Outside one of the city's cooling centers. (Claire Voon / Gothamist)

The city has told us about them for years: Mythical refrigeration rooms, most commonly referred to as "cooling centers," where those who seek refuge from the scorching sun and blistering heat can find solace. They're allegedly ubiquitous, with many, many locations across this fair metropolis. But what are they, really? And who goes there? Not us, apparently.

We traveled south of Houston Street yesterday on a quest to learn more about these beacons of hope and relief. Our first stop, the CPA Project Open Door Senior Center at 168 Grand Street, was only open to virgins senior citizens. The guards would not let us enter, telling us it was only for the elderly. We later learned that this is against city laws: no official cooling center is allowed to deny someone seeking a cool space during designated hours. ATTICA! ATTICA!

Luckily, there are plenty of other options. As it happens, many of these cooling centers are really just public spaces, like libraries and senior centers that happen to have air conditioning. So if you're feeling sweaty and don't have AC, just go read a book at a cooling center library location like the Mulberry Street Library at 10 Jersey Street. "It's mostly seniors," says Suzanne Yueh, the director of Mott Streeet Senior Center. "If the city asks us to extend the hours, we will. That's pretty much it." So, that's pretty much it.