UHI Summer Research Fellowship

In 2022, NCA was awarded a three-year New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Community Impact Grant to facilitate an educational research program analyzing the Urban Heat Island Effect (UHI) around Newtown Creek. During the program, New Yorkers are given the opportunity to design their own studies regarding UHI in and around Newtown to explore field-work practice, and the use of scientific inquiry towards a real-world application and context. Anyone 18-29 years old may apply. Ideal candidates have an experience with increased urban heat, an interest in or relationship to Newtown Creek and the surrounding community, and have not completed a bachelor’s degree. 

The UHI is particularly intense in industrial areas in part because of the nature (and needs) of the industrial area. Buildings, roads, and other paved spaces absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than planted landscapes do. Air thick with exhaust and pollutants also trap heat (known as the Greenhouse Effect), increasing ambient air temperatures in regions with high car and truck density. These, and other factors, can lead industrial areas to have daytime ambient air temperatures 1–7°F higher than outlying areas, and ambient nighttime temperatures 2-5°F higher.

As global temperatures rise and local weather patterns swing wildly, summer heat waves have become the norm. According to the New York City Panel on Climate Change’s 2019 report, the annual number of days over 90°F could more than triple in the city by the 2050s. It is impossible to comfortably work or live in communities prone to elevated temperatures without air conditioning during extreme temperature events. We are concerned by the negative health and quality of life impacts associated with urban heat because they impact us and our neighbors living and working around the Creek.

As research on climate change expands, human health and other risks relating to increased urban temperatures are standing out as a critical planning and design problem for all cities. Officials and agencies at all levels are working to come up with solutions to the problem, including efforts to bring cooling centers online throughout New York City. Unfortunately, these interventions are failing us in familiar ways. With fewer cooling centers in black and brown neighborhoods (among other issues), the 2022 Health Department heat mortality report found that black New Yorkers are twice as likely to die from heat than white residents. Brooklyn and Queens had the highest numbers of heat-related deaths of the five boroughs between 2011 and 2020.

“The impact of the UHI on heat-related health is significant, although often overlooked, particularly when considering future impacts associated with climate change. Multiple factors should be considered when designing mitigation measures in urban environments in order to maximize health benefits and avoid unintended negative effects” write climate change and UHI experts in a 2017 Current Environmental Health Reports article. 

But who determines the factors to be considered (and therefore, which to not consider)? And, perhaps more importantly, who gets to come up with the mitigation measures that will be selected?

2022: LIC to Sunnyside

Our 2022 Fellows, Shakhawat Shaimoon, Tara Fletcher, Yaz Wilkerson, Ari Batu Rivera, and Jonathan Belair, joined us during the summer of 2022 to study the Long Island City / Sunnyside region from the Pulaski to the Kosciusko. Neighborhoods open to study included LIC, Blisseville, and Sunnyside. Regional boundaries were: 43rd ave to the north, the Creek to the south, 43rd st to the east and 11th st/Pulaski offramp to the west.

Thank you to everyone who helped with our 2022 Fellowship: LIC Partnership, The Highline Network, Smiling Hogshead Ranch, Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, NYC Council Land use, LDEO, and LaGuardia Community College.

View the Final 2022 Presentations

Sources [will finish]: 

Heaviside C, Macintyre H, Vardoulakis S. The Urban Heat Island: Implications for Health in a Changing Environment. Curr Environ Health Rep. 2017 Sep;4(3):296-305. doi: 10.1007/s40572-017-0150-3. PMID: 28695487.