Residents Beat the Heat at Local Cooling Centers

Betty Dicks, 63, and her great niece, Kimera Johnson, 13, visited the Grace Agard Harewood Senior Center to cool off on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Amanda Woods)
Betty Dicks, 63, and her great niece, Kimera Johnson, 13, visited the Grace Agard Harewood Senior Center to cool off on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Amanda Woods)

With temperatures in the 90s on Monday and Tuesday, locals flocked to neighborhood cooling centers for socialization and a brief respite from the heat.

The Grace Agard Harewood Senior Center at 966 Fulton Street, between Grand Avenue and Cambridge Place, is one of the locations where residents played cards and checkers, shot pool and chatted while enjoying the air conditioning.

“When it’s 90 degrees or over I make it my business to come here,” Grace Shannon, 68, said. Shannon suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, two conditions exacerbated by excessive heat. “I don’t have air conditioning, only fans.”

The New York City Office of Emergency Management opens cooling centers during heat advisories, when the heat is predicted to reach 95 to 99 degrees for two consecutive days, or over 100 degrees for any length of time. In addition to a heat advisory, there was also a poor air quality alert in effect for both Monday and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Just days into summer, this was the city’s first heat advisory of the year.

“I don’t remember it being this early, the heat advisory,” said N.A.B. Mwata Nubian, the operations manager at Fort Greene Council, Inc., which sponsors the senior center. “It’s usually in July.”

Nubian said that approximately 100 people – around 90 percent senior citizens – came to cool off at the center on Monday. About 80 percent of the visitors stayed until the center closed at 5 p.m.

Besides seniors, children from local summer camp and day care programs also weathered last summer’s heat spells at the center, Nubian said. Many seniors come year-round to spend time with their friends, but in the summer heat, the air conditioning is an added plus.

“My main thing is to socialize,” said Betty Dicks, 63. “But on hot days, people come to get cool.”

The Grace Agard Harewood Senior Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. You can call the center at (718) 638-6910.

There are two other cooling centers in the nabe:

-The Walt Whitman Library on 93 Saint Edwards Street near Myrtle Avenue is open Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday from 1 to 8 p.m., and Thursday from 1 to 6 p.m. You can call the library at  (718) 935-0244.

-The Willoughby Neighborhood Senior Center on 105 North Portland Avenue, between Myrtle and Park Avenues, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. t0 4  p.m. You can call the center at (718) 875-1011.

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