New York City Mayor de Blasio on Wednesday launched Cool Neighborhoods NYC, an almost $106 million program designed to curb the effects of extreme heat on vulnerable residents.

“Climate change is a dagger aimed at the heart of our city and extreme heat is the edge of the knife,” de Blasio said. “This is a question of equity; hotter summers, exacerbated by climate change, are a threat that falls disproportionately on communities of color and the elderly. We are answering that question with programs designed to protect the health of New Yorkers, expand our city’s tree canopy, promote community cohesion, and more.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Chip Barnett

The program is designed to protect neighborhoods against the worst effects of rising temperatures caused by climate change.

Each year hot summers cause dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat-stroke. Extreme heat kills more New Yorkers than any other weather event, the mayor’s office said. Rising temperatures, more frequent and longer-lasting heat waves threaten the New York’s livability, the mayor's office said.

The city will spend $82 million to pay for planting trees in neighborhoods in the South Bronx, Northern Manhattan, and Central Brooklyn -- areas that have been identified as vulnerable to heat-health risks. The city will also spend $16 million to plant trees in parks and $7 million to support forest restoration in all five boroughs.

“New York City is investing $1.5 billion to build green infrastructure across the five boroughs that will improve the health of local waterways while also cleaning the air and lowering summer temperatures,” said Vincent Sapienza, acting commissioner at the Department of Environmental Protection.

The Cool Neighborhoods NYC program will also expand the city’s current heat reduction efforts while adding some new initiatives and provide training for home healthcare aides.

The program is headed by the mayor’s office of Recovery & Resiliency and will be implemented in partnerships with NYC Parks, the Health Department, Small Business Services, Emergency Management, and private sector participants.

“With all the ills of the world that call for repair and redress, combating climate change may be the great work of our time,” said Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University. “It is, I would say, holy work, taken up on behalf of people separated from us by time and distance; people we will never know, but whose very lives depend upon the actions we take here and now."

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