Heat, Health, & Equity

Watch Too Hot to Handle: The Reality of Extreme Heat in New York & How to Prepare Frontline Communities. This June 1, 2022 webinar explores the causes of extreme heat, its health impacts, and what we can do as a community to address it. We also presented the findings from our 2021 Cooling Center Report, based on in-person audits of Northern Manhattan’s cooling centers, along with our 2022 Extreme Heat Policy Agenda, which includes policy and strategy recommendations to proactively prepare New Yorkers for rising temperatures and mitigate the corresponding health risks. Guest speakers included: Dr. Lauren Smalls-Mantey, Environmental Systems Analyst at the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene; Kathryn Lane, Senior Environmental Epidemiologist at the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene; Daphne Lundi, Deputy Director for Social Resiliency at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice; Siobhan Watson, Deputy Director, Sustainability Programs at the New York City Housing Authority; Louise Yeung, Chief Climate Officer at the Office of the New York City Comptroller; and Dr. Liv Yoon, Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Columbia Climate School.

Watch WE ACT’s 2022 Extreme Heat Webinar

Download WE ACT’s 2021 Cooling Center Report

Download WE ACT’s 2022 Extreme Heat Policy Agenda


The Challenge
Because of climate change, New York City summers are getting hotter and the heat is lasting longer. According to a report released in 2017, there are about 13 heatstroke deaths per year, over 100 deaths “from natural causes exacerbated by extreme heat” and over 450 “heat-related emergency department visits” in New York City. We know there is an injustice here, because 50 percent of the heat-related deaths in New York City are Black/African American people, even though they make up only 25 percent of the city’s population. New York City may see an average temperature increase of 5.7°F, including a doubling of days above 90°F, by the 2050s according to the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC). Parts of Northern Manhattan are particularly affected by this increase, as shown in the image to the right (source: NYC DOHMH, 2020). This is not just because of the temperature increase, but because a high percentage of Northern Manhattan residents are low income, and at least a third live in homes with maintenance deficiencies or in poorly weatherized old homes, with issues such as leaks, cracks, or holes. These factors make it more difficult to avoid the heat and properly cool the home, and make it more difficult to access help and prepare for extreme heat. Individuals without social connections, older adults, and people with disabilities or chronic illnesses are more likely to spend a lot of time at home in the heat and are more susceptible to illness or death during a heatwave.

The Solution
Through our Heat, Health, and Equity Initiative, WE ACT for Environmental Justice is finding solutions to extreme heat and the forces of inequity that make the heat more dangerous for our community. In the short-term, we are working to make sure our community is aware of the impact of extreme heat, what benefits and programs are currently available, and how to access them. We are also working to advance community-driven policy recommendations this summer as we are faced by the additional threat of COVID-19 in our communities.

Our goals for the next three years are to change state policy to allow HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) funds to be used to convert homes to cleaner and more efficient forms of cooling, and to increase overall funding for cooling through weatherization and direct cooling funding, such as the purchase, installation, and operation of air conditioners. We are also working to promote awareness, increase ease of access, and the overall improvement of New York City’s Cooling Center Program. To help achieve these goals, WE ACT will continue to foster growth and engagement in our Climate Justice Working Group, including educational workshops and advocacy training open to all members of the community.


Summer in the City: Improving Community Resilience to Extreme Summertime Heat in Northern Manhattan (PDF)

WE ACT’s Air Conditioning Resource Guide for Your Home in English (PDF)

WE ACT’s Air Conditioning Resource Guide for Your Home in Spanish (PDF)

WE ACT’s Tips for Keeping Cool During COVID-19 This Summer (PDF)

NYC Park’s Cool It! NYC Interactive Map of Cooling Locations Around the City (link)

WE ACT’s 2019 Northern Manhattan Heat Vulnerability Fact Sheet (PDF)

WE ACT’s 2019 Extreme Heat & Weather Advisories Fact Sheet (PDF)

WE ACT’s 2020 NYC Cooling Center Report: A Call for Improvements Based on Our Northern Manhattan Audit (PDF)

WE ACT’s COVID-19 Northern Manhattan Resource Page (link)



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