NYC’s Air is Hard to Breathe

Gen Z from across the Northeast speak to the air quality in their area after the wildfires in Canada. And NYC Public Schools switched to remote learning as a result of the hazardous conditions.

NYC’s Air is Hard to Breathe (Courtesy of Rebecca Merber)

We all have to do it, but taking a breath in New York City has been dangerous. The air quality was reported at 405 out of 500 on the air quality index (AQI) scale Wednesday afternoon. 

The air quality index scale ranges from good to hazardous.

(Air quality reported at 3:53 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, on Ilana Drake’s iPhone)

The air quality in NYC has been polluted due to smoke shifting into the area originating from over a hundred wildfires in Quebec, Canada, according to CNN.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams shared that residents should not be outside on Wednesday. According to FOX News, Adams said, “For people who must be outdoors, a high-quality mask like an N95, a KN 95 or a CF 94 is recommended.” Also on Wednesday, NYC Schools, the largest school system in the United States, called off all outdoor activities. 

On Friday, New York City Public Schools switched to remote learning.

After being back in school in person for the last two years, Ari Drake, my younger brother, a senior at Columbia Secondary School in Harlem, New York, is now attending school remotely. 

“I had a Chancellor’s Day, so I was off on Thursday. However, my school was moved to remote for tomorrow (Friday) which was a little surprising because the air quality seems to have improved,” said Ari Drake. 

Rachel Dashow, a junior at Binghamton University, from Rye Brook, New York, has never experienced this air quality and is worried. While her school year ended in May, she is now back home. 

“I woke up yesterday with a stuffy nose and a cough. I thought it was odd until I looked through my window,” Dashow said. While she noticed the air quality outside being better Thursday than it was the day before, she stressed how she worries about the future. She wonders if this may lead policymakers to take action on climate change. 

Sheyla Javier, a junior at Hunter College, from Long Island City, Queens, has asthma. Her health could be severely harmed if she goes outside because asthma attacks are very unpredictable. She now wears a mask when she exits her apartment.

“Even from just looking out my window, the sky looked foggy, dark, and orange. Looks like we’re in some sort of apocalypse,” Javier said, 

Lilly Weisz, a senior at Staples High School from Westport, Connecticut, is participating in an internship during the last couple of weeks of school. She is working in a congressional office which allowed employees to remain at home if they felt uncomfortable. Yet, certain school events such as a large orchestra band choir concert her friend was preparing for months was rescheduled indoors. 

While there is uncertainty of school activities taking place, the air quality outside her home has also caused numerous health concerns. Weisz lives with an 87-year-old close family friend who has heart issues. The woman has a pacemaker and there is a concern about health as her heart is not functioning properly. She and her friends have joked and one of the jokes is “We really need Mr.O’Hare to sell us some clean air right now.” 

Rebecca Merber, a rising sophomore at Skidmore from New York, NY, was visiting her grandparents in Bedford Park, New York for her grandmother’s birthday. This was her first time wearing a mask since being in a medical space four weeks ago. She wore a mask on the subway to her grandparents’ apartment and was concerned about their health. She had a cough on Wednesday afternoon, and she and her family stayed inside. Her grandfather has Type 1 diabetes and her grandmother has Type 2 diabetes and heart problems. 

Charles Dicus, a rising senior at the University of Buffalo from Brooklyn, NY, shared his experience of noticing the smoke. He smelled it on the way back from the gym on Tuesday, and he did not initially know what it was. 

Dicus said, “After I knew what was going on, I started watching the air quality index and saw it go up for a few days before it eventually went down to a more tolerable level.” He elected to work from home Wednesday and kept an eye on the AQI. On Thursday, he went back to work which was outdoors that day. However, on Friday, he was home again.

Ilana Drake is a journalist from New York City and attends school in Nashville. Follow her on Twitter: @IlanaDrake_

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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