Cooling centers lacking in parts of Queens amid heat wave

A sign for a cooling center in Manhattan.
A sign for a cooling center in Manhattan.
NYCStock / Shutterstock
A sign for a cooling center in Manhattan.

Cooling centers lacking in parts of Queens amid heat wave

Inadequate access to the public spaces with air conditioning has been a problem even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
June 30, 2021

Several neighborhoods in Queens with residents who are the most vulnerable to New York City’s latest heat wave have no access to the city’s cooling centers, Patch reports. 

While the borough has the second-largest population of the five boroughs, it is second-to-last in the number of cooling centers where New Yorkers can retreat to access air-conditioning, the publication found. The centers are also disproportionately located in whiter and wealthier areas, despite the fact that Black New Yorkers have been twice as likely to die from heat-related illness as white residents.

The city Office of Emergency Management has attributed some of the lack of cooling centers to the COVID-19 pandemic, though the agency said many will open back up to the public in coming weeks. Social distancing guidelines this past year meant they had to stay shuttered, while the city attempted to fill the gaps by providing vulnerable low-income seniors with free air conditioners.

But disparities in access to cooling centers predate the pandemic. An analysis by  Measure of America in 2019 found that nearly one-third of New Yorkers aged 65 or older live more than half a mile away from a cooling center. 

From 2000 to 2011, 13 New York City residents per year died from heat-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But some studies indicate the number of heat-related deaths could be even higher – and rising temperatures associated with climate change will likely only make the problem worse. 

NYN Media reporter Kay Dervesh
Kay Dervishi
is a staff reporter at NYN Media.