The City Council passed a bill Tuesday written by Councilmember Justin Brannan that will measure the impact of heat on health and mortality in the city.
When signed into law, it will require the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to report on neighborhood heat vulnerability and the number of heat-related deaths per year.
“It is our responsibility and obligation as a city to ensure we are doing everything in our power to prevent heat-related deaths,” said Brannan, “whether through providing air conditioning units to vulnerable and low-income seniors, expanding city cooling centers, or preparing our energy grid for high demand to prevent blackouts.”
According to Brannan, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought people’s need to the forefront, with residents staying home, utility companies suspending shutoffs, and the city subsidizing air conditioning for seniors and low-income people who have heat-exacerbated medical conditions. As a result, cooling assistance programs need to be expanded and refined.
“Extreme heat is an issue of racial and economic justice – if you are a low-income Black New Yorker, you are disproportionately more likely to die from extreme heat, particularly if you cannot afford air conditioning or have underlying health issues.” he said. “That’s why environmental justice advocates have been pushing for a bill like this one for years. We have to plan for a hotter future and act accordingly, and the only way we can do so effectively is to annually study and understand extreme heat’s impact.”