NYU students arriving at Washington Square for the new school year get to take part in one of New York’s most popular rituals: complaining about the heat. And this isn’t just a typical case of New Yorkers revelling in having something to complain about; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, densely-populated cities tend to be 1.8-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than surrounding rural areas, and this disparity can reach 22 degrees in the evening.
Why is it so hot?
This pattern of abnormally high city temperatures is known to the EPA as the urban heat island effect. The relative lack of vegetation in New York means less evapotranspiration, meaning that there are fewer plants releasing water and cooling the air. Furthermore, urban building materials like asphalt and steel tend to absorb heat and lock it in the city.
Even the geometry of the city seems engineered to make it hot. Urban canyons, which are areas with narrow streets and tall buildings, tend to absorb sunlight from overhead — a phenomenon referred to by WNYC as the “light box effect.”
Add heat from cars, air conditioners and millions of people to the mix, and it’s no wonder New York feels like a sauna long into September. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for beating the heat in the city.
What can I do to cool down?
- Keep your dorm cool
If you’re lucky enough to live in an air-conditioned dorm, your bedroom will be a refuge from the steaminess outside. If you’re living in Brittany or Rubin, however, a room fan will be well worth the investment; you can get a 20-inch fan at Bed Bath and Beyond for under $30. Turn the lights off when you’re not in the room, and keep the blinds closed during peak sunlight hours. Don’t forget to unplug your laptop when it’s not in use — even the smallest bit of radiant heat can add to your discomfort.
- Take a dip
New York is home to dozens of free outdoor pools, with 16 in Manhattan alone. Dry Dock Pool is close to campus at 10th Street between Avenues C and D, while Lasker Pool in Central Park is known to be both massive and spotless — a rarity in New York. If you prefer salt water to chlorine, hop on the A train to Rockaway Beach for great waves and hip crowds. Alternatively, take the D, N, F or Q to Coney Island for hot dogs by the shore.
- Seek shelter
The buildings themselves may intensify the heat, but their air-conditioned interiors are easy escapes from the stuffy streets. Visit a museum, a coffee shop or a library to take a break from the heat. And when you’re considering whether to walk to your destination, remember that all NYC subway cars are air conditioned.
A version of this article appeared in the Sunday, August 28 print edition. Email Abigail Weinberg at [email protected]