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If you've ever doubted there is a fate worse than hell, I’d invite you visit a subway platform in Union Square during morning rush hour at the height of summer. The heat is so oppressive, you feel like you’re trapped in a sauna with a business-casual dress code. I’ve had mornings when I’ve been about five degrees away from full-on hallucinating and starting up a conversation with one of those new light-up kiosks. “Love the new look,” I’d say, smiling as my shirt completely melted off my body.
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But in this case, I’m not going crazy. When the Regional Plan Association took a thermometer to 16 of the busiest subway stations last summer, it recorded the highest temp in Union Square: a whopping 104 degrees Fahrenheit—20 degrees warmer than the high in Central Park that same day! No New Yorker should be forced to endure this mandatory sweat lodge on a regular basis. Not even the ones that make it to the front of the line at a coffee shop without knowing what they’re going to order.
It turns out that a lot of that sizzling heat is caused, ironically enough, by the exhaust released by the subway cars’ A/C units. The MTA says the system’s tunnels, which were built before A/C existed, are too narrow to fit in extensive station-cooling machinery. But could we at least get a few fans on these hellish platforms? If we can’t get rid of all this hot air, it would help if we could at least move it around a bit. Please, before one of us loses it.