Op-Ed | Risky business kills. We can stop it.

Mayor Eric Adams
Mayor Eric Adams.
Caroline Rubinstein-Willis/Mayoral Photography Office

Last week, our city witnessed two tragedies that could have been prevented: A deadly fire at an e-bike shop and a subway surfing attempt that resulted in the death of a 14-year-old boy and serious injury for another young person.

Our hearts go out to the families of those who were lost or injured in these tragedies. This pain is real, because each of us know – that could have been me. That could have been my child. We must turn that pain into purpose and do all we can to keep our city safe – and that means taking action to reduce the risks of these accidents.

Last week, we announced a massive new education and enforcement campaign that will reach out to E-bike shops and riders all over the city. While most of the micro-mobility devices in our city are safe, there are some that do not meet safety standards and contain uncertified lithium-ion batteries. These faulty devices are causing fires and explosions, putting New Yorkers and our first responders in danger.

We need New Yorkers to be aware of how to safely charge the lithium-ion batteries that power these vehicles, and what to do if they observe unsafe conditions in their building or on their block.

First and foremost, purchase only legal, nationally recognized safety certified e-bikes and e-scooters. Never use refurbished batteries. Use only the charger and battery made specifically for your device.  Keep batteries away from heat sources like radiators and exit paths and doorways. If a battery is damaged, stop using it. Do not store batteries near the exit of a room or apartment. And never, never leave batteries unattended when charging, especially overnight.

And if you observe unsafe or dangerous conditions at an E-bike shop,  your building, or elsewhere in the community, call 311 and report it.

The FDNY is ramping up response time and increasing enforcement. Effective immediately, all 311 calls regarding questionable activity at bike repair shops or any other location where batteries are being charged will get a response from the local fire company within 12 hours, instead of the 72 hours currently required.

Examples of questionable activity include: Large numbers of batteries being charged close together, mazes of extension cords, the sale of batteries that appear to be refurbished, and informal charging centers that do not appear to be properly licensed businesses –  including garages or the basement of a restaurant.

Lithium-ion battery fires can start quickly and spread instantly. The FDNY needs every New Yorker to be on the lookout for dangerous conditions and to report them.

The same principle applies to the deadly fad of subway surfing. This is not a game or a sport – subway surfing kills. From 2021 to 2022, there was a 366% increase in people riding outside the subway, and we must push back in every way possible, especially when it comes to social media.

Our young people are spending far too many hours each day on social media and other related platforms, and they are being exposed to dangerous content that encourages illegal activity, crime, and risky behavior. This kind of content includes viral videos that make young people try dangerous things like subway surfing and stealing cars – the consequences of which can be deadly and life-altering. 

The NYPD is doing all it can to reverse this dangerous trend. Our precinct Youth Coordination Officers and Neighborhood Coordination officers have focused on visiting the homes of young people who have been known to engage in subway surfing. As of last month, they carried out 69 such visits, speaking with the kids or their parents and guardians in 44 of those instances. Their message is clear: To reinforce the fact that such reckless behavior can have devastating consequences – and inspire copycat behavior that puts other young people at risk.

We are also warning of the dangers of subway surfing through public service announcements. Last month I joined Norma Nazario, a mother who lost her young son Zackery in a subway surfing incident, to record a PSA on this dangerous trend.  Zackery was already a talented athlete and music fan, and he was looking to join the Marines. But as a result of a viral social media trend, he lost his life riding on top of a subway. We want to keep other young New Yorkers from taking these risks.

The consequences of social media and other addictive online content are tragic and real, and those who host and financially profit from that content must be held responsible. I am calling on TikTok and other platforms to ban these videos immediately, and I urge parents to discuss the dangers of subway surfing with their children, even if you think they would never engage in such behavior. 

Living in a city means looking out for each other and our children and taking steps to keep each other safe. Public safety involves every one of us.  The FDNY and the NYPD are doing everything we can to reverse these dangerous trends, and I urge all New Yorkers to do their part to reduce risky behavior that too often leads to tragedy.