WE ACT for Environmental Justice Rallied to Demand Legislative Action and Mayoral Accountability on Extreme Heat in New York City

July 13, 2023
Contact: Chris Dobens, chris@weact.org, 718-679-8542


NEW YORK – WE ACT for Environmental Justice held a rally in City Hall Park today to demand action from the New York City Council on extreme heat. Fellow advocates including GOLES, New Yorkers for Parks, NRDC, El Puente, NYLCV, South Bronx Unite, and the Waterfront Alliance were joined by New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, Councilmember Shaun Abreu, Councilmember Erik Bottcher, Councilmember Jennifer Gutiérrez, Councilmember Shekar Krishnan, Councilmember Sandy Nurse, Councilmember Lincoln Restler, Councilmember Pierina Sanchez, and David Kahn from the Public Advocate’s Office.

WE ACT called on the City Council to advance policies and programs highlighted in our recently released 2023 Extreme Heat Policy Agenda, including legislation to address the lack of cooling and green infrastructure in low-income communities and communities of color, which bear an extra burden due to the urban heat island effect. WE ACT also called on the City Council to hold New York City Mayor Eric Adams accountable for fulfilling the extreme heat goals his administration laid out in PlaNYC.

“Extreme heat is the deadliest impact of climate change, and people of color are bearing the brunt of it. For example, here in New York City, 50 percent of the heat-related deaths are among Black/African American people, even though they make up only around 25 percent of the city’s population,” said Annie Carforo, Climate Justice Campaigns Manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We have been working on this issue for years, but have seen little progress. We are thrilled that this current city council understands the urgency of the issue and is taking the necessary steps to advance community-based solutions that will address this environmental injustice, and we look forward to working with them.”

“Extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related fatalities in New York City, and we expect to see double the extreme heat days BY 2050. To protect the most vulnerable New Yorkers, we need a multi-pronged approach that increases cooling assistance to those who most need it, expands our urban tree canopy, and strengthens emergency procedures for our hottest days,” said Comptroller Brad Lander.

“Extreme heat is impacting New Yorkers every year, and climate projections show our summers are only getting hotter with more heat waves. We must be proactive about the investments, infrastructure, and programs we need to reduce the urban heat island effect and increase community preparedness. We need to prioritize heat vulnerable communities, as well as our youth, older adults, and New Yorkers dealing with health issues,” said Council Member Sandy Nurse.

“We have experienced record-breaking temperatures and are feeling the effects of climate change on a global scale. Rising temperatures with no codified procedures or mitigation strategies is a public health and safety concern,” said Councilmember Carmen De La Rosa (CD10). “We can no longer afford to stand unprepared in the face of climate change and devastating natural occurrences, especially BIPOC and low-income communities are primarily impacted by design. I stand in solidarity with WE ACT’s efforts to push for environmental change that protects New Yorkers.”

“Extreme heat is deadly. I am proud to stand with WE ACT and call for common sense actions that can help mitigate the effects of extreme heat and expand green Infrastructure that helps limit the heat island effect. Together, we can create a cooler, greener and more resilient city for all,” said Councilmember Erik Bottcher.

“One of the impacts from the climate crisis that is already impacting vulnerable New Yorkers is extreme heat.  And the one piece of the solution is to plant more trees, especially in low income neighborhoods, where studies show temperatures are higher and heat-related health consequences are greater.  We support City Council passage of Intros 1065 and 1066 and urge Mayor Adams to dedicate city funds and secure state and federal monies to expand green tree cover, especially in communities where heat-related deaths are highest,” said Eric A. Goldstein, NYC Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council and Board Member of WE ACT.

“South Bronx Unite is dedicated to championing policies that address the pressing issue of extreme heat in our community, recognizing its pivotal role in safeguarding the health and well-being of our residents. Our enduring battle against redlining and zoning policies has resulted in a disproportionate burden on our community, depriving our residents of sufficient green spaces, cooling infrastructure, resource centers, and essential health services. Through our ongoing advocacy to reduce extreme heat and make our communities more resilient, we envision a South Bronx that is safer, healthier, and more equitable for all,” said Leslie Vasquez, Clean Air Project Organizer at South Bronx Unite.

“We need to take action now to protect New Yorkers against extreme heat. As temperatures soar, I join WE ACT for Environmental Justice in calling for urgent legislation to establish cooling centers, expand our tree canopy, set indoor temperature standards, and expand green infrastructure in marginalized communities. Adapting to the climate crisis is a matter of life and death for New York City,” said Councilmember Shekar Krishnan.

“Extreme heat poses a serious threat to our communities, impacting our health, infrastructure, and environment. We can no longer ignore the climate crisis. Rising temperatures, combined with urban development and inequitable infrastructure, have intensified heatwaves, disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations. It’s crucial that we reimagine our infrastructure by establishing cooling centers, creating green spaces, and adopting climate-responsive designs. We must prioritize the expansion of our urban forest and increase tree canopy cover to counter the urban heat island effect. We cannot stand idly by. It’s time for immediate action, supporting community-led initiatives and advocating for equitable climate measures,” said Rami Dinnawi, Environmental Justice Campaign and Policy Manager at El Puente.

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WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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