As New York Heats Up, Workers Try To Stay Cool

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New York City is suffering through the first official heat wave of the year. And it's a doozy, with temperatures expected to flirt with 100 degrees by the end of the week. Many on the job at Coney Island are trying to stay cool.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And as we said, the extreme heat is now making its way to the East Coast. New York City is now enjoying its first official heat wave of the year. The mercury could reach 100 degrees by the end of the week there.

We sent NPR's Joel Rose to find out how people who work outside are staying cool on the job or elsewhere.

JOEL ROSE: There's plenty of advice out there about how to survive a New York City heat wave. Here's one memorable suggestion from Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch."

(Soundbite of movie, "The Seven Year Itch")

Ms. MARILYN MONROE (Actress): (as The Girl) Let me just go put something on. I'll go into the kitchen and get dressed.

Mr. TOM EWELL (Actor): (as Richard Sherman) The kitchen?

Ms. MONROE: (as The Girl) Yes. When it's hot like this, you know what I do? I keep my undies in the icebox.

Mr. EWELL: (as Richard Sherman) In the icebox?

ROSE: OK. So maybe refrigerating your underwear won't really keep you cool if you're toiling away in a food truck in midtown Manhattan. For that, Tan Vir recommends lassi.

Mr. TAN VIR: Lassi. That's a special drink, a summer drink of India. It's called lassi. It's yogurt with water and black pepper and basil seeds.

ROSE: And does that work? Does it keep you cool?

Mr. VIR: Oh, yeah, it does. It's working for a billion people in India, so it's going to work for 300 million here, you know?

ROSE: Vir runs an Indian food cart at 39th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. Lassi, notwithstanding, he says heat waves like this one are not good for business.

Mr. VIR: People don't go out, you know, as much as like what they normally go out, you know? People, you know, scared of going out in the heat. So it does affect our business here about 30 percent.

Mr. JOSEPH JACKSON: Good morning, guys. Going up to the Empire? Would you like to go up to the Empire State Building? Anybody going up, sir?

ROSE: A few blocks south, Joseph Jackson stands in the middle of Broadway for hours in the midday sun, hawking tickets to tour the Empire State Building. So, how does he cool off?

Mr. JACKSON: I drink a lot of water. That's the best thing to do. Anything else doesn't help. Gatorade, Pepsi, none of that works. It's water.

ROSE: It was also business as usual at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, where construction of a new basketball arena is under way. Electrician Steve Lewis is rewiring streetlights on Flatbush Avenue near the future arena.

Mr. STEVE LEWIS: Nothing's different. Just do your job and make sure you drink a lot of water to stay cool. This is nothing. Wait until Friday, right?

ROSE: And sometimes, the best way to beat the heat at work is not to work at all. The Skee-Ball machines and roller coasters at Coney Island were full of people playing hooky from something or other. Merlin Fahey took the day off from his job at the City University of New York.

Mr. MERLIN FAHEY: It's like we just come down here to be among families and to watch people and just relax. I mean, my bones relax once we hit the, you know, near the water. It's just wonderful.

ROSE: Brenda Turner took the day off from her job as a caterer to bring her young nieces and nephews to the beach.

Ms. BRENDA TURNER: We came all the way from Queens. How long did it take in the train?

Unidentified Child: Like 45 minutes.

ROSE: Why do you like it here?

Unidentified Child: Because there's all the rides and there's the beach and you get to swim and relax.

ROSE: How about for you? Do you get to relax too?

Ms. TURNER: Yes, I do. As long as these guys are happy, that's relaxing for me.

ROSE: The Turners may want to plan another trip to Coney Island tomorrow. The forecast for the rest of the week calls for temperatures around 100.

Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.

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