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FDNY arrests e-bike shop owner in Brooklyn for unsafe battery practices

April 15, 2024

Brooklyn e-bike shop owner faces criminal charges for unsafe battery storage

In a ground-breaking enforcement action, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) arrested Tian Liang Liu, the owner of the Electric Bicycle Shop in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on charges of reckless endangerment due to improper storage and charging of e-bike batteries.

This marks the first instance where criminal charges have been filed against an e-bike shop owner in the city, escalating the FDNY’s response to the rising threat of e-bike battery fires.

Details of the arrest and charges

At approximately noon on Friday, FDNY fire marshals arrived at the shop located at 1239 Flatbush Ave., where they detained Liu.

The charges stem from multiple fire code violations related to the unsafe handling of lithium-ion batteries.

Previously, the FDNY and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) had limited their actions to civil penalties, which often carried minimal financial consequences.

However, this shift to criminal enforcement underscores a more stringent approach towards repeated violations.

Background and impact of e-bike battery fires in NYC

The enforcement action follows a disturbing rise in incidents linked to e-bike batteries.

Since 2019, over 660 battery fires have occurred throughout New York City, resulting in 28 deaths and injuries to 400 individuals.

The latest fatal incident involved Fazil Khan, a 27-year-old reporter, who died from injuries sustained during a battery fire in Harlem earlier this year.

The FDNY’s intensified crackdown reflects growing concerns over these hazards, particularly as the use of micro-mobility devices has surged since the pandemic.

Recent enforcement efforts and regulatory changes

In response to these safety challenges, the FDNY initiated city-wide inspections of e-bike shops in May 2023, following a lethal fire in Chinatown.

Subsequent visits to the Electric Bicycle Shop in August led to the issuance of three summonses for violations related to battery safety practices.

Despite these warnings, further non-compliance was noted, prompting additional summonses by the DCWP in October and January for selling uncertified batteries, which had been outlawed by the city in September.

FSJA Comment

The FDNY’s decision to employ criminal charges against an e-bike shop owner represents a significant escalation in the city’s efforts to mitigate the risks associated with lithium-ion batteries.

As urban mobility evolves, the need for stringent safety measures becomes increasingly apparent, reflecting a crucial shift towards safeguarding public health and safety in the face of new technological advancements.

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