June 30, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good afternoon, everyone. I wanted to urgently tell all New Yorkers that we are in a heat emergency right now and we need people to take immediate action. I just hung up with Matt Ketschke, the president of Con Edison of New York. Our electrical system is currently facing real stresses due to the severity of the heat we experience today. And, obviously, after four straight days of intense heat, we have a recorded temperature at LaGuardia Airport of 98 degrees – which set a record for that day. We have a real challenge to take up. So here’s the message to all New Yorkers: Immediately, immediately reduce electricity use in your home or business. It’s a very serious thing. We need to make sure our power supply is protected. We must avoid any possible disruption. We have all been through this and know how problematic it can be, what a problem for all of us can be if the electricity is interrupted in any way. It’s a chance for all New Yorkers to do something.
So more specifically, from that time until the afternoon, throughout the evening and until you wake up in the morning, we are asking people to reduce the use of air conditioning, ‘turn it off if you can turn it off, but definitely lower it – I mean, let me be clear, less air conditioning, set it to a higher temperature if you need the air conditioning. We ask people to avoid anything that uses a lot of electricity, particularly energy-intensive devices like washers and dryers, microwaves. The important thing to realize is that we are at the end of this heat wave, but it really has built up. We are hopeful that the heat will stop tomorrow morning, but we have to get there safely. So we need everyone to turn things down, turn things off immediately, don’t turn on the lights if you don’t need them. Again, this message is for people about their homes and businesses, and it is an urgent message.
When you wake up in the morning, from now on, we would expect things to be much more normal and you to be able to go about your normal activities. But we need people to take action now to protect themselves against any failure. I’m going to speak to Commissioner John Scrivani, our Commissioner for Emergency Management. He’ll give you an update. We already have some very localized outages that he will tell you about. We want to make sure that nothing worse than this happens. So I would like to turn now to the Commissioner for Emergency Management, John Scrivani.
Commissioner John Scrivani, Emergency Management: Thank you sir. So the first major blackout we’re dealing with is in Brooklyn, in the Williamsburg section. There are approximately 1,700 customers without power. Con Edison and the emergency management team are there to help the neighborhood. Con Edison distributes dry ice at the corner of Nassau Avenue and Morgan Avenue, and we also brought in an MTA bus to serve as a mobile cooling center, which is parked in the same location. So if you need the help of Con Ed with dry ice to keep your food cool in the house, or if you just need to get out and sit in a cold place for a few minutes, you can go out and sit on the MTA bus, and thank you to the MTA for this support.
There are other outages located in each borough, but none are as large as the one in Williamsburg. And with the mayor’s message, we hope that with the conservation of energy, we will no longer have major blackouts. I want to echo the messages we’ve been sending out over the past few days, mostly around security. We want you to remember if you have to be outside to hydrate, but please stay inside if you can. Try not to overwork yourself if you are outdoors, especially in the middle of the day. And please check your neighbors. If you have elderly neighbors or people at risk, we want you to be aware of them. Also, don’t forget that the city’s swimming pools are open. The parks with water games are open and the beaches are open. So if you want to cool off, you can go to these places as well. Thank you sir.
Mayor: Thank you, Commissioner. And everyone, just to wrap up – anyone who needs information on these cooling centers or where you can go, you can call 3-1-1, or you can go to nyc.gov/ beattheheat. But the most important message now is that we don’t want things to go from bad to worse. We have seen localized power outages before. We don’t want it to get worse. It is a very big constraint that is imposed on the entire electrical system by this level of heat for so many days. We all need to act now, so I ask every New Yorker to be a part of it. Turn off anything you don’t need right now. Any electricity you can turn off, turn it off. Turn on your air conditioning to a warmer temperature. It might not be as comfortable, but it will help us avoid a power outage. Do not use devices that you do not need. Listen, whatever you can put off until tomorrow – here’s one way to think about it, if you can wait until tomorrow to use some devices, just wait. Be really conscientious, because that’s what we have to do for each other to make sure we don’t have a blackout, especially since we don’t want to see a power outage in the middle of that kind of heat.
So everyone, let’s come together and do it. And this is how we protect each other as we go through this challenge. Some members of the media have questions. I keep the questions for now only on this heat emergency. So, please, if you are a member of the media, feel free to ask questions about this. Moving forward.
Moderator: The first question today goes to Nolan from the Post.
Question: Good afternoon everyone. How are you?
Mayor: We’re trying to beat the heat here, Nolan. How are you?
Question: I’m fine, Mayor. In terms of cooling centers, there were complaints earlier this week that there were not enough cooling centers in Queens. Has the City taken steps to open more cooling centers there?
Mayor: I will start and I will give the floor to the commissioner. Nolan, very important question. We are adding centers literally day after day. We have a number of facilities coming back online from COVID including some of the library branches, some of the senior centers. This is going to be really helpful. Some of them are only open next week. Thus, the numbers will continue to increase from week to week. But we have a substantial number of cooling centers and we have literally added more in the last few days. Commissioner, do you want to take stock?
Commissioner Scrivani: Yes sir. Yes, we have worked closely with community leaders and city agencies to open as many centers as possible. It should also be remembered that we distributed 74,000 air conditioners last year, so the demand for cooling centers is declining. We don’t see that many people coming to them. So we think right now that we have enough capacity if someone needs to go into a cooling center. And again, we are working diligently throughout the season to try to open as many as possible.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Nolan. Do you have a follow-up?
Question: Yeah, I do. You said that – I guess you got a briefing from Con Ed that says the grid is being pushed to its limit. Do you have any idea of the current demand on the grid and how close we are to combing it?
Mayor: I spoke, as I said a few moments ago, to the president of Con Ed New York. I think the situation has hardened during the day. In the first half of the day, Nolan, Con Ed thought the situation was just a localized challenge in a few neighborhoods. Over the past two hours, they came to the conclusion that this was a bigger challenge simply because of the intensity of the heat and, again, the cumulative impact of four consecutive days. , which is not typical. So they certainly still have some redundancy and their gear is holding up well, that’s the baseline report we got from Con Ed. But we need people to act now, we don’t want to push the boundaries of the system. This is where we need to see demand reduction quickly to make sure we are not at risk here.
Moderator: Next is Chloe from WNYC.
Question: Hi. So, I guess the question is about our electrical grid system and whether or not it’s strong enough to support the rest of the summer, especially as more and more people continue to work from home.
Mayor: That’s a very good question, Chloe. And I think we’re seeing challenges across the country like we’ve never seen before in terms of heat. We have a stronger system here in New York and in this part of the country than many others. But what’s different now, compared to your question, is that we’re not used to seeing days in a row of uninterrupted heat and that’s something we need to continue to address. One of the things we can do is, when we see the problem developing, give people the warning to start changing their electricity use. It really has an impact. It’s amazing. We’ve seen this a few times over the past few years, when people hear the message and change their behavior, it avoids the problem – that’s a big part of the problem. But I think your question is: what does the future hold for us and what can we do more structurally? These are issues that we are currently working on and I think what we are going through today is another reminder that we are going to need even more redundancy in the future to be safe.
Go ahead, Chloe.
Question: I have finished, thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Someone else?
Moderator: These are all the questions we are asking ourselves today.
Mayor: Alright everyone, again if you have any questions especially about cooling centers or anything else you can call 3-1-1 or go to nyc.gov/beattheheat. But at the end of the day, let’s all work together right now – right now. Use less electricity, start now. And let’s make sure we get through today. And, again, starting tomorrow morning, you can go back to normal use of electricity. Let’s do this together. Thank you all.