Beating the heat in the Bronx remains a struggle for city’s most heat-vulnerable community districts

8B7A2150
Kids in the Bronx sought solace in fire hydrants to beat a week of extreme and dangerous heat conditions.
Photo Adrian Childress

The will of Bronxites was tested during a weeklong heatwave where extreme heat reached temperatures in the 90s, which led many to consider if more summers in the city will be this unbearable.

“It’s too damn hot out here,” said Jessica Velez, who felt like she was “baking” at Claremont Park on Saturday. “Growing up I remember these heat waves would last like two days and then it would cool down. But for a week straight? Nah, this is unlivable.”

And parents took extra precaution during an especially muggy Sunday, where temps reached as high as 98 degrees, when allowing their kids to participate in outdoors activities.

“I told my son he couldn’t be playing basketball in this heat, which is shame cause we don’t even have reliable AC or cool air in our buildings,” said Darla Walker, a Morrisania resident, on Sunday. “It’s too hot to do anything, and I feel for those who have to be out there for long periods of time.”

There isn’t a catch-all definition for heat waves, as they often depend on the climate of a region, determined by a certain number of days above a specific temperature or percentile of that region’s norm temperatures.

Heat has killed more people in the U.S. than any other weather-related event, according to data from the National Weather Service. Bearing the brunt of spikes in heat and humid weather are children, older people and communities of color who live in urban neighborhoods which can often act as heat islands.

The city’s health department says 370 New Yorkers die of heat-related issues every year, and Bronx neighborhoods are always at severe risk. In their 2018 Heat Vulnerability Index, the health department found that six of the city’s 12 most heat-vulnerable community districts were located in the Bronx.

Those districts are CD1 (Mott Haven and Melrose), CD2 (Hunts Points, Longwood), CD3 (Morrisania, Crotona), CD4 (Concourse and Highbridge), CD5 (University Heights, Fordham), and CD6 (Belmont, East Tremont).

New York’s weeklong heatwave official ended on Tuesday but did result in a casualty. The medical examiner’s office said the unidentified person — who also suffered from heart disease and pulmonary emphysema — is the only reported death during the heatwave.

The last time the city had encountered a heatwave of this magnitude was July 14–20, 2013, according historical weather data.

Across the nation, more than 85 million Americans were under excessive heat warnings or heat advisories issued by the National Weather Service.

2021 study found that 37% of heat-related deaths during the warm season can be attributed to human-caused climate change. It also found that heat-related deaths increases are “evident on every continent.”

In their 2018 Heat Vulnerability Index, the city’s health department found that six of the city’s 12 most heat-vulnerable community districts were located in the Bronx. Photo Adrian Childress

In response to the rise in heat waves, the U.S. government created a new website, heat.gov, to help Americans stay safe during dangerous heat spells. The site has maps that show current heat conditions across the country and provides other tools and resources to help people stay safe during excruciating periods of extreme heat.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

More from Around NYC