The corner of 181st and Broadway in Washington Heights became the latest flash point for the city’s conversation on heat waves. Not two days ago, one of Christine Quinn’s aides collapsed at City Hall and had to wait for more than 30 minutes for emergency services to arrive. Earlier today, a McDonald’s worker at the franchise’s store located at the address above collapsed and had to be treated for heat exposure at the restaurant directly related to the fact that the owner had refused to keep the interior climate controlled.
City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez arrived with the intention of speaking with the owner. However he hurriedly left the venue and refused to address either the group of workers who walked out on the job citing unsafe conditions, or the growing band of protesters outside, including representatives from United NY, NYCC, and local activists, as well as news media. The store manager, Mike Ortiz, accepted a letter from the Councilman addressing the working conditions and the employee’s exposure.
Temperatures in the city have hovered around 100* F for more than a week now, and reports of heat stroke deaths have been argued repeatedly as to their veracity. Air conditioners are now sold at emergency pricing due to demand, and the section of the news cycle not caught up in other topics is dedicated to the speculation that an impending rolling blackout is due for later this summer. Now is the time to remember that we are only in July, and August is destined to be determinedly hotter. The conversation we should also be having, and to follow the memetic trend from late last year, is that the time to have a discussion about climate change was yesterday.
Also, provided that these events are occurring, it may be time for a shift in our long range planning; anything that contributes to the temperatures in the city and across the state (of local concern) as well as heightens the ability of superstorms to reach us late in the year, every year for the foreseeable future needs to be brought to an abrupt and permanent end, for the very sake of the species. Our species. Because whether or not we perish due to seemingly unending heat waves, floods, winds, and a polluted water supply, or all of the above simultaneously, we have the power to both ameliorate and mitigate these conditions.
The mayor’s PlaNYC 2030 ideas are interesting but they don’t go far enough beyond incentivizing businesses to voluntarily use green construction, energy efficiency and smart development techniques. The Sandy Regional Assembly, comprised of a collection of NYC area nonprofits based in areas affected by the storm, issued a list of corrections and omissions to the PlaNYC 2030 draft report, as well as an analysis of the mayor’s plan for the block grant funding coming from the Federal government (these will be in an upcoming article). The Institute for Public Knowledge in conjunction with Housing and Urban Development is closing its window for the acceptance of plans from firms with the capacity to submit and act on proposals that would address power, environment, and sustainability issues in the region. Only time will tell if these long range plans are sufficient to save us from these deadly heat waves and terrifying storms.