The temperatures outside have crept up to brutal levels this week and New Yorkers have been feeling the heat.
City officials have been plugging cooling centers as a way to escape the summertime slog without having to spend a dime. But some city dwellers might know them more commonly referred to as run-of-the-mill public spaces, like libraries and senior centers.
Olga Morgan has been working on a research paper at the Crown Heights branch of the Brooklyn Public Library every day for the last three weeks. And on Tuesday, she said she saw the effects of higher temperatures outside leading to more people inside trying to cool off.
“It’s nice in there,” Morgan said, not realizing she was sitting in a city-sanctioned cooling center. “I noticed more people yesterday at the adults' side … they value it as a place to cool off.”
As a recent heat wave swept through much of the country, New York City extended its heat advisory and kept cooling centers open through the weekend, according to NYC Emergency Management. Air-conditioned libraries, senior and community centers, and even some Petco stores throughout the city will double as cooling centers where New Yorkers can find relief from the high temperatures.
“Heat can kind of sneak up on people,” said NYC Emergency Management First Deputy Commissioner Christina Farrell. “It affects everyone, but definitely older New Yorkers, people with pre-existing conditions that, you know, can be vulnerable to different emergencies. And those people may also be the most likely to not have sufficient cooling in their homes.”
City officials said that most heat-related deaths in the city occur in homes without air conditioners. That’s why the city selected its current roster of 550 functioning cooling centers, which can be found on its interactive cooling center map online, or by calling 311. (As a COVID-19 precaution, cooling centers located in senior centers are only open to those over the age of 60.)
“While we welcome the warm summer days, New York City is expecting dangerous heat and high humidity this week, and we encourage New Yorkers to take the necessary precautions to avoid exposure to the extreme conditions,” NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol said.
City temperatures entered heat wave status this week, with highs expected in the lower 90s throughout the rest of the week, according to the National Weather Service. Sandra, who preferred to not share her last name, spent the second half of her work day on Wednesday at the library in Crown Heights as she tried to escape the heat.
“If you’re working from home and you don’t want to run the air conditioner all day, it’s a great place to come,” she said.
The city advised New Yorkers to stay hydrated, avoid strenuous outdoor activities in order to prevent heat illness, and try to conserve energy so as to not overwhelm the power grid.
NYC Parks also has many spots for New Yorkers to cool off, including pools and sprinklers found on this map, which also shows where NYC’s leafiest blocks are located.
The Parks Department has also extended pool hours until 8 p.m. for cooling purposes during the heat wave, although staffing issues reportedly caused the Kosciuszko Pool in Brooklyn to close one hour earlier.
For New Yorkers with pets, the city has partnered with Petco to establish 16 pet-friendly cooling centers so animals don’t overheat in apartments.
Looking ahead, Farrell said the city is taking heat inequality into consideration when it comes to opening more cooling centers and other resiliency programs.