing paint at no cost.
Roughly $16 million will go towards planting trees in parks and about $7 million will support forest restoration efforts across all boroughs. De Blasio said climate change and inequality remain the root of heat-related problems in NYC. “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,” de Blasio said. “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.”
According to the city, hot summers cause a variety of heat-related health risks like dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke, which disproportionately affect the elderly and vulnerable populations. Extreme heat kills more New Yorkers than any other extreme weather event, leading to an average of 450 heat-related emergency visits, 150 hospital admissions, 13 heat-stroke deaths and 115 deaths from natural causes exacerbated by extreme heat, according to the mayor’s office. In partnership with three home-care agencies, the city will promote climate-health information and education about climate-related risks.
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