New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Co-op and Condo Boards Urged to Act to Prevent E-Bike Fires

Midtown East, Manhattan

E-bike fires, lithium-ion batteries, Rivercourt tower, co-op and condo boards.

This dramatic rescue was part of the FDNY's response to the Rivercourt tower fire.

Nov. 14, 2022

In the wake of the latest fire caused by the improper charging of lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes, the New York City Council is holding a hearing on Nov. 14 on five different bills that seek to address different aspects of this deadly problem.

"People are starting to freak out," says Steven Sladkus, a founding partner at the law firm Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, who witnessed the "heartbreaking" Nov. 5 fire at Rivercourt, a 37-story rental tower at 429 E. 52nd St. That fire, caused by the charging of e-bikes and other micro-mobility devices, injured 38 people and required the dramatic rescue of a woman by firefighters using ropes.

"Ideally," Sladkus continues, "boards should amend the condominium bylaws or the co-op proprietary lease, but that takes time. So for now we're proposing that they amend the house rules." In a client advisory, the firm adds: "Many of our cooperative and condominium board clients have been contacting our office over the last few weeks inquiring about banning e-bikes, scooters, hoverboards and the like." 

The Rivercourt blaze was “close to our 200th fire this year where the cause of the fire is a lithium-ion battery from a micro-mobility device,” Dan Flynn, the chief fire marshal, tells CNN. “We’re seeing an exponential increase (in these types of fires) … over the last few years. These fires, they come without warning and when they do go on fire, they’re so intense that any combustibles in the area will catch fire. We’ve had six fatalities this year just from these batteries that power micro-mobility devices.”

Since many users of such devices are in the high-speed food delivery service, one of the bills before the city council would require the city's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, in consultation with the FDNY, to provide food delivery workers with information on LI battery safety measures, in the top 10 languages spoken in the City. Other bills would ban the sale of reconditioned used lithium-ion batteries, or ban the sale of all such batteries unless they have been listed and labelled by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

Glenwood Management, which handles luxury rentals, has stated publicly that it is amending its leases to prohibit keeping or charging e-bikes in its buildings.

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