Mapping Vulnerable Heat and Health Populations

Bronx, New York

Featured image for the project, Mapping Vulnerable Heat and Health Populations


Hunts Point Community in the Bronx, NY is concerned about vulnerable and at-risk populations to heat-related health issues and identifying additional sources of heat that can be mitigated due to a lack of public green space and large health concerns due to elevated cases of asthma and cardiovascular illness. The projections show a significant increase in the number of dangerously hot days and longer and more frequent heatwaves in the coming decades – underscoring the need to address heat and potential impacts to public health. Extreme heat events disproportionately affect vulnerable populations i.e. low-income households, children and the elderly. Hunts Point would like to identify heat islands throughout the community and address priority areas for improvements to the built environment (i.e. tree plantings and cooling stations for).

This project will create heat vulnerability maps that identify hotspots and potential sources within the Hunts Point community. The analysis would integrate land use/land cover, air temperature, land surface temperature, and demographic data into an extreme heat vulnerability map. These maps would be hosted in an online dashboard on THE POINT’s website and shared with the community through various activities (forums, workshops, print maps, art installations, etc.). This project would also have a core community engagement strategy that involves local youth along with a citizen science component to increase community preparedness and climate-health education as well as social cohesion.

The heat vulnerability maps will be used to improve public awareness of extreme heat risks to minimize heat stroke and heat-related deaths, improve resiliency within the community to respond to extreme heat, identify target areas for mitigation activities, and drive potential policy changes in the future.

About the Community

Hunts Point is an environmental justice community in the South Bronx and forms part of the South Bronx Significant Maritime Industrial Area (SMIA). Hunts Point is 695 acres on a peninsula bordered by the Bronx River and East River and is zoned for industrial and residential purposes. A large defining characteristic is the billion-dollar industry Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, which fills about 1/3 of Hunts Point area and most of the coastline in a community with food security and inequitable waste handling issues. It has a population of 54,000 people (76% Hispanic, 22% Black) with 36% having limited English proficiency and 43% living below the poverty line. Some of the community’s concerns are low quality & availability of housing, limited transportation, poor air quality, high unemployment, and education access.


Fernando Ortiz is the Climate Preparedness and Resiliency Organizer at The Point Community Development Corporation (, a non-profit organization dedicated to youth development and the cultural and economic revitalization of the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. His work involves managing the Be A Buddy program, which is a pilot project in partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR) around building social resilience and climate health education, particularly for those most vulnerable to extreme weather events. Ortiz currently holds a Masters in Sustainable Design and is completely a Masters in Sustainability Management at Columbia University.

Project Team

Brian Vant-Hull has a MA in Physics from Johns Hopkins and a PhD in Atmospheric Science from the University of MD, specializing in remote sensing.  He has been a research scientist at City College’s CREST institute since 2007.  His recent research has involved mapping the daytime urban heat island of Manhattan as part of the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast, and the relationship between indoor and outdoor heat waves as part of the Harlem Heat Project.  He is currently involved in a project to investigate indoor air quality in Harlem’s Grant Houses.  The Hunt’s Point Heat Monitoring project fits naturally into this body of work.

Scientist Wanted

Fernando is searching for a scientific partner to collaborate on the development and maintenance of vulnerability maps with assistance for cultivating a community engagement strategy. The scientist may be asked to produce:

  • Vulnerability maps showing heat hotspots and vulnerable populations for use in a data portal and print materials with various layers
  • Replicable methodology for data collection and quality checks
  • Community engagement strategy framework
  • Materials and presentations for community understanding of the issue and project

The community is open to the scientific partner(s) bringing in students to support this work.


Thriving Earth Exchange asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact that they can contribute to as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators.  This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.


Desired Skills and Expertise

  • the scientist should be able to visit or work within the community
  • Knowledge of climate science
  • Strong science communication skills
  • Experience in Urban heat monitoring, public health, GIS,
  • Strong listening and collaboration skills
  • Appreciation for the interplay between equity, resilience and climate adaptation
  • Experience and/or desire to participate in community education, outreach and engagement
  • Willingness to connect science to local concerns and acknowledge opinions of diverse audiences
  • Attention to detail and strong project management skills
  • Competent and open to new ideas
  • Relaxed, easy going personality with a good sense of humor



The collaboration between the community and a scientist should begin around May of 2019. The duration or the project will be approximately 18 months with intermittent training and support milestones.

Collaborating Organization(s)

ISeeChange is dedicated to empowering communities to document and understand their environment, weather and climate in order to increase resilience. ISeeChange mobilizes communities to share stories and micro-data about climate impacts to inform and improve climate adaptation and infrastructure design. Their platform, tools, and investigations provide equitable, iterative ways for residents to personalize, measure, and track climate change impacts and better participate in community adaptation decisions.

Each post is synced with weather and climate data and broadcast to the community to investigate bigger picture climate trends. Over time, community members can track how climate is changing, season to season, year to year, and understand the impacts on daily life.

ISeeChange is a strategic partner of Thriving Earth Exchange as community members use their platform and tools to better characterize, visualize, and communicate neighborhood-level climate trends and co-develop solutions to mitigate those risks.