By Samantha Maldonado, THE CITY
The urban character of New York City means some areas are hotter than others — and now, new research shows just how much hotter and for how many people.
More than 6 million New Yorkers — nearly 78% of the city’s population — are exposed to temperatures elevated at least 8 degrees, according to a report released Wednesday by the nonprofit research organization Climate Central. The city as a whole feels about 9.5 degrees hotter for the average New Yorker.
That’s thanks to the human-made surroundings that define the cityscape: tall buildings that limit air circulation, abundant asphalt and pavement and the heat-generating things New Yorkers do fairly close to one another, like running appliances and driving.
Some swaths of the population experience even more intense temperatures as the built environment changes, block by block. Just over 41% of New York City’s population — about 3.8 million people — live in areas that feel at least 10 degrees hotter, and almost 48,000 people live in areas that feel at least 12 degrees hotter.
To look up your address on the map below to see how New York City’s ‘heat island effect’ impacts your neighborhood, follow the link to the original CITY story.
“New York really stands out,” said Jen Brady, a senior data analyst with Climate Central, which examined the so-called urban heat island effect in 44 U.S. cities.
“A lot of the populations that are being hit with these higher temperatures are also the populations least able to make the adjustments necessary for these higher temperatures,” she added.
Who’s at Higher Risk?
The effects vary based on location in the city, with some of the most elevated temperatures in East New York and East Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Throggs Neck and Hunts Point in the Bronx and Midtown Manhattan.
But not every New Yorker is as vulnerable as others to the urban heat island’s effects, heat-related illnesses and even death, with Black New Yorkers twice as likely to die from heat stress compared to whites.
“New York City is particularly susceptible to these high temperatures because of our physical design character. We are the concrete jungle,” said Lonnie Portis, WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s policy and advocacy manager, earlier this month during a briefing on heat. “This is why we end up with this urban heat island effect. This is made worse because of the legacy of redlining. It extends far beyond housing segregation.”
Communities of color and low-income people are at higher risk. They tend to live in more polluted areas and in neighborhoods with fewer trees, deal with underlying health conditions that heat can worsen and may lack access to cooling and healthcare.
Localized, specific information about heat’s effects can lead to better solutions for addressing heat and protecting urban dwellers, Brady said.
“This is how much hotter this kind of place on the planet is than it would be if the built environment wasn’t what it was,” Brady said. “Climate change is raising that baseline of heat. This is additional heat we’re putting on top of it. How can we minimize that additional heat that we’re adding?”
The city is tackling heat and making efforts to improve New Yorkers’ abilities to adapt to it by installing green roofs, offering cooling centers and facilitating community programs for community resiliency. But advocates contend more can be done.
Climate Central’s findings show green spaces like Central Park and Prospect Park are distinctly cooler than the surrounding areas.
A separate report released this month by the Natural Areas Conservancy shows how greenery can make a dramatic difference: One July day last year researchers measured a temperature that was 13 degrees cooler inside The Bronx’s Seton Falls Park compared to just outside of it.
Expanding the city’s tree canopy to at least 30% of land cover would help reduce heat, but there are other ways to tackle the issue, said Emily Maxwell, New York Cities Director at the Nature Conservancy.
“We want to basically make our city more reflective so that that heat is bouncing off in the areas where it can’t be green,” Maxwell said. “Improving our transit efficiencies through mechanisms like congestion pricing and improving energy efficiency so that we’re producing less waste heat are also really important strategies.”
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