With summer quickly approaching, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the COVID-19 Heat Wave Plan during his press conference on Friday, May 15.
The plan is designed to keep New Yorkers – including low-income seniors – cool and safe at home and includes preventing and responding to power outages.
According to the mayor, power outages occur most often during the summer months when power usage is at its peak. The city is in frequent communication with utility providers and will pre-stage generators across the city for rapid deployment if needed.
A $55 million program is being created to provide more than 74,000 air conditioners to New Yorkers who are 60 and older, have income below 60 percent of the state median and do not have air conditioning at home.
It will also identify facilities with vulnerable populations for potential mitigation efforts, including adult care facilities and nursing homes. The city encourages New York State to mandate generator hookups at adult care facilities and communicate with nursing homes on critical preventative maintenance.
Councilmember Justin Brannan told this paper that the plan was something he fought hard for.
“The communities ravaged by COVID19 are the same communities most vulnerable to extreme heat,” he said. “I am relieved that the mayor is taking action to ensure that our most vulnerable New Yorkers – those who are sick, elderly, and low-income – are protected, and to make sure we don’t see an even greater loss of life this summer. The mayor understands this means not only about stockpiling AC units, but ensuring our power grid is equipped to manage the increased demand while the city continues to stay at home.”
The city will also use hotels instead of congregate spaces for emergency shelter during prolonged outages and establish buses with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distance for emergency cooling during short outages.
“Efforts like these demonstrate the type of leadership that’s needed to both ensure we make it out of this public health crisis, and to adapt to the effects of climate change as we move forward,” Brannan added.
“This summer will be unlike any that New York City has seen before,” said de Blasio. “As the temperature rises, we must protect our most vulnerable from the dangers of extreme heat. We’re providing tens of thousands of free air conditioners to low-income seniors and creating brand new spaces, both indoor and out, for New Yorkers to keep cool and stay safe.”
The city is also identifying existing facilities that can be used as key cooling centers in high-risk communities and planning appropriate social distancing and providing PPE. It will also look to create non-traditional cooling centers in alternative sites, from sports venues and auditoriums to other large venues.
NYC Parks is mapping spray showers with income inequality data to site alternative spray showers for kids and active New Yorkers, and will use misting equipment in sitting areas to create “oases” during extreme heat events. In addition, DEP is creating a plan for scheduled hydrant openings to ensure fairness and minimize strain on the water system. The GetFood meal program for vulnerable New Yorkers will deliver hydrating beverages with meal packages.
“As the summer months rapidly approach, we must have a comprehensive strategy for ensuring residents in low-income areas can remain safe and comfortable,” said Borough President Eric Adams. “This cooling plan is an important step to ensure we’re prepared for heat waves while we continue to battle COVID-19. The summer is also a period where we see gun violence spike, which is why I’ve engaged with Cure Violence organizations throughout the borough to ensure we have a plan in place to ensure local youth also have opportunities to cool off.”