8 ways to stay cool (and safe) during NYC’s heat wave

July 26, 2023

Photo by Barney Bishop on Flickr

Another heat wave is here. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for New York City starting this week, with temperatures expected to reach over 90 degrees. Staying cool on a hot day is no joke, as heat contributes to the deaths of roughly 350 New Yorkers each year. Ahead, find some ways to beat the heat, from taking a swim in one of the city’s free outdoor pools to running through spray showers and sprinklers at your local park.

“New Yorkers should prepare for serious heat this week with a heat advisory in effect starting Thursday until Saturday,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. “Let’s not underestimate the effects severe heat can have on us and our neighbors. As such, we will have our cooling centers opening to help New Yorkers stay cool. And our city’s resident can find additional ways to stay cool at NYC.gov/beattheheat. Make sure to check in on your elderly neighbors, drink water, and keep your pets hydrated.”

Splash in a shaded park
If you have to be outside on a hot day, spending time under a thick canopy of foliage in a city park is a great way to keep cool. Not only that, many parks have water fountains to help visitors stay hydrated and water features like spray showers and sprinklers on days when the temperature reaches 80 degrees or higher. You can find a list of the city’s spray showers here.

Go for a swim
Another way to beat the heat is to spend time in one of the city’s free outdoor pools. Outdoor pools are open from 11 a.m. through 7 p.m. seven days a week, with an hour break for pool cleaning between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Outdoor pool hours will be extended to 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, Friday, July 28, and Saturday, July 29 at all Olympic and intermediate-sized pools. A list of the city’s free outdoor pools can be found here.

For those who live near the beach, taking a dip in the ocean is a perfect way to stay cool. All city beaches are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and are free and open to the public. A list of the city’s beaches can be found here.

Some of the city’s hotels also offer day passes to their luxurious rooftop pools. Usually reserved for guests, some hotels allow visitors to pay for admittance for a day, complete with restaurant and bar access. Check out which of the city’s hotels offer day passes here.

Find air conditioning
One of the best reliefs on a hot day is when you finally enter an indoor area with the AC blasting. For New Yorkers who don’t have an AC in their home, the city has roughly 500 designated cooling centers scattered throughout the five boroughs. During heat emergencies, New Yorkers can use this interactive map to find nearby cooling centers, which will be activated on Wednesday night. City libraries are also a favorite of people looking to find air conditioning on a sweltering day, so if you have one nearby, keep that in mind as an option. And for those who own an AC unit but haven’t had a chance to install it yet, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it safely.

(Safely) uncap a fire hydrant
New Yorkers have been uncapping fire hydrants on hot days since 1896 to help stay cool. However, improperly uncapping a hydrant can lead to the waste of 1,000 gallons of water per minute, can cause flooding, can lower water pressure to dangerous levels, and can make the job of firefighters harder. To do it safely, an adult of 18 years or older with proper identification can go to their local firehouse and request a “spray cap.” These special devices reduce the output of uncapped fire hydrants to 25 gallons per minute, allowing New Yorkers to cool down while making sure water is conserved.

Conserve power
During the blistering hot summer months, New Yorkers tend to use up more electricity due to the use of air conditioning, potentially leading to a power outage. In order to prevent outages, New Yorkers are recommended to set their air conditioner’s temperature to no lower than 78 degrees, turn off all other nonessential appliances, and have emergency supplies on hand in case of an outage. If you are planning to leave your home but want to come back to a cool space, make sure to set a timer that turns on no earlier than 30 minutes before you return.

Stay hydrated
If you’re unable to beat the heat by finding an air-conditioned space indoors or your job involves being outside, the most important thing to do is to drink enough water. When going out for a prolonged period of time, make sure you bring a bottle of water to hydrate as you go. Even better, bring a reusable bottle that can be filled up at the more than 950 water fountains that can be found across the five boroughs. It’s important to note that even if you don’t feel thirsty at the moment, it’s still a wise idea to take a couple of good sips of water. You can find a nearby drinking fountain using this interactive map.

Lather on that sunscreen
To prevent sunburn, make sure you apply sunscreen before you go outside. Any sunscreen at least SPF 15 or higher is recommended, and putting on a hat and light-colored, loose clothing that covers most of your skin will prevent you from getting a nasty burn.

Protect your pets
During a heat emergency, don’t forget about your furry friends. Make sure to never leave your pets in a car, even with the windows down, as temperatures rise extremely quickly and can be deadly. Make sure your pets have easy access to enough water and food, and a nearby shady space where they can stay out of the heat. Also, hold off on those outdoor runs with your dog on extremely hot days. Some city cooling centers allow pets to join their owners.

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