He Blinded Hans with Science

Tuesday’s Thrive Worksession

Councilmember Hans Riemer became strangely animated at Tuesday’s Thrive 2050 worksession over urban heat islands. Or rather that they shouldn’t be called “urban” heat islands as the above clip reveals. Once again, Riemer showed his ideological fervor while simultaneously making clear he doesn’t know his brief.

Riemer referred to Tom DiLiberto, the claimed source for his ideas, as the head of climate.gov. Except he’s not.

Then Riemer went on at great length about how heat islands aren’t really “urban” heat islands because tall buildings provide a lot of shade and shield people from the sun. If there is more heat, it shows we need taller buildings.

That’d be news to NY1, which reported earlier this year that New York—the city with by far the greatest concentration of tall buildings in the country—is the country’s third hottest urban heat island with temperatures 8 degrees above the surrounding area.

Riemer lays much of the blame on roads, which along with buildings trap and then radiate heat. But it’s hard to have a city without roads even in a place with as much public transit as NYC. Riemer likes and doesn’t mention sidewalks and bike lanes but they trap and radiate heat too.

After sharing his empirically false views, Riemer then asked to remove “urban” from urban heat islands. This nomenclature fetish is mainly about protecting urbanism, Riemer’s ideological church, from the slightest negative taint. This is the sort of zealotry that can’t acknowledge issues are complicated. That, for example, NYC is hotter and more polluted than most places yet also has far less environmental impact. Instead, density solves all problems.

This waste of time and the rest of the Council’s bored acquiescence with this balderdash perhaps wouldn’t be so bad if the Council were meaningfully engaged with either the issues or the community. After poring over the privileged submissions of two lobbyists, far less attention is being given to the 1500 pages of input from community members with less access.

One issue, for example, that merits more scrutiny is telecommuting. This supposedly forward thinking visionary plan the next 30 years gives no thought to how already skyrocketing telecommuting rates will reshape living, working or transportation patterns. Presumably, it will also influence where people want to live and in what housing types.

The Council instead chooses to focus its limited attention on Riemer’s dotty notion to rename urban heat islands. Meanwhile, Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson and pals continue to hold court and dictate the plan despite the ever growing laundry list of troublesome behavior by this highly paid public official: flouting rules for community consultation, routine violations of the Open Meetings Act, failure to register lobbyists, and an open office bar.

Urban heat islands. It’s exam time for the Council. Time to engage more deeply with the community and the issues. But it feels like they’d rather punt than study. If Thrive is to have any scrap of legitimacy, this needs to change.