Passengers waiting on subway platforms seem more eager than usual for a train, any train to arrive. They pull out handkerchiefs and mop. The whoosh of a passing express train or the waft of air conditioning as doors open is a welcome hiatus from the stifling, stagnant underground air.
Welcome to the Baked Apple, which, much like the rest of the East Coast, is sweltering under 90-degree temperatures and Houston-like humidity - even before summer has officially started. The heat, which has climbed 20 degrees in two weeks, has sent New Yorkers to the parks, the Hamptons on eastern Long Island, and the air conditioner man.
One of the most obvious ways they are coping: They have shifted to summer clothing even earlier than normal. Even the hordes of tourists are dressed for the heat.
Anna Arvander, in a tank top and jean skirt, and her fiancé, Morgan Anderson, wearing a white T-shirt and khaki shorts, arrived in New York this weekend from Sweden. They heard about the early heat wave, they say, but it's been hotter than they expected. "We brought a lot of different clothes," Ms. Arvander says, "but I've been wearing mostly tank tops."
Yet another way to beat the heat: Look for someplace with a natural fan. Kristen Klabin, perched on a breezy spot on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, says her way to stay cool is to flee to eastern Long Island over the weekends. "It definitely feels warmer here," she says.
A beach getaway is not an option for everyone, however, and many residents use the shade to keep cool, or they fork over big sums of money to air-condition their homes. For some New Yorkers, their closet-sized apartments suddenly become more appreciated. At least that's the case for Betty Chester, a mother of two who says that one advantage of living in the city during the intense heat is the affordability of cooling her apartment.
"It's not a big huge house to air-condition, so it's $100 a month as opposed to $400," she says.
But to many of the city's youths, the heat is just not enough to keep them indoors or in the shade. George Abood, a local high-schooler, only complains about playing sports on pavement. "What does bother me is courts with blacktops," he says, pointing to the courts at the north of the Great Lawn. "The heat rises, and they get really hot. It definitely gets you down."
His solution? He and his friends play football on the grass in the middle of the lawn, drinking water and shedding shirts to survive the midday heat.
Some New Yorkers actually relish the opportunity to spend time in the sun. John Young, a bartender, tanning in Riverside Park, says that as long as he can stay off the crowded streets, he likes to take advantage of summer in the city.
"I was just inside in the air conditioning, and I decided to come out to get some sun," he says. "This is to get tan. I'm an actor, so I have to keep up a little color."
Some store owners, after a long, wet, and cold winter, are happy to see the warmer weather. Isaac Dlugacz, an employee of Smoochies Lite & Creamy, says that summer business is already booming. "Hot days you don't go more than two seconds without a customer, and sometimes there's a line out the door," he says.
Of course, the self-served free samples don't hurt. "We can eat whatever we want," he says, pointing to a cup of frozen yogurt behind the counter. "Is my boss going to see this?"