E-Bikes do not B-Long

Written By: Scott M. Smiler

Scott Smiler in front of an ebike

Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in fires caused by lithium-ion batteries.

On November 5, 2022, a fire broke-out in a high-rise apartment building in the Turtle Bay neighborhood located at 429 East 52nd Street.  According to the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), the fire which was caused by a lithium-ion battery, left 11 firefighters among the 43 people injured, including two individuals who were in critical condition.

To date, the FDNY has encountered nearly 200 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, and six people have perished.

FDNY officials have warned that while traditional fires are slow to develop, lithium-ion battery fires start without warning and tend to be fully developed by the time fire personnel arrive on scene.  They are so intense that any combustibles in the area will ignite leading to secondary fires.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) was set to completely ban e-bikes from all NYCHA property.  However, NYCHA recently reversed course after pressure from advocacy groups representing delivery workers who rely on e-bikes for their livelihood.  NYCHA is still exploring options as to how best to protect its residents and property, while taking into consideration that those relying on e-bikes to perform their occupation, often depend on it to secure their sole source of income.

Despite’s NYCHA’s delay in implementing a permanent ban, I am fielding numerous calls from board members inquiring whether they should completely ban e-bikes and e-scooters from their buildings.  A few have already taken such measures.

However, whether a ban is imminent or under further discussion, all Boards should inform their residents of proper safety precautions.  Please find a link from the FDNY regarding proper usage of lithium-ion batteries: https://www.fdnysmart.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/FDNY-Lithium-Ion-batteries-060321-05.pdf

The FDNY advises the following:

  • When purchasing devices, be sure that the equipment has the Underwriters Laboratories mark. The UL mark shows that the product has been safety tested.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage.
  • Do not charge a device under your pillow, or on your bed, couch or similar piece of furniture.
  • Always use the manufacturer’s cord and power adapter made specifically for the device.
  • Keep batteries/devices at room temperature. Do not place in direct sunlight.
  • Store batteries away from anything flammable.
  • If a battery overheats or you notice an odor, change in shape/color, leaking, or odd noises from a device, discontinue use immediately.  If safe to do so, move the device away from anything that can catch fire and call 9-1-1.

When it comes to disposing of batteries, the FDNY wants you to note:

Putting lithium-ion batteries in the trash or recycling at home is illegal.

Please feel free to call me at 212-935-3131 or email me at sms@gdblaw.com if you have questions on how best to inform your residents of the safety hazards inherent in lithium-ion batteries and whether a permanent ban or a restrictive policy is best suited for your building.

about the authors

Scott M. Smiler


For the past two decades, Scott's practice has focused primarily on transactional real estate matters — Cooperative and Condominium Board Representation; Buying and Selling of Properties; Commercial Leasing and Neighbor Access Agreements.

View Profile