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As New Yorkers were urged to stay cool on a record-breaking day of intense heat and humidity, Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed little sympathy toward public school students taking exams in sweltering classrooms.
"Nobody is asking them to do something in 110-degree heat inside," Bloomberg said during a news conference at a senior center Wednesday afternoon. "I'm sure they're a lot more worried about passing their exams than the temperature."
The mayor made the remarks during a question-and-answer session after a news conference at the Bronx Works Senior Center, one of several designated cooling centers across the city. He was there with other officials to warn the public about the "dangerous" heat conditions and to urge vulnerable demographic groups to take proper precautions.
When a reporter pointed out the seemingly contradictory messages Bloomberg was sending about how the young and the old should be responding to hot conditions indoors, he became irritated.
"I don't know quite how to answer your question," he said. "Life is full of challenges, and we don't have everything we want. We can't afford everything we want. And I suspect if you talk to everyone in this room, not one of them went to a school where they had air conditioning."
When the reporter tried to follow up, Bloomberg interrupted, "Miss, I've answered your question. There's nothing unsafe about it."
He continued, "It may be a tiny bit uncomfortable, and these are young, strong people, and we're not going to ask anyone to stay in a building where we think it becomes dangerous, whether they are taking a test or not."
"Once their safety, their health is OK, yes, they have to take the test," he added. "That's what life is all about. If they can't pass these tests, they're not going to pass life's tests and then they are really going to be in trouble."
New York City's 1.1 million public school students are still in session for another week, and just 64 percent of classrooms are air-conditioned.
The National Weather Service upgraded its heat advisory to a heat warning Wednesday, and record highs were set at Newark and LaGuardia airports. In Central Park, temperatures soared into the 90s by noon.
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