Staying Safe from Summer Heat

Air conditioning keeping summer heat at bay at the Goddard Riverside Senior Center.

When Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center announced at a recent meeting that it would be open as a cooling station during heat waves, local residents burst into applause.

“Lots of people who use the Center have no air conditioning,” said Susan Matloff-Nieves, Deputy Executive Director of Youth and Aging Services at Goddard Riverside, which recently merged with Lincoln Square. “When the air conditioning is on and we’re open late, older adults will stay here right into the evening hours, cooling off.”

Extreme summer heat isn’t just uncomfortable; it can be dangerous. On average, more than 100 heat-related deaths occur each year in New York City. City officials say many of the victims are people in homes without air conditioning —and those over 65 are especially at risk.

Like Lincoln Square, the Senior Center at Goddard Riverside functions as a cooling center when temperatures soar.

“When the city declares a heat emergency, our doors are open to people of all ages to come in and cool down,” said Center director Marcia Mason. “Throughout the day, we’ll go around with cups of water, encouraging our members to stay hydrated. We’ll also remind them to walk in the shade, reduce their outdoor activities and go out early to do errands, before it gets too hot.”

The Center also calls to check on older adults who haven’t shown up for a while. “We might give them an extra call when it gets really hot,” said Mason.

Other community members at risk from high temperatures include people who are living on the street. When the city’s Department of Homeless Services issues a Code Red Alert, our Homeless Outreach teams check on clients more frequently to ensure they’re safe.

“We carry water, we carry sunscreen and distribute it accordingly. And if they want to go someplace safe we transport them,” said Outreach Director Mario Arias, adding that homeless shelters are not allowed to turn anyone away during a Code Red.

“If we see someone in danger, we’re always on the safe side; we call 911 so they can be assessed.”

City health officials recommend staying in air conditioning during heat waves. If you or someone you know can’t afford an air conditioner, call 311 to be connected to the Home Energy Assistance Program.

If you have to be outside, take lots of breaks. Watch out for signs of heat stroke, which include confusion, hallucinations, weakness, dizziness and nausea, with skin that’s either hot and dry or cold and clammy.

When the mercury skyrockets, everyone can pitch in by checking in on older neighbors and keeping an eye out for people on the street who may be in danger. As always, you can call 311 at any time of day or night to have a Homeless Outreach team from Goddard Riverside or one of our partners visit a person experiencing homelessness who may need help.

Our Cooling Centers:
Goddard Riverside, 593 Columbus Ave. (at 88th); 212-873-6600
Lincoln Square: 250 W 65th St. (at West End Ave.); 212-874-0860