Harlem Heat Project partners stopped by WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on July 8, to discuss the news initiative and to stress that extreme heat is not just an inconvenience, but a serious public health issue that will be worsened by climate change.
“It’s a silent killer,” AdaptNY Editor Adam Glenn said to describe heat waves that take New Yorkers’ lives each year, and send hundreds to the hospital.
“More residents in Harlem go to the hospital for heat-related stress than any other part of the city,” added WNYC enterprise reporter Sarah Gonzalez. “This is a public health issue.”
Glenn, Gonzalez and WNYC Senior Data News Editor John Keefe appeared on the show to explain the urban heat island effect that makes temperatures in New York (and other cities) hotter than surrounding countryside, and why Harlem is the place to report on it.
Because Harlem has comparatively higher temperatures and more citizens living below the poverty level than the rest of the city, its citizens are more likely to suffer a heat stroke.
“It’s brutal in my apartment,” said Joanne, an Upper Manhattan resident who called in to speak to Lehrer about her experience. She explained she does not have an air conditioner because of worries about her wiring.
“I tend to get heat stroke,” said the 74-year-old, who, as a senior, is statistically more likely to suffer a heat-related illness.
Another concern raised on the radio segment was the high cost of air conditioning. A unit can cost hundreds of dollars and require high amounts of electricity that many New Yorkers cannot afford to buy.
“[New York City] is the fourth most expensive place to turn on a light or an A.C. unit,” Gonzalez explained. “The issue of being able to afford A.C. is an actual problem.”
To quantify problems with indoor heat in New York, the Harlem Heat Project team has distributed small data-collecting sensors to volunteer Harlem residents in non-air conditioned homes.
Those citizen scientists will place the sensors in their homes to measure the heat and humidity.
“We believe the temperatures indoors are hotter than out of doors in many of these residences,” said Glenn, who explained that the data the sensors collect will be compared to other data being gathered in the field, such as NASA satellite data, courtesy of the Harlem Heat Project media partner iSeeChange.
For Keefe, who built the sensors himself, the project is also about experimenting with new tools to allow everyday people to collect data.
“We started doing this mainly because I’ve been playing with these electronics,” said Keefe. “We’re gonna get some folks to put them in their apartment for a couple weeks to see how that goes.”
Listen to the entire segment on the audio player below.
— John Keefe (@jkeefe) July 8, 2016