Mayor Eric Adams, Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, and Small Business Commissioner Kevin Kim announced on Wednesday afternoon a new effort to double down on lithium-ion e-bike battery inspections following the deadly Chinatown fire on Tuesday.
The trio stood outside the charred husk of 80 Madison St., with a pile of scorched e-bikes on one side and batteries bathed in barrels on the other. Adams pulled a battery from the wreckage which killed four and seriously injured two others as Commissioner Kavanagh pointed upward to the broken windows above.
HQ E-Bike Repair had a history of violations for the way they sorted and changed their batteries according to the FDNY and were even found guilty in court but managed to stay in business. In an effort to prevent further tragedy, the mayor announced expedited investigations into e-bike related storefronts.
“Effective immediately, 311 calls regarding questionable activity at bike repair shops or any other locations where batteries are being charged will get a response from the local fire station within 12 hours instead of the 72 hours currently required,” Hizzoner said. “We’re asking the public to play a role, let’s not wait until this jeopardizes your family.”
The mayor warned the public to be on the lookout for groups of batteries being charged together at one time, or tangled heaps of wires, pointing out that extension cables should never be used.
Fire Commissioner Kavanagh also announced that starting in Chinatown and moving across the five boroughs, the FDNY and the city will provide educational outreach to e-bike businesses in order to make certain they are aware of the potential dangers and how best to store and handle the products. However, she also charged that the department will not tolerate those who do not comply.
“A violation will become criminal after 30 days if the hazard is not remedied,” Kavanagh said. “We have come at this from every angle as a city and we must continue to do so.”
When questioned about the fears residents who live above an e-bike business may harbor, the mayor told amNewYork Metro that it is important not to judge every storefront.
However, he also stated that it is important to be aware and to report any suspicious activity immediately.
“See something, say something — within 12 hours we will be there to investigate. And we want to be clear: We are not demonizing every shop that sells batteries. We want those that are creating an unsafe environment. So, because you live on top of a bike shop, does that mean that you’re in a dangerous situation,” the mayor said.