NYC Says ‘Structural Racism’ Makes Heatwaves More Dangerous to Black People

Black New Yorkers are more likely to suffer from “structural racism” during heat waves, says the city’s Department of Health.

A Thursday letter from officials to medical workers warns that extreme heat “is the deadliest type of extreme weather” and that blacks in the Big Apple are twice as likely to die from heatstroke as whites.

Most people who succumb to hyperthermia in the city don’t have air conditioning in their homes and have existing medical conditions, officials wrote.

“Structural racism and the resulting social and economic inequalities” make people of color more likely to fit into these categories, wrote Deputy Commissioner Carolyn Olson and Madhury Ray, head of data analytics for child care.

The memo was sent out the same day the city auditor released a report that found the most heat-sensitive neighborhoods – such as East Flatbush, Corona and Kingsbridge Heights – were the least served by cooling centers.

A lack of trees and public parks makes historically marked neighborhoods hotter than majority-white neighborhoods.
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Historically-marked neighborhoods across the country that currently have large black populations can be 13 degrees hotter than the majority of white neighborhoods, according to a 2020 study.

The disparity is partly due to a lack of trees and parks to deflect and absorb the glare of the sun — and because the areas are farther from the water compared to leafy, affluent areas.

According to DOH statistics, there are about 370 heat-related deaths in the city each summer. Most of them occur when the heat exacerbates other medical problems, and an average of 10 are due to heat stroke, officials say.

While the city wasn’t technically in a Saturday heatwave — defined as three consecutive days above 90 degrees — temperatures had hovered right around that threshold and were expected to be in the 90s by at least Wednesday, forecasters said . NYC Says ‘Structural Racism’ Makes Heatwaves More Dangerous to Black People


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