July 27, 2023
Mayor Eric Adams: Good morning. How's everyone this morning? We're joined by members of the administration and generals but, specifically, Dr. Vasan and Commissioner Iscol, as we go over what we are experiencing and it's really a climate disaster that we're seeing firsthand across the globe. A few weeks ago, we were here talking about the fire in Canada that engulfed our entire city and our skyline and now we're dealing with extreme heat. Like our brothers and sisters across the globe, we are witnessing these high temperatures and other weather-related disaster. Just a few days ago, potentially, we had a condition of weather condition that hit a potential tornado that had possibly hit here. But, over and over again, we're experiencing what we have not witnessed in the past in this region and we need to be clear when we talk about hot weather. Heat kills more New Yorkers every year than any other kind of extreme weather event.
Access to cooling is a matter of life and death and I just want to be clear that we want to alert you to what to expect in the next few days. Our city is under excessive heat warning from today, Thursday, July 27th to Saturday, July 29th. The heat index will be 105 today and 105 to 108 tomorrow. The index will be slightly less on Saturday but will meet heat advisory conditions. It is essential that all New Yorkers stay cool. We have open cooling centers across the five boroughs. To find a cooling center near you, call 311. We want to really thank our partners that are allowing us to use the cooling center. We have Dennis Walcott, who's here, who's in charge of our Queens Library system, but we want to really thank all of our cooling systems for their support during this time. You can also visit, online, Cooling Center Finder. We have also teamed up with Petco so you and your pets can stay cool.
Water is another great way to beat the heat. It is important to drink plenty of water, even if you don't feel thirsty, to stay hydrated. Our pools are open for the summer and will stay open one hour longer until 8:00 PM today, tomorrow, and on Saturday. You can find other cooling options, like spray showers and drinking fountains, at Cool It NYC. And, in New York City, your employer must provide water, rests and shade if you are working in extreme heat. You can call 911 immediately if you see someone you know that's confused or disoriented, has hot, dry skin and trouble breathing, these are all indicators and signs of possible medical issues. While the heat advisory is in effect, you can, and you should, stay out of the sun from the afternoon into the early evening.
You can take part in indoor activities, like going to the movies, visiting a museum or library or walking in a mall but remember to give your pets plenty of water to drink and walk them early in the morning and late in the evening. We don't want any animal companions to suffer either, so this is crucial that we take necessary care. Our summarizing events, our summarizing classrooms... All of our summarizing classrooms, sorry, are air-conditioned and air-conditioned buses transport our students. We took this into account when we did our scheduling of locations. Nurses are present at all sites and will pay special attention to our vulnerable students. Event planners should warn attendees of the increased risk of heat collapse and encourage attendees to stay hydrated, eat, take frequent breaks from dancing and physical activities, and to seek out shade when possible. This is not our first heat wave and, with climate change accelerating, it won't be our last.
That is why our administration's plan, NYC, getting sustainability done takes important steps to protect New Yorkers and our planet from the dangers of extreme heat. We're thinking ahead. We know this is a real crisis that is facing the globe and so we will be prepared. By 2025, all new constructions in New York City will be required to have cooling and, by 2030, we're going to develop a maximum summer indoor temperature policy. If the landlord provides heat in the wintertime, we have to look at the potentiality of providing cooling during the summer. But we know this issue can't wait and New Yorkers need cooling now. That is why we are advocating, to our state and federal partners, to reform the Home Energy Assistance Program, also known as HEAP. HEAP concurrently covers the purchase of an SAC or fan and, in winter months, it covers heating costs.
But the program ran out of funding for air conditioners in mid-July for the second summer in a row and doesn't have enough funding to cover summer utility bills. Up to 25 percent of New Yorkers, in some low income neighborhoods, don't have access to an air conditioner, let alone the money to turn those air conditioners on. We need the federal government to fund this program, so that low income New Yorkers can pay their utility bills in the summer. This is a great program and a great way of ensuring equity for all. As we saw with Covid, during the pandemic, extreme heat also does not impact all people equally. Black New Yorkers, New Yorkers of color, is twice as likely to die from heat related causes as white New Yorkers. We are taking actions, like installing cool roofs and committing to a 30 percent tree canopy cover.
I always say we have two mothers. One gave birth to us, one sustains us, and, right now, the one that sustains us is telling us we must take acknowledgement of the abuse that we've plagued on our planet. We have to take care of both and we must take steps, in the short term, to stay safe. We must contain the damage that has already been done to our planet and work quickly and strategically to get climate change under control. To all New Yorkers, stay cool, stay safe and do everything you can to deal with this extensive heat. I want to now turn it over to Commissioner Zach Iscol.
Commissioner Zach Iscol, New York City Emergency Management: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and welcome to everyone who is here today. I want to thank all of our partners for all of their incredible support. According to the National Weather Service, New York City is now under an excessive heat warning. This signifies that we are in the path of extreme heat, bringing along potential health risks in the forthcoming days. The excessive heat warning will be active from Thursday, today, through Friday. We foresee soaring temperatures during this period with the heat index predicted to hit approximately 105 degrees today, rising between 105 to 108 degrees tomorrow and a slightly lower range of 95 to 97 degrees on Saturday.
The combination of these unusually high temperatures and elevated humidity creates a potent mix signifying heightening the risk of hazardous conditions for New Yorkers. I'm asking all New Yorkers to take this seriously. This is the first time an excessive heat warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for the city of New York since August 13th, 2021.
The peak intensity of the heat is forecasted to occur between noon and 8:00 pm each day. While it's crucial to take preventive measures during these hours, maintaining a watchful eye throughout the entire day and into the evening is equally important. Considering that heat is expected to continue through the nighttime with higher low temperatures than normal.
I would also like to bring your attention to the slight risk of thunderstorms and a marginal chance of excessive rain rainfall this afternoon and thunderstorms again on Saturday afternoon. These weather events present further challenges. Therefore, New York City Emergency Management has activated our flash flood emergency plan to ensure that we are fully prepared as a city known for our resilience. We stand ready for this challenge. NYCEM has been working diligently to ensure we have the necessary resources to respond promptly to any potential heat-related incidents or emergencies. We're actively working alongside our city agencies and partners to guarantee a unified, effective response.
This includes stationing a NYCEM representative at ConEd's Emergency Response Center and maintaining an open line of communication between our emergency support staff, relevant city agencies and partners to immediately elevate concerns and needs. Together, we ensure a well coordinated approach to protect our city during this heatwave. I want to ensure all New Yorkers that, beginning today, cooling centers will be operational citywide through Saturday. These centers serve as safe havens providing air-conditioned spaces that offer respite from oppressive heat. For a map of cooling centers, visit nyc.gov/beat-the-heat and kindly call ahead to confirm. One thing I want to note is hours do shift for cooling centers, so it is very important that you check that site. Again, it's nyc.gov/beat-the-heat, so that, when you show up, you're showing up at an open cooling center. Many of these centers have extended their hours in response to the excessive heat warning.
I can also not emphasize enough the importance of prioritizing your wellbeing during this heatwave. Hydrating regularly is essential. Make sure you consume adequate amounts of water, even if you're not feeling thirsty. Seek shaded or air-conditioned locations whenever feasible, especially if you are spending time outdoors. Moreover, we need to adopt a balanced approach to energy usage. We talk a lot about what the city is doing. Prepare for this. All New Yorkers play a role. Although air conditioning is a critical tool in this heat battle, it doesn't need to be operating at maximum capacity. We recommend setting your air conditioner units to 78 degrees, or the lowest of the cool settings, remembering that it's all about maintaining your comfort while also ensuring energy consumption for the entire city remains sustainable.
During this heatwave, our primary objective is always to safeguard our residents. However, we must also take efforts together to safeguard our city's energy supply. We must avoid any disruptions or outages that could adversely affect our residents, especially the most vulnerable amongst us.
For those without access to air conditioning, visiting a cooling center, a friend, a local business equipped with air conditioning can be a lifesaver. If possible, non-essential energy consumption activities today, things like doing laundry, using the microwave. Please turn off your lights, if they're not needed. I also want to highlight that New York City outdoor pools are open for the summer, provide some relief during the heat wave. All New York City Parks, intermediate and olympic-sized outdoor pools, will be extending their operations by one hour and will stay open until 8:00 pm tonight, Friday and Saturday. We want our residents to have safe and accessible options to cool off during these hot days.
I also urge caution against improperly opening fire hydrants. This is a critical safety issue. This wastewater can flood streets and it also lowers water pressure, hindering our fire department's efforts to fight fires. I recommend that you use spray caps on these hydrants to limit the output to a safe 25 gallons per minute. These are available for adults over the age of 18, with an ID, at your local firehouse. As we navigate this heatwave, please, let's stay vigilant and prioritize safety by staying informed and adhering to guidelines from city officials. I also want to stress the importance of staying updated about severe weather conditions and other emergencies, to receive timely and multilingual alerts, including American Sign Language. I urge all New Yorkers to sign up for Notify NYC, our emergency alert system. You can get all the essential information you need about this type of emergency or others. Signing up is incredibly easy. You can sign up by calling 311, you can download the app or by going to nyc.gov/notify.
In facing these blistering temperatures, let's draw upon our city's characteristic resilience. New Yorkers have a history of standing together, so let's ensure we check on our loved ones, our friends and neighbors, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Please stay alert for symptoms of heat illness, such as hot dry skin, confusion, weakness, or difficulty breathing. If these symptoms appear, please don't hesitate to call 911. Our emergency teams are on standby, fully prepared, and, together, we'll weather this heatwave.
Now, I'll hand it over to a critical figure in our city's crisis management response team, a stalwart advocate for public health with a deep understanding of the intersection between health and environmental factors, please welcome my friend and colleague, the commissioner of the Department of Health, Dr. Ashwin Vasan. Thank you.
Commissioner Ashwin Vasan, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thanks, man. Good morning, everyone. Thanks to the Mayor and to Commissioner Iscol for bringing us together today. We're here once again because climate change is a health issue and a public health crisis that we're trying our best to address, as a city, as we see more and more extreme weather events. As the mayor said, they're becoming more real to us every day and, while very hot days are normal, and we do see these from time to time, the number of hot days we are seeing each year is not normal. Heat is the deadliest of all extreme weather events in the United States, in New York City, and around the world. More than 80 percent of heat stroke deaths in recent years involve people who are exposed to heat in homes without air conditioning. The best way to prevent heat illness is to stay in a cool indoor air-conditioned place. A fan is not enough. If you have air conditioning that you have not used up until now, or you haven't used to its capacity until now, now is the time to turn it on and, as Commissioner Iscol said, 78 degrees is the right setting to keep you cool and to keep your bills and our energy infrastructure in check and working.
New Yorkers should also be aware of the signs of heat related illness and symptoms. Heat stroke occurs when the body's temperature rises so rapidly that it can lead to death. Either death directly by the effects of heat or, in the majority of cases, indirectly because of underlying conditions that are then exacerbated by the heat. Call 911 if you or a loved one is experiencing the following signs or symptoms: Hot dry skin or cold clammy skin, confusion or disorientation, nausea and or vomiting, trouble breathing, rapid heartbeat, weakness or dizziness.
I'd like to stress four things to New Yorkers: The safest place for infants, for seniors and people with chronic physical and mental health conditions is a place with air conditioning. If you have family or neighbors who are older or who have underlying health difficulties, check on them to see if they're staying cool. If not, help them find an air-conditioned place to stay, even if for only a few hours during the peak temperatures.
People who are pregnant and are extremely sensitive to heat: An increase in body temperature may bring on labor, preterm birth or lower birth weight. Those who are pregnant should stay in a cool place, drink fluids and take it easy when it's hot. Everyone should avoid strenuous outdoor activities, especially during the hottest part of the day. If you are outdoors or have to be outdoors, limit activity, find shade often, and dress for the heat. I lost my tie today for that reason.
Drink plenty of water and avoid drinks containing alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate you further. Staying in a cool air-conditioned place may be the best way to stay safe but it's not the only way. For those without air conditioning, a cool bath or shower can help but do avoid a sudden plunge into icy water or to extremely cold water, which can be a shock to your system and make you feel dizzy or sick. It's better to start with tepid water or lukewarm water and then safely cool down further. Finally, pay attention to how you're feeling. The guidance you get from your body is important. Listen to what it's telling you and make sure to take care of yourselves and each other. Thank you.
Mayor Adams: Thank you, doctor. We'll take just a few on topic questions. Do you have any?
Question: I was just curious, do all of the city's perks and shelters for asylum seekers have air conditioning?
Commissioner Iscol: Not all of them do. What we've done in the cases where we have, and it's really one that doesn't, we've limited the age of people at that place. We've opened up access to cooling centers. We have a cooling room and, if needed, we can provide cooling buses at those locations.
Question: Which shelters and how many were there?
Commissioner Iscol: Do I answer her? All right. It's Lincoln on Central Park North is the location. I'd have to get you the approximate number of people that are there.
Question: On the Petco partnership, what does that mean? Will people be able to take their pets to locations or just how's that going to work?
Commissioner Iscol: Thank you, Bernadette, for the easy question.
Question: It's important.
Commissioner Iscol: It's important. No, as somebody who has three rescue dogs, it's an important one. You can go to nyc.gov/beat-the-heat, you can call 311, those Petco cooling centers are available for pets and you can find out their hours and those locations.
Question: Is it at every single Petco?
Commissioner Iscol: I think the number's 16 but it's on the site.
Question: And it's solely cooling centers? Are there any other services that you guys recommend there?
Commissioner Iscol: At Petco? Make sure that they are hydrated, limit the amount of time that your animals are spending outside and take us up on the Petco partnership.
Question: I just wanted to know, what is the flash flood emergency plan? What does that entail?
Commissioner Iscol: What we do is we start working with all of our agency partners. We have certain triggers for either the amount of rainfall, whether it's over an inch per hour expected, and then what we do is we start working with our partners to make sure the city's prepared. Those are things like clearing catch basins, public messaging, if needed, positioning, emergency crews around the city, making sure that we're checking in with organizations and others that protect vulnerable populations.
It varies a little bit based on the event but it's about working that inter-agency process and making sure that we are working with the MTA, DOT, DEP and others to make sure that our infrastructure, our roads, are prepared for flash floods, that we're messaging to the public, so that they have the information they need in case of a flash flood and then, in addition to that, making sure we're doing things to protect our vulnerable populations.
Question: You talked about the importance of saving energy to keep the system sustainable. Have you directed all city agencies to reduce their air conditioning usage and microwave usage and all that stuff? And what's the temperature in here?
Commissioner Iscol: I don't have the temperature in here but that is something that we do as part of the inter-agency calls, when we're doing, when we activate the heat plan. I don't know if Matt Ketschke... If you want to speak at all about energy usage in the city.
Matt Ketschke: Sure.
Commissioner Iscol: Okay.
Ketschke: Matt Ketschke from ConEd. Periods of extreme heat that we're going to experience in the next couple days are coupled with significant air condition usage, which is essentially the highest energy use we're going to see for the year. We prepare our systems for this but we do expect to have some increased amount of outages. We've staffed our emergency response center for ConEd through the weekend. We put folks here at the OEM Emergency Response Center and we couple closely with that. We encourage people to use energy efficiently during this period, as the mayor indicated, defer non-essential energy use till when it cools off. And, if they experience a power outage, reach out to us either by calling us or online.
Question: Can you spell your name?
Ketschke: It's K-E-T-S-C-H-K-E.
Question: Thank you.
Commissioner Iscol: And I just add to that, we're in very, very close contact constantly with ConEd and PSE&G. One of the things that we do, if needed, if we start to see real stress on the grid, is we then start amping up the public messaging. In the past, we've even sent out a wireless emergency alert to reduce load on the grid and then, to Katie's question, at Lincoln, we have about 420 to 450 guests there.
Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thanks all.
Commissioner Iscol: All right. Thank you.
Question: What's the age limitation?
Commissioner Iscol: We limit it to under 60. It's now, I think... There's very few people over the age of 30.