August 15, 2022 by Alyssa

The FDNY says so far this year there have been 126 fires involving lithium-ion batteries in electric bikes and scooters. 

These fires have killed five people, including a 5-year-old girl and 36-year-old woman at the Jackie Robinson Houses in East Harlem on Aug. 3. These tragedies prompted the city’s housing authority to consider banning them altogether. 

Cynthia Tibbs is the tenant association president at the West Side Urban Renewal Houses on West 93rd Street.

“It is extremely dangerous. People have no idea what they are doing and the dangers they are putting their neighbors in, until it happens,” Tibbs said at a press conference about lithium-ion batteries.

She says unsafe charging and storing of electric bikes and scooters with lithium-ion batteries have become increasingly common in public housing. Residents say there should be a logical solution.

“I am not sure what the answer could be. Perhaps we could have some dedicated stations for residents to store these bicycles, but right now it is a serious safety concern, especially in these older buildings,” Victor Gotay, a NYCHA tenant said.

Councilwoman Gale Brewer says an all-out ban is not the answer, since so many residents use electric bikes for work and transportation. Instead, she is proposing legislation to ban second-use or refurbished batteries, which she says have a higher risk of causing a fire. She says the city needs to do more to keep people safe.

“We need to work to get places where they can charge, do they don’t do it in an apartment,“ Brewer said.

A few months ago, Cory Jackson says his lithium-ion battery-powered scooter was stolen. Now he has a different bike, which uses a battery that has to be removed and charged in his apartment. He says bike owners need to be responsible.

“You know what kind of battery you have, you need to unplug it in the middle of the night or whenever, it doesn’t matter what battery you have, you just need to be an adult. It is a responsibility,” Jackson said.

Through the beginning of September, NYCHA is accepting public comments on its proposed policy to ban e-bikes and scooters from the property.

If the new policy is adopted, all electric vehicles and their batteries would need to be removed from NYCHA properties by Oct. 15. There is no word on how that would be enforced.

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