The challenges of climate change bear down disproportionately on East Harlem, a neighborhood grappling with decades of structural oversaturation and inequalities. Our concrete-laden landscape, while emblematic of the city’s urban sprawl, intensifies the impact of climate change, elevating temperatures and fostering an overly hot community. A recent study unveiled the grim reality: East Harlem experiences surface temperatures over thirty degrees hotter than wealthier counterparts like the Upper West Side. This extreme heat disproportionately affects Black and Latinx communities, leading to a staggering 50% of heat-related deaths found among Black New Yorkers, while comprising only 25% of the population.
The East Harlem Climate and Community Master Plan emerges as a beacon of hope for East Harlem. Bolstered by federal and state climate funding, the master plan is a comprehensive initiative designed to rectify environmental disparities. The plan advocates for green infrastructure and smart urban design, aiming to cool the built environment, enhance community resilience, and preserve the neighborhood’s cultural identity. Among the innovative solutions proposed is the integration of green roofs on bus shelters along East Harlem’s major thoroughfare, 125th Street.
The green roof bus shelters represent a pragmatic response to the neighborhood’s multifaceted challenges. Beyond providing artificial shade for pedestrians and transit riders, these shelters can offer a transformative shift from impervious surfaces to green, porous landscapes. This not only filters pollutants like PM2.5 but also sequesters carbon dioxide, contributing to improved air quality. The initiative seeks to create a ripple effect, fostering urban biodiversity and mitigating the impacts of extreme rain that often leads to flooding in East Harlem.
East Harlem’s vulnerability to flooding also underscores the project’s importance due to its location on a former low-lying estuary.
Collaborative efforts with community partners, including environmental organizations, health advocates, local authorities, and the Harlem Neighborhood Block Association, aim to make this vision a reality with this pilot green roof bus shelter becomes a tangible step toward a more sustainable and equitable future for East Harlem.
Cholera in NYC
This from Ephemeral New York:
When New York’s first cholera epidemic hit in 1832 and killed 3,515 people (out of a population of 250,000), the poor took the blame.
“Many city officials implicated the residents of the poorest neighborhoods for contracting cholera, blaming their weak character, instead of viewing the epidemic as a public health problem,” stated Anne Garner, in an online article from the New York Academy of Medicine in 2015.
Cholera struck again in 1849, but by the time the next outbreak happened in 1866, cholera was better understood to be a contagious disease transmitted via contaminated water and other unsanitary conditions.
This 1866 illustration from Harper’s Weekly pins the blame on a different target: the landlords of New York’s tenements—substandard buildings that in the absence of strong housing laws often lacked ventilation and running water and were perfect breeding grounds for cholera.