Summer in the city: Mayor de Blasio announces COVID-19 heat wave plan

Tracy Lee Francis cools off in a fire hydrant on Martense Street in East Flatbush on Aug 7, 2018. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

The heat is coming and Mayor Bill de Blasio finally released a plan Friday on how to help New Yorkers stay cool during the city’s notoriously sweltering summers. 

The first phase of the city’s COVID-19 heat wave plan, is to spend $55 million to distribute 74,000 air conditioning units to low-income systems with 22,000 of those units to be installed in New York City Housing Authority homes. 

Priority will be given to those that are deemed the most in need by the Department for the Aging, the Human Resources Administration, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, said de Blasio. 

“We know some people bear the brunt in the heat,” said de Blasio. “It’s the people that can’t leave their home, even if they wanted to because of disability or challenges…. certainly mirrors a lot of what we are seeing with the coronavirus but the heat has particular elements that allow us to hone in on those that need help the most.” 

The second phase is to provide 450,000 low-income New Yorkers with summer utility bill subsidies which are usually about 20 to 30 % higher because of air conditioning use, the mayor said. The city will also petition the Public Service Commission, which regulates electric, gas, water and telecommunication business, to double their current commitment to subsidies summer bills and increase customer benefits to $160 over the summer. 

De Blasio added that his administration would urge the state to allocate its share of national energy assistance from the federal CARES Act for the summer months.  

Social distancing measures will be placed in the city’s cooling centers and the Parks Department will create “misting oases” to cool park-goers. The city is developing a plan to open up some fire hydrants to provide some relief from the heat on certain blocks.