black woman in mask in nyc
Photo by Lev Radin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New Yorkers Prepare for a Weekend of Celebrations Amongst the Smog

How will the terrible air quality in New York affect a weekend packed with international culture and major music festivals?

If you live in New York City, this weekend is packed with international culture, music festivals and… toxic smog. Since Tuesday, an unhealthy haze and smell has trapped the tri-state area. Wildfires from Canada — mostly from the Quebec and Ottawa area — have sent the air quality in New York City as high as 400 on the Air Quality Index values (which is deemed hazardous). As of Friday, the air quality has approved — it’s now mostly good — but the wildfires in Canada are still raging so this issue can pop up again. Hospitals in New York have already began preparing themselves for the spike in respiratory issues in incoming patients and Mayor Adams has been urging New Yorkers, especially those who suffer from asthma and other heart and lung conditions, to stay indoors until the air clears.

So what does that mean for a the average New Yorker who wants to get out this weekend? With the Puerto Rican Day Parade, Brooklyn Pride, and Governors Ball happening this weekend — amongst hundreds of other events — many are worried about the lasting effect the poor air quality will have on children and those immunocompromised.

Earlier this week, Gov Ball released a statement stating that they were in close contact with city officials about the weather conditions but that they were still planning to go on with the festival. By Friday, with skies clearing from the toxic orange haze clouding over the city, Gov Ball opened its gates at 11:45am as planned.

This isn’t the first time Gov Ball and New York has been met with severe conditions. In 2019, riots broke out after the festival was evacuated due to storms. In 2016, the event was canceled citing “severe weather conditions,” and, in a form of history repeating itself, many are comparing the Canada wildfire smog to what was known as the “Killer Smog” of 1966 in New York City. (The second biggest event happening in town, the iconic Puerto Rican Day Parade, was also met with optimism by their organizers; the outdoor event, which will take place on Sunday, is still expected to pull an estimated 25,000 people.)

With a previous history of deadly smog affecting New Yorkers, experts have linked the exposure to particles from wildfire smoke to a number of health issues — short term and long term. And as city officials have warned throughout the week, these health issues could affect children, older adults and those with underlying conditions. These long-term health concerns of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide can settle in a person’s lungs causing an inflammatory response. This is especially true in lower income areas with higher rates of asthma and lung disease due to poor air quality.

As New Yorkers prepare to celebrate music and culture this weekend, many are advising those outside to wear masks (though not required by state law) and preferably KN95 to help prevent a rise in chronic respiratory diseases.

However, in usual New York fashion, not even dust particles from Canada’s wildfires can stop the party.