Mayor Michelle Wu was joined by city officials and other leaders at Auntie Kay & Uncle Frank Chin Park in Chinatown on April 22 for an Earth Day press conference. Karen Chen, Executive Director of the Chinese Progressive Association, City Council President Ed Flynn, Chief of Environment, Energy, & Open Space Mariama White-Hammond, and Chirs Cook, Executive Director of the Greenway Conservancy were among those in attendance.
“This is a moment of great urgency for the City of Boston,” Wu said. She said that Boston’s Chinatown is “one of the most historic Chinatowns in the country,” and is “one that is confronted with great challenges” such as rising housing costs and air pollution.
She also spoke about how climate change is affecting Boston. “We know, we feel every summer that our weather patterns are changing.” She said that Suffolk County and Boston have “experienced some of the greatest temperature changes.”
Extreme heat is “the most common cause of weather-related fatalities,” Wu said, and her goal is to put climate justice and public health at the forefront of the city’s response.
Wu announced a “new document and road map,” titled Heat Resilience Solutions for Boston. She said that “this is a plan to prepare Boston for hotter summers and more incidences of intense heat.” The plan “prioritizes five environmental justice communities: Chinatown, Dorchester, East Boston, Mattapan, and Roxbury, all of which are hot spots for extreme heat in Boston,” Wu said.
Additionally, Wu announced the launch of an Extreme Temperatures Response Task Force, which will help to implement the plan “and coordinate across departments and levels of government to address chronic high temperatures.”
The City also has more immediate plans in place to help keep people cool this coming summer. She said that 30 pop-up cooling kits will be distributed to community organizations holding events across the city this summer, and the kits will feature a hose, misters, and tents.
There will also be a new Cool Roof Grant program that will help install cool roofs and provide information to property owners about their benefits on the environment and the health and safety of residents.
A community-wide design challenge for a cool bus stop will also be held this fall, Wu said. “The most effective design will inform new bus shelters along the Silver Line 4 and Silver Line 5 routes. Fighting climate change requires action across all sectors; across all levels of government.”
City Council President Ed Flynn said that “we have the highest asthma rate right here in this neighborhood,” speaking about Chinatown, “and we have very few parks; we have very few green spaces,” as well as a lack of trees.
“We want to make sure that these young kids have the same access to open space, to parks, to playgrounds, to athletic programs as any other kid across the city.”
Chief of Environment, Energy, & Open Space Rev. Mariama White-Hammond said that “extreme heat is only being exacerbated by the growing impacts of climate change…we know that the heat impacts everyone, but it does not impact everyone equally.”
White-Hammond spoke about some of the budget investments that Mayor Wu has announced in her initial budget, including $2.5 million for a new Climate Ready Streets Program, $20 million “for a nation -leading pilot for energy retrofits in triple deckers and other multi-family homes,” and $137 to create new and protect existing parks, tree canopy, and open space across the city.
“Nature is our best tool both for limiting heat and increasing quality of life for all Boston residents,” White-Hammond said. “Boston is ready to take on this climate challenge and to become a Green New Deal City. Today, and every other day, I hope we will lean in to take collective action and to improve the health of our home and our planet.”