Episode 6

June 26, 2023


Extreme Heat: Too Hot to Handle

Hosted by

Jaron Burke Lonnie J. Portis
Extreme Heat: Too Hot to Handle
Uptown Chats
Extreme Heat: Too Hot to Handle

Jun 26 2023 | 01:35:33


Show Notes

It’s getting hot! Jaron and Lonnie are joined by members of WE ACT’s Climate Justice Working Group along with our very own Caleb Smith to talk about their experience with extreme heat advocacy.

Guest Information:

  • Liz McMillan, Climate Justice Working Group Member
  • Louis Kleinman, Climate Justice Working Group Member
  • Stuart Aaronson, Climate Justice Working Group Member
  • Nan Faessler, Climate Justice Working Group Member
  • Caleb Smith, WE ACT's Resiliency Coordinator

References from the Show:

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:10] Speaker A: Welcome to Uptown Chat, the podcast where we share stories about environmental justice by and for everyday people. I'm your co host, Lonnie. [00:00:17] Speaker B: And I'm your other co host, Jaren. [00:00:19] Speaker A: Jaren. What is our mission statement? [00:00:22] Speaker B: Wex's mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. [00:00:35] Speaker A: Great. So this episode is all about extreme heat. Too hot to handle. [00:00:39] Speaker B: Too hot to handle, yes. And it's a really interesting timing because we're approaching the hot season yet. As we're recording this, it is not quite hot yet, but that's not to say we haven't had hot days. We've already had some 90 degree days this year. [00:00:52] Speaker A: So it's a weird year and it's just going to get hotter and it's going to get hotter longer. So just because it hasn't started doesn't mean it's going to end so nicely at the beginning of September. [00:01:02] Speaker B: Yes, the weather is trying to shake us up, be like, you know, keep us on our toes, but it is definitely going to be approaching, it's going to be warming up here real soon. So we want to make sure that folks are prepared and are thinking about extreme heat as we go into this time of the year. That is for some of us, quite miserable. [00:01:18] Speaker A: Absolutely. What are some of the things that we're going to talk about today? [00:01:22] Speaker B: Well, we are actually joined by four members of the Climate justice working group for some interviews that we did with them about their experience around extreme heat as part of the climate justice working group and specifically one of the projects that they all worked on, which was an audit of the cooling centers in the city, right? [00:01:38] Speaker A: Absolutely. Yes. [00:01:40] Speaker B: So they are experts here at weak. They've been around for a long time. So we are going to keep our intro here short and sweet and leave it up to them to really fill in all the information that you need to know about extreme eat. So we'll also be joined after those interviews with our very own Caleb Smith to talk about our work specifically at wEAct and some of the things that we're prioritizing and advocating for at weact around extreme heat. So stay tuned and enjoy these interviews. [00:02:21] Speaker C: Hi, my name is Liz McMillan. I've been with, we act as a member since 2013, and I just, in my head, did not do the math. But it's been a while since 2013. [00:02:35] Speaker D: It definitely has. And why did you decide to get involved with the Climate justice working group and specifically doing your work around extreme heat? [00:02:43] Speaker C: Well, I started my career in film and television and theater. I went to school for theater, so I did that for over 20 something years as a producer and project manager. So I decided that was not meaningful. So I wanted something that was going to be meaningful to me in order to do the work that I wanted to do. So environmental issues have been coming up. I specifically was looking at food justice, but that's a part of climate justice as well. As we know, food has been one of the main contributors to climate justice. Well, climate change. So I decided I wanted to try and get involved in that and see where the nonprofit track would take me. [00:03:27] Speaker D: Very cool. And so since you were so focused on the food justice piece of it, where did you make the jump into working on things related to cooling and extreme heat? Where did that connection happen? [00:03:39] Speaker C: Well, just doing more work with weact, Sonal said, hey, there's a project that's coming up. So I jumped on that project that she was working on with extreme heat. I think over the course of doing work with react, extreme heat was always on the table. We've always talked about it. So when that project came up, I decided to jump on that, and that was very interesting. So I wanted to continue the work since, as you saw me come in, people, you didn't see me. I was sweating, sweating profusely. And that is because it's humid outside and we're not even in summer, so when summer hits, it's even worse. [00:04:19] Speaker E: Yeah. [00:04:20] Speaker A: Do you want to take a second to kind of elaborate on the project that you're talking about that you did. [00:04:23] Speaker C: With sonal right now amiss that I can't remember the exact name because it was actually in 2019. It was a three year project to get, we act to get the information out to people in Harlem about the dangers of extreme heat. Also cooling centers where we can find cooling centers. So that was one of the major things. And working with the city to do something to help seniors so they can get air conditioning in the summertime to cool off. So that's the project. So I was on the first end of the project, and then I jumped over to the climate justice working group, so that's where I was. [00:05:08] Speaker D: Something that I think is interesting that we didn't talk about with folks, the other guests. As much is, especially since you have lived uptown, what was your experience prior to joining the climate justice working group and doing this work with extreme heat? How familiar were you with the idea of extreme heat, and how did that show up for you in your life and, like, living uptown. [00:05:27] Speaker C: Well, see, that's the thing. I was like, well, it's hot. Why is it hot up here? It's so hot. And then, of course, just doing work with weak, weak was like, well, it's a heat island effect. I'm like, really? What does that mean? So just knowing what all the buildings, depending on your street, if you have nice brownstone street with the trees, it's a little bit cooler. But you have the streets that have nothing but buildings, especially this part of Harlem, it's just buildings. So the heat is bouncing off the buildings, bouncing back in your face. You're like, this cannot be the way everyone lives. And then I heard that Harlem is specifically the hottest point in New York City. So I wanted to know why? And what can we do about that? Because we're not going to get ten foot tree tall trees to be planted to help bring down some of that heat. So we got to endure it. We got to figure out a way to make sure that we're healthy, because extreme heat can lead to very serious medical and also death. We don't like to talk about that, but that's possible. Don't know the warning Signs. It's not something that you learn in school. Hey, be prepared, extreme heat. So you just don't know. There are kids out there. They're playing. They're playing football, they're playing in the parks, and you just don't realize you're going and going and going and going and going, and next thing you know, something could be an extreme problem. So I wanted to join and really talk to people. I've been talking to people, actually, about extreme heat, and every time you say, why is it so hot? I like to go into my spear, well, it is the heat island effect. And then the way that happens is XYZ, and it really does open up people's eyes, and they're like, I really did not know that. That makes sense. [00:07:15] Speaker F: Now. [00:07:16] Speaker C: I'm like, yeah, so you have to find ways to kind of keep cool. Oh, yeah, I'm trying to get an air conditioner in my house so you can talk to them about programs and the programs that the city has. I know a lot of people are going to be talking about the extreme heat and also the heating bills, the electric bills. So that's going to be something to really kind of pair into. I know we have something that's going on in our bills to try and get our electric bills a little bit reduced just to help people in the city out, because it's kind of ridiculous. So I just wanted to make sure that I was able to inform people, especially the seniors. The seniors out here, they do have their senior center, so some of them do go there. Some can't get out of their house. And if they don't have air conditioning, that's a real big problem. So just making sure, like in my building, if I see a couple of seniors, I'll talk to them and make sure. Oh, do you have your air conditioning? Okay, everything looks all right. Do you at least have a fan, something to kind of cool you down in the heat of the months? We've been lucky. Knock on Famica here that I have. It hasn't gotten up to those extreme heat yet, but it's coming. So the more we talk to people, the more they can be prepared, and it'll be like a nice action plan for folks. [00:08:35] Speaker E: Yeah. [00:08:36] Speaker A: One thing I love about everything that you were just talking about was this idea that you came in with little to no knowledge about extreme heat. And then as you've learned a lot of things, and you learn about cooling centers and why it's so hot and also what it can be done, you learned about the heat program and getting the air conditioner, and then you take that information, and when you have conversations with people, you just kind of drop that knowledge. And it's like, kind of like, I'm pretty sure every person you've done that for has also done that to someone else. And I think that's just a really powerful way to kind of spread the word about something. Once you have knowledge about something, telling one person that one person, I'm sure, is going to take that information and say it at some point to someone else as well. [00:09:17] Speaker C: Oh, yeah, it's already happened. Even I talk to restaurants. There's one particular restaurant I go to, the sun hits it, and I'm like, you need an awning if you want people to sit outside and enjoy a restaurant or even have people come, because they won't sit out there in the sun to have, like, an awning. So he has an awning now, but because of pandemic, he's also built an enclosure so that way he can have some air coming in for his customers. Because if not, that sun is hitting directly in your face, and it's unpleasant. So even not just with our residents here in Harlem, also talking to businesses, if I get a chance, if I know the like, hey, you know, this is what's going on, and this is what extreme heat know. If you have sun coming into your window, maybe get an awning so it can be a little bit more pleasant for people to sit outside because you're sitting there. And specifically, if you're there and you're having some libations, some cocktails. [00:10:26] Speaker D: I love the word libations. [00:10:29] Speaker C: You're having your libations and you're enjoying yourself, and the sun is beating down on you. You really just don't know how quick you can go into, like, a heat. Your heat exposure can cause you to. [00:10:42] Speaker A: Become sick, especially if you're having libations. [00:10:46] Speaker C: Especially if you're having libations. [00:10:48] Speaker D: And we all know we need our libations. We need those. [00:10:50] Speaker C: We do need our libations. So you don't want to turn people away. [00:10:54] Speaker D: Yeah. One of the other things that you talked about that I really wanted to circle back to is all the different ways that folks try to deal with extreme heat. I know we've mentioned air conditioning as one of the main ways that people deal with heat, but again, there's some costs associated with that. Can you, I guess, reflect on just ways that both you and people that you know, like, all the different ways that people try to deal with heat and how they try to protect themselves from the extreme heat? During the summer, I think one of. [00:11:22] Speaker C: The most popular ways is the pool. So sitting outside, dipping into a pool, dipping in some cool water. I know for children, like in the parks, they had, like, the splinter systems to help cool them down. Yeah, that and also going into the movies or going to the museum, something where you can go indoors and people normally time it. I'm not going out at twelve, 01:00 in the afternoon when the heat could be. At this peak, people prefer to go out like 405:00 when things kind of cool off. But nowadays it doesn't cool off. We've seen in a couple of summers where it's been like around 100 at 09:00, 10:00 at night. [00:12:06] Speaker F: Right. [00:12:06] Speaker C: So at that point, you will hope by the time you get back home, you can run your air conditioning. So you can cut the cost, but try to be somewhere you can be indoors. So that's how I normally deal with it, and I know my friends deal with it as well, or the friends are the popular. They just go to the Hamptons. That I can't do. [00:12:27] Speaker D: And I'm glad you said that, because that leads to my next bit of a probing question, is do you feel like there are besides the cost factor of running your air conditioner, do you feel like there are barriers to folks accessing some of those things that you mentioned for dealing with extreme heat. [00:12:42] Speaker C: Yeah. Unfortunately, those things cost money, and we're just getting out of pandemic. People are trying to get back to work or are working. Some people are still not working. Some people are being laid off as well. So the cost factors are a barrier. So cooling centers have to be really essential. I'm not sure how many cooling centers we have coming out this summer. Have they published a list? [00:13:11] Speaker A: No, it won't be published until they actually have their first heat emergency. Seems bad, but I did talk to the person who's running the cooling centers, and she's like, so busy, all hands on deck right now, so she can't even have a meeting with me. So that means that they are actively prepping it all, but it's literally one person. Oh, doing all of the coordination for all of this. So there's a need for money and stuff for that. [00:13:34] Speaker C: There's an extreme need for money for that. This is just one way that we're looking at climate change. I know some people. Oh, climate change, climate change. We're tired of hearing about it. But you're not tired of having the effect of it. We got to get more people involved. This is something that a lot more people can get involved and really get their heads around. Climate change and the work with climate justice and trying to get people into cooling centers, try to get air conditionings in people's homes so they can stay cool. Try to encourage people to dip into restaurants, museums, or go to movies just to try and cool off. So it's important work. I think it's really a shame that the city only has one person to kind of coordinate something so large, because you're looking at the whole city. We're not just talking about Harlem. We're looking at all of New York City and Staten island, I'm sure, too, right? [00:14:35] Speaker A: Yeah, the whole city. I have one more slight question before I get into that last one. But when thinking about cooling centers versus the other options that people may not have access to because of the barriers for cost, what are some ways that cooling centers can be a little bit more appealing, or what can they do to improve, in your opinion? [00:14:51] Speaker C: Well, I mean, the cooling centers turn out to be libraries, some community centers, and there's nothing much to do. They're often thought of as for seniors to go into them, it would be kind of cool to have game night, some type of activity, some type of incentive for people to come in, maybe job preparation, like something that they can do during the day. Job preparation, taxes, if you still have your taxes to be. I'm just throwing out things that you could be doing at the center instead of just having it as a cooling center. And that might give some incentives for people to come in and utilize the services that are there. But I know that that might be a lot. [00:15:39] Speaker A: No, that's great. I actually like those ideas because doing things that you need to do or want to do anyway. But if you don't have access to air conditioning to do it in AC, you can go to a cooling center to. Again, I like the idea of there's computer setups to do your taxes or someone there to help you prep your taxes. Jared and I love a game night, especially in the evenings when it's those hot evenings. There's been times where I don't run AC sometimes, but it's been hot, and I can't sleep. I'm like, it's like nine or 10:00. I would definitely go to a game night somewhere if that was the case. [00:16:09] Speaker C: Yeah. And it brings community together. Yeah, I think that could be helpful. Or movie night or the latest episode. Netflix has all the episodes that people like to watch and binge watch. They could do know something like that. And you're right. Right. To get up in the middle of night and kind of go. But that means, like, the cooling centers would have to be open late. [00:16:32] Speaker E: Right. [00:16:32] Speaker A: And changing that programming. So, yeah, that was great. Thank you for answering that. And so I'll go ahead with the last question here. And so why is the work you've done on extreme heat important? [00:16:43] Speaker C: It's important because I care about my people in Harlem, my Harlem community. I do not want to see anyone suffer from extreme heat. The more knowledge that people can have, the better they can have for themselves to prepare themselves. I don't like to hear the numbers are staggering. When you're talking about extreme heats during the summertime, like, the deaths are sky high and it can be avoidable. It really can. I know that years ago, we were talking about at. We act going and maybe talking to some of the superintendents or building owners and try to paint the rooftops to kind of bring down some of the residual heats in the building. That's important. I live in Harlem. Thank God I have air conditioning. But you're right, I can't run it all the time. So I have to sit down and figure out, well, what I'm going to do during the day. I'm lucky because I have a gym membership, which is more like a club. So you can stay there all day. And you can do your work. You can go swimming, you can work out, or you can sit there and chill, watch games. They have movie nights, so that's a good place. But I'm lucky to have that membership. [00:18:01] Speaker F: Everybody doesn't need to join your gym. [00:18:03] Speaker D: I say don't make sure, don't mention the name of your gym. Otherwise that's going to get real busy real quick. You're not going to be able to find any space. [00:18:08] Speaker C: No, it's an oasis. I do not give out the name. [00:18:15] Speaker A: Maybe you will after this. [00:18:17] Speaker D: We'll get that after the recording stops. So thank you so much. I want to give you one last chance to mention anything that you wanted to talk about, anything else you wanted to share or promote while you're here that we didn't have a chance to cover yet? [00:18:29] Speaker C: No, I just want to promote that the work that react is doing is important. I haven't seen anyone talk about extreme heat, not really at all. In terms of climate change, it doesn't seem to be on the map. People are looking at big weather, storms and stuff like that. But extreme heat, a lot of people are so used to it. It's like, well, it's summer. It's summer, but no, it's not summer. There's reasons why these are happening and we need to pay attention because what's hot today could be hotter in years to come. It could really cause a lot of problems. You've seen those movies. What are the movies? When it turns into the ice age of tomorrow? Yes. I don't want to see another movie. When it turns into extreme heat, it turns into the moon or whatever a hot planet is out there. We don't want to see that. That could be a good movie, though. That could be a good Sci-Fi movie. [00:19:34] Speaker A: It would be a good Sci-Fi movie. [00:19:35] Speaker D: We'll work on the script. We'll send it over to you for review. [00:19:38] Speaker C: For review? [00:19:39] Speaker D: Yeah. [00:19:39] Speaker C: Okay. Just as long as I get presented. [00:19:41] Speaker D: You got that theater background, so we need your also, you can produce it. [00:19:45] Speaker F: My name is Lewis Klein and I've been a member for over ten years. [00:19:50] Speaker D: Our first question for you then is to speak about why you decided to get involved with the work that we do here at we act. [00:19:58] Speaker F: I've always been interested. First of all, my primary interest is on water activities. Swimming, boating, human powered boating, like that. And then I was the community rep for Metropolitan Water Fern alliance originally, who morphed into Water Fern alliance. And then I got to go to meet various community groups, helping them and I wasn't presenting to them, I was working with them, which is the only way that you can really show the community that you're interested in what they do. So I work with a whole bunch of different grassroots groups in all the five boroughs and over in New Jersey, a few. And I like what we acted. I live in the Upper west side, and you're relatively convenient for me. So here I am. That's why I'm here instead of at the point. [00:20:55] Speaker D: Amazing. [00:20:56] Speaker A: Yeah. So this episode is about extreme heat. And you have done a lot of work around extreme heat. And so I want you to talk a little bit about what you've done, what projects you've worked on, particularly working around cooling centers. [00:21:08] Speaker F: So principally, the climate justice working group originally was concerned about extreme heat. Now you guys have expanded into a few other projects. But we did a survey for, we act pre Covid at various cooling centers. I think there were about twelve on the list, 15 on the list. We divided them up. I took four of them, walked around to get to the cooling centers, asked them what they were doing, interviewed the various people in the cooling centers to see what they were there for. I discovered that number one half of the cooling centers weren't open on regular hours. You really had to go out of your way, even when it was 101 in the shade. A couple of years ago, a lot of them were closed, and then some of them had their air conditioners broken, which is always helpful. The people in the cooling centers, to a great extent, didn't even know they were in a cooling center. And some of the people who were sitting there were just there because they wanted to socialize, who had nothing to do with being in a cooling center. So essentially, the city keeps saying that they have cooling centers, but that's really known to people like me and you and those who are interested. And general public doesn't really realize that there are cooling centers. There are no street signs that direct you appropriately. There are no informational things that go out on a regular basis. When you're going to talk to the public and it's hot. You know, that people should maybe, particularly if they're older, if they're infirm, should maybe get out of their unair conditioned apartments. They have to be told about this on a regular basis. Just doing it one time really doesn't help out at all. Some of the cooling centers were very helpful, and some of them were not very helpful. Some of the cooling centers are in public libraries and some of the public library people were nice and some of them didn't even have bathrooms within the public, small public libraries. So what good is being in a cooling center if you're going to have to go out five blocks where you could boil an egg on the sidewalk and have to go to the bathroom? It's stupid. A couple of them didn't even allow people to sit around all day. You had to check out a book or you had to be part of doing something that was library related in order to be there. So they call themselves a cooling center, but they weren't really. But some of them were. [00:23:50] Speaker E: Okay. [00:23:50] Speaker D: Yeah, it just happened to be a library with cooling, essentially. It's interesting to hear that so many of the places that you went to had no idea that they were supposed to be a cooling center. [00:24:01] Speaker F: Signs are supposed to be published. Some of them have signs on their doors and some of them don't. There should be signs in the street with arrows and an address. You're feeling faint, you're feeling bad. It's so hot. The cooling center is this way. Five minute walk from here, ten minute walk from here, whatever. In other words, direct pedestrians. After I hit the cooling centers, I made it a point to walk around in the local streets and ask people, do you know where your cooling center is? Never got a response from anybody. And I talked to people just walking by me. I stopped by some of the EMS people working in the street where they didn't know where the cooling centers were. Even so, one of the police that I asked, the guy was nice, and he had to go to his dispatcher and find out the location of it. And he was maybe five minutes walk from the cooling center and he didn't know where. [00:25:00] Speaker D: Wow. [00:25:03] Speaker F: It's like they are talked about, but they're not publicly advertised and they're not known to the people who really should know, which are the people who are working in the street for the city. [00:25:15] Speaker D: Absolutely. [00:25:16] Speaker A: And I was also going to ask you kind of a little bit, and you're kind of going there a little bit now, but why are cooling centers actually important to have? [00:25:24] Speaker F: Oh, well, I mean, first of all, in terms of weather related illnesses, heat is the primary cause of death. I think it's about 150 or maybe more people in the city because of the climate catastrophe we're in. And I don't like to call it climate change. I like to call it climate catastrophe because it gives you a more immediate feeling for the problem. Days are going to get harder and they're going to be harder, longer, and people who live in high rises, who don't speak English don't know a thing about it. And many of these people just don't have the money, even if they could get a free air conditioner to turn it on because they can't afford the electric and they really want to. When the temperature gets to be 110, your apartment, you really should go someplace else. [00:26:15] Speaker D: I'm so glad that you're touching on all these different dimensions, and I wish we had more time to cover all the different aspects and maybe we'll have. [00:26:21] Speaker F: Let me just break in 1 second, which is the hours of the cooling centers. When you have a hot day, you want to have people be able to use it all night. Most of the cooling centers are not open all night. They close at five, they close at six. And I know I've been part of a couple of events that had to be canceled off because it was hot at midnight at around 108 a couple of years back. So to close them off early is insanity. I mean, what good is that? [00:26:56] Speaker D: Yeah, especially when at night, that's when your body needs those cool temperatures the most to be able to calm down and relax and get some sleep. So if you're going home and have super high temperature, you're not going to be able to sleep. That's going to impact your ability to rest and recover for that next day. [00:27:09] Speaker F: Of probably extreme heat, too, especially in. [00:27:12] Speaker A: New York City, that urban heat island effect. And you got all of the heat that's been trapped in for throughout the day gets released in the evening. And so it either makes it the same as it's been all night. You don't really get that relief that you do in some other climates where, like desert climates, where when the sun goes away, it's now cool, you don't get that heat. [00:27:32] Speaker D: It's interesting to hear your lens of going through these cooling center audits, and I want to take a step back and hear what your knowledge was about cooling centers. Before you went through and did these audits, were you familiar with cooling centers at all, or was this a new thing to you when you. [00:27:45] Speaker F: No, I knew about them and I knew that they were, and you'll pardon me for saying it directly, but I think essentially they are worthless to the general public the way they're set up. And I know the city has a website for it. First of all, maybe it's changed by that three or four years ago, the website was not being updated. There should be an app or something that you could check out easily where a cooling center maybe is closed or it's not working or it's inoperable or it's going to say whatever, but I knew about it before and that's why I took the audits. [00:28:24] Speaker D: So you were already familiar with the fact that there were some problems with it before you got involved with doing these audits. [00:28:29] Speaker F: Sure. I was working with weak on all kinds of different programming things that were related to people without income, essentially with very low income and their needs and what has to be done to make them more comfortable living in New York City. [00:28:46] Speaker D: Yeah. And we kind of touched on this already a little bit. But I think even though we don't have time to cover in detail, I think it's still an important, and just to reiterate, why is it so important for folks to have access to the cooling centers, especially given the cost of running air conditioning at home? [00:29:00] Speaker F: Particularly the cost. But if you're infirm or you're old, excuse me, I should say elderly in this. If you're a mother with some small children, you really want to be able to get to a place where they'll welcome you and where you can stay, if possible, overnight. Because your apartment is basically unbearable for. [00:29:28] Speaker D: Folks that maybe in theory have an air conditioning unit at home. Some people are not able to use it because they can't afford the cost of it. [00:29:36] Speaker A: Right. [00:29:37] Speaker D: Like I know the city had a whole program to distribute air conditioning. [00:29:39] Speaker F: You give some free air conditioning, but if you can't afford the continent bill, then what good is it going to do? [00:29:45] Speaker A: Yeah, and we do a lot of work around that as well, which I think you've been a part of. Even some of the Albany work and state work that we've done to kind of expand the benefits of lightheap for those who can get the free air conditioner through this program. We want to actually expand this to actually cover utility bills during the summer because they have something very similar for heating program. [00:30:08] Speaker F: But I don't think they cover 100%. I think it's a percentage. [00:30:11] Speaker A: Yeah. It's not 100%. [00:30:14] Speaker D: So I think one more, kind of like closing question should be two more. [00:30:19] Speaker F: I'll give you the last one you should ask me. [00:30:21] Speaker D: Okay, great. Well, my first closing question then you already mentioned one thing that you think could be improved, which is like the interface that there should be an app for folks to be able to find. [00:30:31] Speaker F: Yeah. And that only works for people who in fact have Internet ability or have a mobile or whatever. But the biggest thing that should be done is non electronic signs posted all over the place with information given out as to why it's there. And what it's for. [00:30:51] Speaker D: In addition to those things, what are some other recommendations that you would make having gone through this process of looking at all these cooling centers that you think could be made to improve access to cool spaces during the summer? [00:31:03] Speaker F: So that's going to be my last point, I think, which is a nudge to weak who should be, I think, putting more effort during the summer to continuously approach people in the houses and put out flyers and put out information on a regular basis and in all the languages that are in the neighborhood so that people, in fact have a consciousness of the idea that there is something out there that could help them when they feel that they're unbearable. I think working with kids, I am a firm believer of going into the public schools and doing presentations to kids ages kindergarten up through the twelveth grade, give them some material, let them take it home for their parents to look at. But kids generally, if they believe in a program, will start pushing those who they live with in order to do something that they think is the correct thing to do. [00:32:00] Speaker D: Yeah, kids are the best kids. Anything that kids bring home to their parents, they will become the ambassador for that, whether it's composting or origami, whatever kids like to do and become ambassadors for. In addition to those things that you mentioned, what are some things that you think that the city could do to expand, like better improve these cooling centers or other ways of physically, as opposed. [00:32:23] Speaker F: To simply putting up notices at various points, including bus stops and whatever? I didn't really say where the signage should be, but nevertheless, they have to go out and do a real strong educational job on a regular. You can't just go to a center at the beginning of the season and expect people who are running the various centers to know what's happening? There's a churning of employees. It's good that each of the patrons who live, who work in a cooling center have some knowledge of first aid in case somebody in fact, has some problems and what to look for for symptoms so that they know to call 911. There should be material in the cooling centers for everybody. Comic books are great. If the city could produce some cooling center comic books and leave for the kids to pick up while they were in the cooling center, and perhaps when they're doing tabling around as well as putting them out on various organized events like street fairs and things like that. Do regular audits and not just one time only. Is the air conditioning working? Is water available? Is bathrooms available to the public? Do the people who are running cooling centers know that some people will be coming there because they have a problem and are they made welcome. Are there things for the kids to do for those parents who bring in children on a regular basis? I know it's probably impossible, but there are food programs. It would be great if some of the food programs could be extended where people will go where there's free food. So if some of the free food was being delivered in the evening at the cooling center, particularly when there's a heat emergency, that's one way to draw the public into the center itself. [00:34:20] Speaker A: I mean, Lewis practically wrote the report, the cooling center report, because you were part of the audits. And so all of those kind of recommendations that when the climate justice working group got together after doing all the audits and seeing all that work, thought about how do we improve cooling centers as a way for people to have access to cooling? Because we believe, especially at weak, that they are still vital, that they're a very important aspect to the landscape. Even if we were to give everyone an air conditioner, like you said, you have the issue of running it and the cost. We still need as many options as possible for people to be able to basically stay cool and beat the heat. [00:34:56] Speaker F: And remember, a lot of people live in substandard wiring. So some people blow all the fuses, they turn the air can, even if they wanted to do it, they're not going to be necessary, particularly the two family homes. And like that, you just don't know how good their electric is. Right. [00:35:15] Speaker A: And New York City has a very old housing stock. [00:35:17] Speaker F: Very old, particularly up here. [00:35:19] Speaker D: Yeah. So I thank you for all that insight. I have one, actually. This is my final question, I promise. [00:35:25] Speaker F: And then I'm going to give you one last comment. [00:35:27] Speaker D: Great. I can't wait. So obviously, you've been so involved in the work that we act does, especially in the climate justice working group. Can you give, like just a little bit of information? But why you think that other people should join in working groups at weact or just in the climate justice working group specifically, what about your work do you feel like has been most meaningful. [00:35:44] Speaker F: For you, working with neighborhood populations? I just enjoy feeling that the public itself is gaining something by weak's activities in terms of their ability to cope with living in New York City and getting knowledge that maybe they wouldn't otherwise have when we can provide to them various forms of information. [00:36:15] Speaker D: Absolutely. Thank you for that. [00:36:17] Speaker A: I love it. [00:36:17] Speaker F: So my last comment. [00:36:19] Speaker D: Let's hear it. [00:36:20] Speaker F: It's going to be hot. Remember, there are 25 boathouses. It's perfectly safe. We have never had a casualty in the last 15 years of 115,000 people getting into the water. And it's free. So get out, take a look. All you have to do is free kayaking in New York City, and we'll pop up a whole list of stuff and hope to see you on the water sometime. [00:36:45] Speaker D: I love that. As someone who loves kayaking, cannot recommend that enough. Thank you so much. [00:36:49] Speaker A: You guys got taking kayaking now. [00:36:50] Speaker D: Let's do it. [00:37:02] Speaker C: Hello, my name is Taisha, and I'm the community organizer at WEAG. We're having our annual membership barbecue that's happening July 15 at PsMS 149, Sojourner Truth, which is located at. We will have food, games, short film presentation, and our very own uptown chats recording live. You can rsvp at our [email protected], slash events. Can't wait to see you there. [00:37:39] Speaker E: So I'm Stuart Aronson. I've been involved with Weact for now over three years, and I suppose I became involved. A friend introduced me to Weact, and I had started to look for an opportunity to become active with regard to what I had been hearing about in terms of the climate crisis. And I understood through this friend that we act would be a place where I would find an opportunity to get involved and to maybe begin to do something about this challenge. [00:38:21] Speaker D: I appreciate that background. Just get a sense of how you got into the work. And I wanted to get a sense of how did you decide to get involved with the climate justice working group specifically and do the work that you've been doing around extreme heat. [00:38:33] Speaker E: Well, I suppose I would include getting involved. My beginning to get involved was also, and I do share this related to having 20 something kids. And so everything that I was hearing about the climate crisis suggested that things were going to, were getting worse and that their experience in the future and their children's experience was going to be very dismal. So again, that got me involved, and I started to think about what I could do when I became involved. There were a number of opportunities that presented themselves in going to membership meetings and hearing about the working groups and the matter of extreme heat, especially in this uptown neighborhood. My uptown neighborhood seemed very concrete and very real. And so the idea that we act was providing the opportunity to address literally and concretely cooling opportunities for people who are experiencing extreme heat and don't have access to ac, let's say, or have no way of getting cool in extreme heat conditions. And we act had identified that the cooling center system was not as effective and not as useful in its current state. And that seemed like a very concrete opportunity to do something to address that particular problem. [00:40:30] Speaker D: Yeah. [00:40:34] Speaker A: There'S like the problem that you guys noticed with the cooling center and then wanting to go in and do this project for what, the cooling center audits. Right. And I know that you had a lot of experience with that project here with the climate justice working group. And my question is, what was that experience like when you were going through the process, whether it be, if you want to talk us through creating the survey and doing the actual audits, what kind of things did you experience and what were some of your takeaways? [00:41:02] Speaker E: So the actual work that became available for the climate justice working group that was taking up the matter at the cooling center included. And this was exciting to me personally, because our goal in doing surveys, let's say, about the cooling centers, was to really get empirical evidence for how the cooling centers were operating. And I thought that having concrete empirical evidence for how the cooling centers were working would be very helpful in affecting change in those operations. So the cooling center was intended to be this oasis. And so we went to find out was it? And what we learned in visiting the cooling centers at the times that they were meant to be open was that there was often no evidence at the cooling center that this was a cooling center. So direction, how to get there. There wasn't the signage that would have. That seemed required and necessary. The cooling center was welcoming, but it was clear and self reported by the people there that they had no training, for example, about the effects of heat, or so that they might be prepared to deal with somebody who was having a clinical kind of reaction to heat stroke. Or we were finding that there were no snacks or anything in the way of food that could address needs at the time, changing tables and opportunities with children, games and other things. Any structure. No. So, while that was disappointing, it was also providing useful information that was then going to be used, and was used in lobbying and advocacy work that we got engaged with to develop a bill that would require, that would provide monitoring and reporting and supervision and some of these elements that we thought would be important and should be there. [00:43:35] Speaker A: I was going to say, I love that kind of starting from that kind of grassroots, community based research and kind of just a group of people getting together, concerned about these cooling centers, which the city wasn't auditing. Right. Or wasn't doing what the things that you guys did and saying, okay, now let's use this data and this information and what we know to create a bill or to add to a bill to strengthen this program. And I think that's just a really kind of cool progression to stay, like getting involved in a way of saying, so simply just going into a cooling center and doing these audits to the creation of some type of legislation to hopefully get through and pass, which we are working on getting that bill back. [00:44:17] Speaker E: So I hear, because it stalled despite the fact that we visited council members and worked collaboratively with council offices on language and so forth and elements of that bill. So hopefully this is a slow job. You mentioned about grassroots and so forth, having a background in the hospital setting in this community, it was obvious that people were talking about the amount of asthma that was being presented, the amount of cardio problems in this community where the health infrastructure is also very weak. And then it was clear that there's an interaction between pollution, diesel exhaust in this community, the bus depots here. And so again, it was using the information on rates of these illnesses in the community and elevated rates, the effects of the environment on some of those conditions, specifically to encourage activism and lobbying so forth to get to address fossil fuel matter and the matter of electrification, to address some of the pollution which was impacting on and does on health conditions in the community. So there's been some success in that department, at the state level, at the city level, in predicting that we're going to be all electric buildings. But in the present time, you have a community that is suffering from the heat, you see the health effects. And then when you look at mitigating factors like air conditioning, which not everybody has air conditioning, and at the same time, people who are in the community who have air conditioning often can't afford the electric bills. I mean, my electric bill is 30 or $40 usually, and in the summer it's nearly $300. Wow. And this points to some other areas of activism, which has to do with efforts to control the cost of utilities. So there are a lot of things that we act has been involved with that I've appreciated and shared in some of that work, and it continues. [00:47:16] Speaker D: Yeah. And I appreciate talking about some of the cost dimensions of the cooling needs and just really trying to cover some of the dimensions of the extreme heat issue in addition to the cooling center challenge and some of the lessons that you learned from that and thinking about extreme heat kind of holistically, especially in the landscape of New York City. I want to kind of circle to our last question, but kind of use a bit of an opener to touch on extreme heat things in general, in addition to the cooling centers, which is why is the work that you've done around the cooling center audits and other things as a part of the climate justice working group? Why is that work on extreme heat important, and why should people maybe care about it and be involved in moving that work forward? [00:48:03] Speaker E: Well, I think that there has been evidence and documentation and research done in cities that's found greening, or gardens and trees and plants and shrubs in communities that the greener, the safer, if you have a greener environment, not only does it impact the heat, and they talk about the heat island effect that is experienced uptown, notably that empirically, again, it's warmer in upper Manhattan than it is in other parts of the. So they use that expression, heat island. Increasing greenery would not only affect temperature, but it has an effect on the communities, on violence, violence reduction. And so it is a holistic view of this, of this whole matter of extreme heat, that introducing elements which will affect the climate also affect the social lives of people in the community. So it's kind of trite to say a win win, but it's a very significant matter to maintain awareness of. [00:49:47] Speaker D: Yeah. And to build on that. And I think also to summarize some of the things that you mentioned earlier related to your cooling center audits, what do you say are some of the top priorities for both the city and, I guess, the state in general to make actionable steps to help improve kind of the landscape and help improve the conditions for folks dealing with extreme heat? What could the city or the state do to make it easier for people to bear the extreme heat that we are starting to see and we will continue to see. [00:50:23] Speaker E: I think the electrification, that direction. I think it's very important because of the pollution and how that affects health conditions in the community. And people who are vulnerable then are more susceptible to the effects of extreme heat. So if you have a healthier community, you're already having a mitigating effect with regard to the impact of extreme heat. That's one thing I think that we talked about it, I mentioned earlier, I mean, affecting the cost of, let's say, utilities is very important to allow people to use an air conditioner and making those air conditioners available, but being able to afford to use them, and also this whole matter of the infrastructure of housing, weatherization and so forth, as a way of, again, mitigating some of the effects of extreme heat. [00:51:41] Speaker D: I like both of those things, both because I am a strong advocate for improving air quality. And I appreciate that you touched on that relationship because they are definitely related on days that we have extreme heat, we often have poor air quality, and that the vulnerable people that are impacted by each of those things, there's a huge overlap there. And when you address one, you address the impacts of both. [00:52:03] Speaker G: Right. [00:52:03] Speaker E: And I don't think we can forget about the whole dimension of health and what can be done in mitigating just the health outcomes of extreme heat. I mean, you have stroke and you have other outcomes, so you have people going to hospitals, cold water in the ER. Let's have that available for anyone. It's a simple thing, but it just addresses in some ways or suggests how our infrastructure, whether it's the electric grid or it's water in the ER, or it's the cooling center, being useful, accessible, available, and it informed citizens. So education and information all interact to ultimately result in a healthier and safer environment. [00:53:00] Speaker A: All right, Nan, so we're just going to start with a very simple, if you just want to introduce yourself, how long you been a member of we act and how you kind of got involved with we act? [00:53:08] Speaker G: Yeah. My name is Nan Festler. I live here in central Harlem. I moved to New York about seven and a half years ago and I had been very active politically a lot of my life. I came to New York, I had retired, I had been living in Los Angeles, and I wanted to do political work, mainly looking know, working around climate justice and environmental work. I had read a little bit about we act, made an appointment to have coffee with Louis Bailey. He sold me right then and there and I became a member of Weact. So I guess about seven and a half years now. And I'm thrilled. I talk about we act in glowing terms for the last seven and a half years. [00:53:54] Speaker A: We'd love to hear that. [00:53:55] Speaker D: Bailey's a great salesman. He could sell candy to a candy salesman. Here's your candy back to you. Well, thank you for that intro. I'm so happy that we have so many folks who have been around react for so long because I feel like it speaks to the level of engagement that some folks have with our work. And I think that one of the things that we want to touch on specifically is around extreme heat. So I want to get a sense of how did you decide to get involved with, first the climate justice working group and then specifically work around extreme heat? [00:54:27] Speaker G: Well, even before the climate justice working group was brought together, I very much participated in all the monthly we act meetings. I did some of the voter registration. We talked know especially, I think even maybe before we did ranked choice voting, we might have been out and about again, most of that work had been with Bailey, but I mean, there were other climate justice people working together. And then Sonal had taken over. And at that point, the group coalesced. And where we started to say, as a group, we're really going to meet separately, and we are going to make sure that we're going to look at issues and policy and try to, as a group, strategize to figure out how to move this work forward. [00:55:27] Speaker D: Amazing. [00:55:29] Speaker G: To answer your question about the extreme heat, I mean, that was just one of the projects. And we were all said, yeah, we should do that. And I don't remember it was probably either Sonal was still running that program. Now, I know you, LJ, and Annie are very involved with the climate justice working group, but the question of cooling centers had come up. And I think that there had originally been some, at least correspondence and or conversation with then city council member Costas constadinides, who had an intro, of course, in the moment, I don't remember that intro number, and now it would be a different number. He's also left city council, but it was a bill around the cooling centers, and we saw it not moving and a little deficient. And again, I don't know where the impetus of the idea came from. I don't know if it was us as a group or sonal and we ex staff, but we made the decision, this is pre, the pandemic lockdown, the COVID lockdown, to go out and audit the cooling centers here in northern Manhattan. And it sounded like this is what's got to be done. Because one of the things, I do a lot of work with New York renews, which we act as one of the 360 members of New York renews. And I do a lot of grassroots lobbying, and I know how important getting laws on the, take a bill to make it a law and have it on the books, but it's also got to be implemented effectively, or it sits there and doesn't do anything. And we as citizens, need to always make sure that we have eyes on what we want. We want to make sure this stuff gets done and done right. And it's up to us as citizens to really make sure that it's being implemented properly. So when it was brought to the fore that we could go out and actually audit, I say, yeah, and we audited when it was damn hot. It was like, yeah, we're going to see if these things really work. And it was an eye opener to all of us that participated in that study. [00:57:53] Speaker A: Yeah, I love how you opened with the idea of that cooling center bill, which again, we have been trying to get reintroduced multiple times. So maybe by the time this podcast air, we will actually have it reintroduced. So I like how you kind of led with this idea of there was a policy that wasn't maybe not been perfect, but needed some type of push and some type of polish to kind of push the working group into investigating cooling centers. And I know you are one of our members who are very heavy in the policy and the politics aspect of everything. And so can you talk a little bit about what kind of work you've been doing? Advocacy work and grassroots lobbying is something that you mentioned as well around extreme heat at the city, state level as well, because I know you do a lot of stuff at the state level, too. [00:58:36] Speaker G: Yeah, I would know in the last couple of years I've been doing more state stuff and of, you know, we act as a very important partner in New York renews. And so the climate, jobs and justice package that New York renews had also included as one of the bills the New York Heat act, which is close, but sad to say, with the New York legislative session ending this Thursday, I'm not sure it's actually going to pass. But policy like that, even though it doesn't directly hit extreme heat, if you're looking at it from a very narrow perspective, the fact that when we're looking at extreme heat, why are certain neighborhoods so incredibly vulnerable to it? I mean, obviously we know the difference between a city as dense as New York and suburban areas like Westchester or rural areas know, north in the Know, New York City and especially central Harlem, South Bronx. We don't have the green space. We do not have the tree canopy. Know, helps to absolutely keep the heat down. And so we have all of this infrastructure, this concrete infrastructure that makes the city so much hotter. And then you're looking at just the demographics of northern Manhattan, South Bronx, a lot of the Bronx actually. And demographically it is lower income and a lot of people of color and experiencing the systematic racism that we've lived under for God knows forever. And we therefore, those of us here will experience a lot more extreme heat. So coming back to that, why aren't people, you could say, well, people could turn their air conditioner, their ac on. Well, a, you have to have it in the first place, and b, even if you have an ac, you have to have the money to pay. And I pay. I mean, I live, I'm a renter here in New York. Landlords are obligated to provide heat. But extreme heat can be as deadly as extreme Cold. And therefore, I also feel like I'm kind of jumping ahead and we'll come back to the New York Key deck. But the reality to me is I would love to see policy that would get through the state legislature and be signed by the governor that actually says landlords. Now, maybe it can't be done in older buildings, but in new construction that AC must be included if you are renting because it is absolutely important. So going back to the New York Heat act, one of the things that know there's so many other aspects to the New York Heat act, but what I want to bring it back to visa vis this conversation we're having is that it would cap the utility bills to 6% of someone's income. And that means that, yeah, if they did have ac, then, yeah, somebody might in their own home be able to run the AC and cool themselves down. Because while the cooling centers are a good idea, I think that they're still important. We saw so many deficits when we did the auditing, and we know even if we were to the bill, that may end up being reintroduced. And we do get the extension of hours because just because the sun goes down at 08:00 doesn't mean all of a sudden it gets cool. The sun decides to be really hot on the weekends and the cooling center is not open on the weekends. All right. So really, in the very end, the smartest idea in the world would to be to have some sort of air conditioning, whether that be per unit or building. And obviously any kinds of companion policy that would allow for retrofit fitting to make sure a building is even more energy efficient, both for heat and for cooling. All of that is absolutely necessary. [01:03:21] Speaker D: Yeah. I really appreciate you providing that really comprehensive look at the different dimensions of what people need in terms of being able to protect themselves from extreme heat. And since you mentioned the cooling center audits, I figured this is a good time for you to tell us a little bit more about it, especially from your perspective. What did that process look like and what were some of the things that you learned from doing that? [01:03:41] Speaker G: What I learned the most was that the people who were generally at the desk, whether they might have been, use an old fashioned term of like the receptionist and admin assistant up to the actual manager of a particular cooling center, often didn't fully understand what it meant to be a cooling center. So starting off, we had issues with even signage. Often the signage was, it might be at the building, but you didn't exactly know where you were going to go to get into a cooling center, but the people working there, we really felt needed to be trained, and they not only needed to be trained on what it really meant. If we were in these situations where temperature was at least 100 degrees for one day or over 95 for two days, that they were going to be open. They needed to make sure that they were going to be able to provide cold water, that there would be able to provide feeding for people. And I'm speaking just for myself. I know that other participants, although we did a full study, I really found that the folks managing these facilities didn't fully understand and also weren't really trained on what would happen. Would you be able to recognize somebody who was experiencing heat exhaustion, much less, let's say, a heat stroke? I mean, most people did say, I said, what would you do if you saw somebody in true discomfort? They said, well, they would call 911, which, of course, is what they should be doing. But I went into one facility. First off, they didn't want to open the door, and I'm not going to name the facility, but they didn't want to open the door. And then when they did let me in, they go, we have no place for you to sit. And I said, well, this is a cooling center. The city has said this is a designated cooling center, and right now the temperature meets the requirements for you to be open. And would it be possible for me to get any water? No. And their AC was also not working. So again, just huge disappointment that the city had provided these cooling centers, and that particular center was going to be closed by 05:00. So again, we saw so many deficiencies that we knew that we needed a new bill and a city council person who would be able to really have the clout to push it through, to make it happen and for the bill to be much more robust. But I still want to go back to what I said earlier. I really think that the real way of dealing with extreme heat, which we are going to see more and more and more of, is to really provide in people's homes a way for them to stay cool in the luxury of their own home. Where, I mean, the other thing about the cooling centers is you'd walk in and there were no books, you would have a place to sit, but that's not inviting. And probably for me, the few cooling centers that were probably the most inviting were our city libraries. However, they also have hours where they were closed by 06:00, and some of them here in central Harlem not open on the weekends. So that made it really tough. At least at the library, you could read a book or read a magazine or put your own headphones on and listen to some music. [01:07:39] Speaker D: Absolutely. [01:07:40] Speaker A: I have a question. It's backtracking a little bit, but can you just kind of set up a little bit about what the cooling center audits were, and how did that kind of come about? And when you were going into the audits, like, some of the things that you were looking at and that process. [01:07:55] Speaker G: Good question, LJ. I almost wish I had the cheat sheet in front of me. We helped to design it. Well, we helped design it. It got designed. I know that we act work with some outside consultants, and then we also critiqued it. And then after we did the audits, we critiqued it again. But we were looking at signage. We were looking at hours that they were open. We looked at what kind of accessible bathrooms they had for somebody who might be in a wheelchair. What if it was a mother with children? Were there in the bathrooms, baby changing tables, things like that? Just, again, going back to what I just said a few minutes ago, were there games or comfortable places for people to sit, to read? Obviously, besides water being available, were there other drinks? Would there be food? Could people bring in their own food if they wished? Was there charging electrical outlets so people could charge their phone? It seemed like these are such tiny little things, but they add up, and they're absolutely essential for a center to actually work. [01:09:24] Speaker D: I mean, it's really about making people feel comfortable in these spaces and actually want to use them, because it's one thing, like so many other things, to have a space that serves a purpose. It's another thing for people to actually want to go there and use it. [01:09:37] Speaker G: And I think the folks who worked with us on this felt pretty similar, that it was a colossal disappointment. And again, it was as if the city had checked off a box. All around the city, from lower Manhattan to northern Bronx or whatever, there are cooling centers. But if they don't work for people, and we went only on the hot days, the extreme heat days, and I would walk in and no one was there, because they needed to cool off, except for a few people that I did talk to in our local libraries. [01:10:20] Speaker D: Well, thank you for answering that question. I don't know. Lana, do you have anything else to add? [01:10:24] Speaker A: I have one more. I know Nan is a woman of, you know, when. If you think about someone who wants to get involved in this work and that grassroots lobbying, what would be your suggestion? Or where would they start? Or where should they start? [01:10:39] Speaker G: It's always interesting. Every organization I've ever joined, you first walk in and you know nobody, and you feel like a little bit like a wallflower and it's a little tough. And I've said to people, it's kind of like when you go to the beach and the water is a little chilly, you could stick your toe in and pull it back. Stick the toe in and pull it back until you just run and dive in, you're not going to swim. So I feel like I tell people, you just got to do it. And it's best if you're maybe a little shy, come and bring a friend and do it together. So get in, do the work. The moment you start doing the work, there's satisfaction. And I think we all, we do the work not only because we love our neighbors and our community, but it makes us feel good. I want to do the work because I feel good doing it and I feel empowered that I'm like, the progress is slow, but there is, and you feel accomplished when you do it. So I tell people, jump in, do the work. You can start smaller or large, it doesn't matter. Just get in, do the work. You will meet fabulous people. They will become your friends, and there's nothing better. [01:12:08] Speaker B: All right, thanks so much for joining. [01:12:10] Speaker D: Us, Caleb, for our audience, do you. [01:12:12] Speaker B: Want to go ahead and introduce yourself and your name, title and anything else? [01:12:16] Speaker H: Yeah, my name is Caleb Smith. I am the resiliency coordinator at Weact. Formerly I was one of the first Cecil Corbin Mark fellows. So I'm happy to stay on with weact as the new resiliency coordinator. My role entails working mostly at the city level, but also there's a ramp up to working on more state advocacy around resilient infrastructure, whether that's through policy making, community education, and organizing just for. [01:12:54] Speaker B: Folks who are not as familiar with the space. We use the word resilient a lot, and I think we've maybe talked about it in other episodes before, but just for folks who aren't as solid about what we mean when we talk about resilient communities and resiliency, what does that mean to you? [01:13:07] Speaker H: Yeah. So resiliency, in my mind, is the proactive response to environmental hazards or disasters. So when we're talking about resiliency, we're talking about the skills and knowledge that community members have to respond to extreme heat as well as the infrastructure available to them to reduce the risks that they face from extreme heat events. [01:13:36] Speaker B: Amazing. That's really solid. [01:13:37] Speaker A: Yeah, that's a really good definition. [01:13:39] Speaker B: That should be in a book. [01:13:40] Speaker A: Caleb, do you want to give us a little bit of a rundown of what's the comfort we act in this heat as we go into extreme heat season? [01:13:48] Speaker H: Yeah. So I'm stepping into quite the long path into extreme heat work. React has been working on it a long time before I joined, but one major thing that I'm getting off the ground is our extreme heat coalition, which we are organizing with a couple other groups, and we'll be expanding over time. But we're all working on extreme heat in different capacities. Some organizations are also community based, environmental justice focused, but others are focused on housing or organizing the faith community and various other social issues. And our mission is to mobilize, to ensure that urban, historically marginalized, and vulnerable communities that are exposed to extreme heat are protected through policy adaptation planning and resilient infrastructure interventions that advance health equity. Because we see very stark differences in health outcomes for communities of color, especially those like northern Manhattan and the Bronx and some parts of Brooklyn, where there are also compounding issues of air quality and high asthma rates. So those things really make a transformative impact in terms of the lived experience of people when they respond to the heat season. Some other things that we've been engaged on outside of the coalition. We have also been a part of NYSErTA's Extreme Heat Action planning forum, which has been a way for various stakeholders across the state to inform how Nicerta is going to invest into various different adaptation planning strategies and solutions coming up. So we just had the last meeting there, and now they're kind of in a new phase with an advisory council that is going to help kind of tweak some of the things that we identified as primary action plans that are important to us. [01:16:10] Speaker D: Just really quickly, before I forget, for. [01:16:12] Speaker B: Folks that don't know what nice Certa is, can you just spell that out and say why they would be involved with this work around extreme heat? [01:16:19] Speaker F: Yeah. [01:16:20] Speaker H: So NicErta is the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. I just laugh because it's the longest state acronym that I can think of. But NYSERDA is one of the lead climate and energy agencies at the state level. So anything that relates back to disadvantaged communities as it relates to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection act, they are really managing the implementation of how those communities get the investments that they are long overdue. And with regard to extreme heat, a lot of that looks like infrastructure projects and community programming to sort of make sure that folks know how to access resources. Responding to extreme heat, I think it's. [01:17:23] Speaker A: Really interesting that Nicerta is the one that is a part of kind of some of this extreme heat work. But it's also not surprising because, as you even just mentioned, all the different kind of like the intersectional aspect of extreme heat. So when we're talking about extreme heat, we're not just talking about extreme heat itself. You just mentioned health. We talked about infrastructure and then also energy as well. And so I think those are kind of really interesting key pieces to the extreme heat work that we are doing here. Can you tease out some of those components for everyone to listen? How do those kind of different things? How are we working within those different spaces? [01:18:03] Speaker H: One major component to extreme heat has a lot to do with green infrastructure. A major reason why communities of color are not as well positioned to handle extreme heat is because of the legacy of disinvestment in just basic community resources, particularly green space. I saw something recently that showed in New York City, predominantly black neighborhoods have access to about a quarter of the parkland acreage compared to white neighborhoods. And what that means is they're getting about a quarter of the environmental services that trees provide when compared to their white counterparts. And trees provide cooling through shade and large density evapornspiration. So a lot of that is big word. [01:19:11] Speaker A: I love it. [01:19:12] Speaker B: Yeah, getting sciency up in here. [01:19:14] Speaker H: I'll break it down. But evaporranspiration basically is just the process of the water leaving the leaves, and that when trees are especially mature, trees are doing that in large groupings, like in parks, that cools the immediate area by a couple of degrees. And it doesn't sound, I wish I had the exact numbers on hand, but that makes a huge difference. And especially when they're shading our buildings, that also goes back to energy he had mentioned before, because when there's less of the sun's heat and radiation being trapped on these dark building materials, then that means there's less energy required to cool down the interior. And that makes a huge difference for residents who either don't have access to air conditioning or can't afford to run it to the extent that they'll actually be comfortable in their own homes. So that makes a major difference when you don't have access to adequate green space in your neighborhood. [01:20:40] Speaker B: Essentially, when we have these disparities in green space, we have communities of color that have to spend more money on their heat, their cooling during the summer because their buildings are hotter, essentially, so that not only is there a higher burden already because those buildings are probably older and less maintained, but they also are going to be hotter because there's less green space in those spaces, too. [01:21:04] Speaker H: That's right. And of course, it doesn't just start and end with trees. There are some other ways that we're exploring and trying to scale up cooling of the built environment. That includes the green roof and solar roof programs at the city level, but they aren't adopted at the extent that we need in the neighborhoods that need them most. But they work in a similar way. Like, for one, the solar roof program captures the sun's energy and converts it into energy for the building, and that offsets the need for electricity that's fossil fueled by the utility. And then with green roofs, you have the same benefit of trees, except it's on the roof of the building. Maybe not as much the evapotranspiration aspect, just because trees are much larger than the kind of vegetation that can go on a roof. But it's a similar concept and it works in a similar way. So those are things that are pretty important to make use of because we're in a really densely packed environment. Like New York City is the cityst city in the United States. [01:22:26] Speaker A: I love that. [01:22:29] Speaker H: It just is. And so when we can't have all this extra land to spare to create new park spaces, how are we using the space that's available? So I think that that's something that's going to be an important tool in the broad range of strategies that we're going to have to use. [01:22:49] Speaker A: Yeah, I feel like it's such a connected issue. Right. If you solve for one thing or you're working towards one thing, it helps solve another thing, that helps solve another thing, that helps solve another thing that gets to the extreme heat work that's being done. So it's kind of like all of it has to happen at once. And at the same time, there's no. Well, we have to start here. We need to do this first. It's more. So all of these things need to happen simultaneously. [01:23:18] Speaker B: Yeah. And speaking of strategies, since you circled this there, can you talk about some of the strategies and policies that we have prioritized here at weact around all the extreme heat work? [01:23:30] Speaker H: Yeah. Well, recently there was a city council hearing. We provided testimony on two introductions that are going to really make sure on the green space front that New York City moves forward in a really thoughtful and equitable way, really thinking long term for the tree canopy and how that impacts our communities. So one of those is introduction 1065, and this bill helps get us to the amount of tree cover that would really make a substantial difference in terms of extreme heat. That would get us to urban canopy coverage goal of 30%. And it would also help set up metrics to expand and protect the urban forest. To require the collection of lidar data, which is light detection and ranging, which is basically a technology that helps us get really granular data on where there's vegetation throughout the city. And this would monitor effectiveness of the plan. And this would require updates every ten years. So really building in that longevity. And we spoke out to make sure that added to this bill, we want to see some more amendments that one uplift funding for the Department of Parks and Recreation. There's been a lot of movement for funding the parks and recreation department at at least 1% of the city's operating budget. If you just go to Central park, you might think, oh, our funding is fine. But people who aren't totally dialed in on how Central park is funded, a lot of that is privately funded. And when you get to the outer boroughs or more low income neighborhoods, there's a lot of need to make sure that our parks are properly maintained. Kind of zooming out a little bit more. Another way that we see that underfunding is the fact that parks has not been able to keep pace with the tree planting and maintenance that they have in previous years. So compared to last year, they've planted, I want to say, 45% fewer trees in the first four months. This is cited in the mayor's preliminary management report that came out in February of this year. If you want to take a deeper dive, but that's really important. And I should also mention that 1% funding goal was something that was promised on the campaign trail by the Adams administration. So if this is something that our leadership knows, and they aren't following through on it, we're all about accountability. Another piece of this is making sure that urban canopy goal is time bound. Like if you've been in any sort of management or even life skills class, they teach you smart goals. You need a timeline within which to complete this. So 30% canopy cover no later than 2035 is essential. And then another piece is again, just recognizing how the urban canopy affects different parts of our community. So this would make sure that in the management of the urban forest, that there are considerations for environmental justice, climate change, health, accessibility, and workforce development. And particularly, we want to see it prioritized within disadvantaged communities as laid out by the climate leadership and Community Protection act definition. And then lastly, another amendment. We want to see accounting for the distinct needs of trees at various points in their lifespans and a plan for wood salvaging. Whether we lose trees from major storms or disease and various other natural factors like that, that's an opportunity to make sure that there are jobs at the end of the lifespan of the trees and the maintenance early on in the lifespan of a tree. If we get trees planted and in the first five to ten years it's not well taken care of, we'll never get the full benefit of that tree. And it's not a responsible use of taxpayer money. And it's also just under delivering on promises that are really just common sense for our neighborhoods. [01:29:00] Speaker B: Yeah, I've heard a lot about the fact that planting trees is cool. [01:29:05] Speaker D: People love to talk about it. [01:29:07] Speaker B: People love hearing it. But those young trees aren't providing that real benefit of cooling that we talk about when we talk about trees and green space and what that does in terms of cooling off neighborhoods. [01:29:17] Speaker A: Right. [01:29:17] Speaker B: We need those mature, well rounded trees, not those angsty teen trees. [01:29:23] Speaker A: The awkward phase trees. [01:29:24] Speaker D: Awkward phase trees where they're like my. [01:29:26] Speaker A: Body, but they need the most love and care. [01:29:31] Speaker B: They do. Honestly, they do. Those angsty teen trees. [01:29:34] Speaker A: Sorry I interrupted. Without the 1% for parks, we're going to have a bunch of angsty teen trees that don't have the love and support that they need to grow up to be full, mature, functional trees in society. [01:29:46] Speaker C: Yeah. [01:29:46] Speaker H: We need to show those trees that it gets better. [01:29:48] Speaker B: It gets better. [01:29:49] Speaker A: If you relate it to that, it makes a sense anyway. But also, speaking of people, one of the other aspects, too, that we talked a lot about in the interviews that we did with our members was cooling centers and still the need to improve those and codify cooling centers and making sure that they actually have funding. I think that is definitely still a key piece that we are chasing within this extreme heat space, because that social infrastructure is really important as well. And cooling centers can be more than, as we heard from our other guests, can be more than just cooling centers where you just go sit down and be cool. Right? There's opportunity for programming and cultural aspects and community building and networking. There's a lot of opportunity there as well. [01:30:37] Speaker H: Something that we really want to see is making sure that in the same way that the building code prevents residents from getting too cold in their units, we want to see that there is a right to cooling protected. And there's a number of ways that this could look. But there should be something on the books that says temperatures shouldn't exceed x degrees fahrenheit to make sure that the responsibility isn't just on tenants to make sure that they're safe in their homes, because that's not how it works for running water. That's not how it works for heat. So why wouldn't it work the same way for cooling? So that's something that is definitely a strong policy goal. But right now there's some ambiguity in terms of how that will manifest. I think there's a lot of momentum both at the city and state level from various conversations that I've been in that people want to see this. And there's a lot of organizations like weact that have been pushing for this. But we'll have to be very creative in how we push for it. There is some precedent, I believe, in other states, but yeah, we have to apply it to the New York political context. So that's something to look out for. And that's definitely something that you can plug into if you stay tuned on city council. But if you're not already on the newsletter for we act updates about extreme heat advocacy and what the extreme heat coalition is doing, that's one way to stay tapped in. [01:32:40] Speaker D: Great. [01:32:40] Speaker B: Yeah. So what are ways that folks can get involved with this work around extreme heat? If they heard what you said and are really excited to help move that work forward, what are ways that they can do that? [01:32:50] Speaker H: Yeah. So you can stay tuned for our extreme heat policy agenda. There's definitely going to be some public actions coming up and community focused events around extreme heat. So I would just recommend staying tuned to our newsletters or social media. And also if you want a more long term way to stay plugged into this work. The climate justice working group does a lot around extreme heat, and they also are actively engaged on the climate ready uptown plan, which very much focuses on that social resilience piece of responding to extreme heat. So I would definitely recommend that. And throughout this heat season, we can kind of see how city council moves and responds to what we're asking for. And Climate Week is definitely a time to really get activated because that is when they want to start doing victory laps. And if they've been slacking, that's how we blow the whistle on them and get them to pick it up on environmental justice and for the purposes of this conversation, extreme heat action. So that's what I would say. [01:34:24] Speaker B: Awesome. Thank you so much, Caleb. We appreciate you being on the podcast and sharing some insights about the work that you're doing and ways that folks can get involved with it. So we'll leave it at that and hope to have you back soon. [01:34:35] Speaker H: Thanks, y'all happy pride month. Thanks for listening. Check out weact on Facebook at weactfor EJ. That's W-E-A-C-T-F-O-R-E-J. Instagram, Twitter and YouTube at weact. [01:34:50] Speaker A: Four. [01:34:50] Speaker H: E J we A-C-T number four, EJ. And check out our website, weact.org, for more information about environmental justice. If you have questions or comments about the show, you can also reach out to us directly by emailing [email protected] okay, thanks. [01:35:10] Speaker B: Bye. [01:35:12] Speaker A: And stay cool. Channel.

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