Chinatown is Not Equipped to Handle Heat Waves [OP-ED]

Posted on: August 12th, 2019 at 5:04 am by

The heat wave from July 18-21 revealed serious concerns about Chinatown and other under-served communities where city cooling centers were nonexistent or out of reach for many.

Chinatown had three cooling centers listed on the city’s official website. Yet, the most easily accessible one to seniors had a “members only” sign taped prominently to the door. This left two options: the City Hall senior center located at 100 Gold Street, unrealistic considering the distance walking in oppressive heat; or the Chatham Square branch of the New York Public Library (both are closed on Sundays).

This downtown neighborhood is a naturally occurring retirement community, and while the younger generation can escape the heat by going to a movie or the beach, this is not a viable option for seniors who instead seek shade in the local park or sit in bakeries. New York City could, and should, do better or risk fatalities in the next major heatwave.

Last month’s temperature spike also revealed that many older buildings in the area are insufficiently wired to run multiple electrical appliances. Some tenants with air conditioners were unable to run them at peak efficiency or were afraid of tripping fuses. Since most of the tenements dotting Chinatown were built at the turn of last century, the electrical wiring is oftentimes equally ancient. Most were wired for maybe 20amps per apartment; modern apartments should have a minimum of 50amps.

So, while many in government advocate for creating more affordable housing, what is being done to preserve and upgrade the existing stock? The majority of available affordable housing in the city is composed of multi-family homes and tenements owned by mom-and-pop landlords, not the big developers. What tax incentives is the city offering them to upgrade properties without passing partial costs onto the tenants thru the MCI program which was recently amended?

Navigating through the labyrinths of cyber bureaucracy, I came across Housing Rehabilitation loan program on the HPD website, but the language was vague and it offered only loans with up to 3% interest. So if there are other existing programs, one would hope lawmakers would educate landlords, and if there aren’t they should introduce legislation to offer interest free loans to mom-and-pop property owners to help bring their buildings up to grade and preserve affordable units in the process. Until then, tenants suffer the heat sitting in front of a fan or risk a fire by overheating ancient electrical wiring by bypassing the fuses.

The need to build new permanent affordable housing is important but but it is equally important to preserve the existing stock and government needs to do everything it can.

Recent Stories

GrandLo Cafe at Essex Crossing Shuts Down for Good

GrandLo Cafe won’t survive Covid-19. The two-year-old operation announced it’s permanently shuttering. The Grand Street Settlement’s social enterprise program at 178 Broome might be down, but they’re not entirely out. GrandLo has committed to completing their training program remotely, to keep trainees on their career pathway. There are also plans in the works to reoccupy the […]

Seattle Radio Station KEXP Posts Virtual Shows

With the absence of live performances on the music landscape, bands are taking to the internet to help music fans fill their gig going void. That being said, Seattle radio station KEXP is compiling an ongoing events calendar of virtual performances from artists all over the globe. From the KEXP website: With music festivals being […]

HPD Issues Vacate Order to Grand Street Fishmonger for Apartment Conversions Above Store

It’s probably not the most opportune time to enforce a residential vacate order, yet nevertheless, the hammer falls. Yesterday afternoon, the city mobilized to 276 Grand Street, where the landlord is accused of creating “illegal apartments” on the fourth (6R) and fifth floors (8R) by subdividing the units. These conversions created potentially dangerous conditions that […]

GovBall 2020 is Canceled

Festival fans take note: this year’s Governors Ball Music Festival is officially canceled (and with it, your summer – thanks, Covid-19!). With the current state of things, it’s not all that shocking, but still stings. After all, this was to be the tenth iteration of the festival, and they pulled some pretty big names for […]

Sauce Restaurant Donates More than 2,000 Pizzas to Hospitals

Popular local Italian joint, Sauce Restaurant, is donating hundreds of pizza pies to hospitals around New York City. It all started when a nurse from an unidentified hospital called to order a pizza. She reportedly expressed that staff was working long shifts caring for COVID-19 intake, and not eating enough. And that most restaurants were […]