Heat, Health, & Equity

New York City declared its first official heatwave of the summer, from July 27-29, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees three days in a row. During heatwaves, the Cooling Centers are open, and you can locate the one nearest to you here. The City’s extreme heat webpage provides tips on what to do during heat waves as well as how to identify heat-related illness and what to do in response. The Department of Health also has some helpful advice on its heat webpage.


As you may know, WE ACT has been working hard to address extreme heat, the deadliest impact of climate change. We recently held a webinar on extreme heat, during which we unveiled our 2023 Extreme Heat Policy Agenda, which outlines the programs and policies we are pursuing. Extreme heat is the deadliest impact of climate change, and studies show that communities of color experience the worst of it.

We urge all New York City residents to take a break from the heat and take some online action to advocate for the following changes from our 2023 Extreme Heat Policy Agenda:

Improving the City’s Cooling Centers
Cooling Centers are often the only relief for those of us without air conditioning. Yet the program has no funding. Our Cooling Center Audit Report identified gaps in coverage for heat-vulnerable neighborhoods, accessibility, and operating hours. We want to see an improved and fully-funded Cooling Center Program. Click here to send a letter to Mayor Eric Adams and City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams

Cooling Our Communities with More Trees
One of the easiest ways to cool our communities is by planting more trees, and yet tree planting has hit its lowest level in 15 years. Join us in telling the New York City Council to create an Urban Forest Master Plan to assure proper growth, maintenance, and preservation of trees now and for generations to come. Click here to send a letter to your City Council Member

Establishing a Maximum Indoor Air Temperature
In New York, the law states that if the outside temperature falls below 55°F, then the inside air temperature must be at least 68°F everywhere in your apartment and in your building. But extreme heat is far deadlier than extreme cold, so why don’t we have a maximum indoor air temperature? Click here to sign our petition


2023 Extreme Heat Policy Agenda
On July 6, 2023, following back-to-back records for the hottest day on the planet, we held an virtual briefing on extreme heat, during which we released our 2023 Extreme Heat Policy Agenda and launched our new Extreme Heat Collation.

Watch WE ACT’s 2023 Extreme Heat Briefing

Download WE ACT’s 2023 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.

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)

Download WE ACT’s 2021 Cooling Center Report (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)

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)




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