The Refreshing Waters is a temporary outdoor cooling station in the Hunts Point-Longwood neighborhood of the South Bronx in New York City. Designed as a part of a multi-year placemaking collaboration between the NYC Department of Health and Interboro, the project centers public health, equity, and open space. Due to a history of environmental injustice, South Bronx neighborhoods experience some of the highest levels of heat vulnerability in NYC. In heat-burdened neighborhoods, cooling centers—accessible, indoor, air-conditioned spaces—are a critical resource for public wellbeing. During the 2020 COVID lockdowns, however, many of these locations were closed, leaving vulnerable residents without air-conditioned spaces. In response to this growing public health crisis, we developed The Refreshing Waters as a prototype for a low-tech, innovative, outdoor alternative to indoor cooling centers. Situated in the plaza adjacent to the Hunts Point Library—a priority site identified through robust community engagement and careful observation—the project transforms the plaza into a comfortable, safe social space, with a 100-foot, brightly painted bench and moveable seating, six large outdoor fans, and a low-pressure misting line under the shade of the existing trees. With these light, yet powerful touches, The Refreshing Waters exemplifies design excellence at the smallest of scales. 


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