New York City Mayor Adams and City Council Speaker Adams

Cooling centers are a vital lifeline for thousands of New Yorkers, especially people of color, children, elders, low income, and disabled residents. How can public safety be prioritized during emergency heat waves when cooling centers are only funded to operate as though its business as usual? We need a budget for cooling centers! Both the Comptroller’s Overheated, Underserved Report and WE ACT’s Cooling Center Audit Report identified gaps in coverage for high heat vulnerable neighborhoods, accessibility, and operating hours.

If residents and the City’s top financial officer agree on how to invest in the public good, what are we waiting for? Tell Mayor Adams and Speaker Adams to put their money where their mouths are. If equity and public safety are highly valued by this administration, we need to see it in how the city responds when lives are at risk.

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To: New York City Mayor Adams and City Council Speaker Adams
From: [Your Name]

Dear Mayor Adams and Speaker Adams,

The undersigned New Yorkers urge you to introduce legislation that would codify cooling centers in the City Charter and provide NYCEM with a budget that specifically meets the needs of cooling centers run by the City and its partnered organizations. This year during the week of 4th of July, the planet saw its hottest temperatures on record. In the past decade, an estimated 370 New Yorkers have died annually related to heat stress in New York City (and this figure is likely an undercount due to misclassifications of heat-related illness). Cooling centers are a necessary part of our foreseeable future. New Yorkers who die from heat stress are much less likely to have access to air conditioning because of the high economic burden it would require to purchase, install, and use it in their homes. While we fight against poverty, we must invest in free, publicly accessible alternatives to private home air conditioning. As such, the Cooling Center program must receive adequate funding in order to save the lives of marginalized residents. We know funding is the answer because program challenges are well documented both by community members and municipal government stakeholders.

Residents have been advocating for more consistency in Cooling Center locations, more wayfinding signage, culturally relevant and engaging programming, extended operating hours, and feedback mechanisms for them to help inform how the program can improve since 2020. Additionally, the Comptroller’s Office has identified inequitable distribution of cooling center locations in neighborhoods with high heat vulnerability scores and location weekend closures or age restrictions (some sites only accommodate residents ages 60+) where there are few to no other alternative locations. Remedying all of these issues requires increased staffing and training. Heat activation days will only become more common. Make the decision now instead of reacting when the climate crisis claims more lives.

Our charter and our budget must account for the climate, health, and safety of all residents. Please act now to make sure Cooling Centers are fully funded in FY 2025.