Severe weather affects lower income communities the hardest and there’s a new program to help.
As the climate warms, New York City is seeing more extreme weather. In terms of heat, NYC has had 9 of its top 10 warmest years in the last 20 years. The last time NYC had a year rank in the top ten coldest was 1926.
The heat in New York City doesn’t affect everyone equally. A NOAA-funded study in 2021 mapped urban heat islands. These are areas that are much hotter than other areas that are nearby.
The study showed that neighborhoods in poor areas like the South Bronx, Washington Heights and Inwood were hotter than areas of Manhattan there were less than 5 miles away.
The primary reason for the difference is the amount of trees and grass that are present in Manhattan compared to the other areas. To help address this disparity, New York City started the Cool Neighborhoods program.
One project is the planting one million trees. This will help create shade and have other benefits cooling these micro climates.
Another project launched is the "Be a Buddy" program. This will help with severe storms, like flooding, as well as with dangerous temperature extremes. The program is much like what it sounds like. They want you to "Be a Buddy"!
The project has two components. First, it encourages at-risk people to sign up for the program. These are people with health conditions like obesity, asthma and diabetes. They might require oxygen or be reliant on medical devices in their homes or lack access to air conditioning. The other part of the program asks for volunteers in these neighborhoods.
They will match the volunteers with a buddy. During severe weather, like floods, heat or cold, the volunteer will check in on their person. They launched the program in the Hunt’s Point neighborhood, which is prone to extreme heat and flooding.
As our climate continues to warm, these types of areas will be even more at risk. Be a Buddy is an important community program and helps people get prepared for severe weather. This will help the community know about dangerous weather beforehand, connect with volunteers and make a difference.