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Transcript: Mayor Adams, Majority Leader Schumer and Senator Gillibrand Make E-Bike Safety-Related Announcement

June 25, 2023

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: Okay. All right. First, I want to wish everybody happy Pride. We have a great parade today. And I not only ... here I am, baby. Happy pride. There you go. Happy pride. All right. And my daughter and daughter-in-law usually march with me in the Gay Pride Parade, but they had a three-month-old baby. They have a three-month-old baby, so they got to wait.

Okay. I'm proud to be joined here by my colleagues, Senator Gillibrand, my great friend and partner in the Senate. Mayor Adams, always caring about what people care about, and this is one of those issues. We have our first deputy fire commissioner, Joe Pfeiffer, and Chief Joseph Ferrante. We have a lot of people from NYCHA. NYCHA people, say hello. Thank you.

We have Ligia, the great Guallpa, the great executive director of the Workers' Justice Project. Where is she? Yeah, I didn't see you. Hi, Ligia. Good to see you.

Ligia Guallpa: Likewise. Thank you very much.

Senator Schumer: And William Medina from Los Deliveristas, yo soy deliverista ... and Deputy Mayor Joshi. Okay. So ... and we thank a lot of the Baruch tenants who are now actually working the parade right now who couldn't be here and wanted to be here. But why are we here at Baruch? We're here because we're on the heels of having stood with families whose lives were forever changed because of recent lithium-ion fires. Just last night on 161st Street, an e-bike explosion prompted an apartment fire. Because of calls like this, last month, Senator Gillibrand and I ... many of you were here. Senator Gillibrand ... we weren't here. We were uptown. But because of calls like this, Senator Gillibrand and I announced a push to pass a bipartisan bill called Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries. Over the past few years, there've been too many fires across New York City, Long Island and beyond, caused by lithium ion batteries used in e-bikes and in e-scooters.

These batteries are poorly made, often in China, and they explode and cause fires. They are dangerous. And because there's no federal consumer safety standard, no federal regulation for such batteries, it's allowed cheap, faulty, China-made batteries to come into our country, and they're the ones that have caused most of these fires.

Listen to this. Last year, there were 216 of these battery fires. That's an increase. There were only 44 in 2020, because these Chinese companies that want to skirt the law have learned that there's no stopping them from coming in until Senator Gillibrand's legislation and my legislation passes.

This year alone, there have been 30 of these battery fires in New York City, and we're not half finished with the year yet. There have been 30 battery fires in New York City, 40 people injured, two unfortunately dead. But today, there's new hope, hope that we can work to prevent these fires that start from shoddy China-made lithium-ion batteries and chargers. So I am announcing right now that we have procured a grant that NYCHA will get $25 million in emergency money to prevent this. This is a picture of one of the batteries that set on fire and hurt people, okay? This is what we are trying to prevent, okay?

This is what happens when you plug in your e-scooter, say, to a charger, and the cheap Chinese-made lithium-ion battery short circuits or explodes. That's what happens. That is what happens, unfortunately. The result can be deadly, and unfortunately has been. This is serious. It's also serious for the FDNY because it's their firefighters who have to fight these fires. And these lithium-ion batteries have caused more than 400 fires in the last few years, 300 injuries, 12 deaths, damage to 320 structures. The fires impact our hardworking deliveristas because as you know, they need these batteries to do their deliveries. And they work so hard in such tough conditions, the deliveristas don't need this extra danger. So we're at a time when technology is outpacing federal safety action in many ways. Technology gets way ahead and the federal government struggles to catch up. It's our job to get them to catch up, and we're pushing everybody to do it. Okay?

And there's no better example than in this dilemma, than these batteries, which are new, worse, et cetera. So today we're here to deliver an infusion of $25 million to NYCHA for the installation of safe charging batteries that will save lives and make these devices much safer. I have called both the White House and the relevant cabinet officials and said, "We need this grant." And being the majority leader ain't too shabby. We got the grant because it's so, so important. It comes from the federal DOT and I want to thank Secretary Buttigieg, who I've talked to several times about this for the grant program. It's called a RAISE Grant, Rebuilding America Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity.

The funding here will be used to install 173 electric mobility charging and storage stations at 53 NYCHA developments across the five boroughs. We have the list of which of the developments are getting them. As you can see, there are a large number in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and even on Staten Island. Okay?

The fed-funded NYCHA project is going to reduce and even eliminate potential fire hazards linked to the batteries. As of April 23, there were 63 fires caused by batteries in just this year and five deaths. It's getting worse, not better. The increased availability of these batteries I'm announcing today will reduce or eliminate potential fire hazards linked to them. The $25 million for DOT is a godsend, a lifesaver, and it's going to provide safe storage and accessible charging infrastructure to help alleviate the safety concerns. We deliver this safety to our NYCHA residents, our deliveristas, and e-bike and scooter users. It is now my honor and pleasure to turn it over to a great partner, a great friend, and a great worker for New York, my colleague in the Senate, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: Thank you so much, Leader Schumer, for your great leadership and vision and your constant care for this great city and our great state. I want to recognize our mayor for really, really focusing on public safety and making sure that our workers can do their jobs every day safely and to all the advocates and families standing with us today. Just a few days ago, four people were killed in a fire at 80 Madison Street. It was caused by a lithium-ion battery that caught fire at an e-bike service store near Chinatown. Unfortunately, it's a story we've heard far too many times. Lithium-ion batteries have become an essential part of daily life. They power everything from laptops, cell phones, vehicles like electric cars, e-bikes, and scooters. They're easy to dispose of and can store more energy than alkaline batteries. They also play an important role in addressing the climate crisis and reducing our nation's dependence on fossil fuel.

Over the last few years, we've seen the popularity of lithium-ion battery powered e-bikes and scooters continue to soar because people use them to take their kids to school, commute to work to our cities. Many of our delivery workers rely on them to carry food and other goods. So let me be clear. Most lithium-ion batteries and chargers are safe, and we need to encourage the use of more sustainable transportation alternatives moving forward. But we also need to make sure that these micromobility vehicles are stored and charged safely so that faulty or improperly manufactured batteries don't put people in harm's way. Just this year, lithium-ion batteries caused 108 fires across New York City that have killed 13 people. Frankly, it's unacceptable. Consumers and hardworking Americans should have the ability to store and charge these vehicles safely without worrying that they could catch fire.

So when NYCHA applied for funding to help install micromobility charging and storage stations across New York City, Senator Schumer and I got to work and I was happy to support this effort. The $25 million that we secured for NYCHA's Micromobility Action Plan will go a long way to promote safe and reliable micromobility vehicle storage. It will enable the city to install 173 charging and storage stations at 53 outdoor NYCHA sites, which will help prevent these catastrophic fires from starting, and it will help encourage the use of more sustainable transportation alternatives among residents in NYCHA developments.

In addition to this funding, Senator Schumer and I have been working on legislation to create mandatory safety standards for lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes and scooters. If passed, it would take improperly manufactured batteries off the market. It would add another layer of protection for those who purchase e-bikes and scooters. So I want to thank everyone for their attention to this issue by making sure the users of micromobility vehicles can store and charge safely, we can save lives, protect properties from fire, and we can continue to build a safer and more sustainable future for each other and our planet.

Senator Schumer: Thank you, Senator Gillibrand. I just do want to underscore a point she made. Not all of these batteries are dangerous, but unfortunately it's the Chinese made cheaper ones that are, and lots of people who can't afford a lot go for the cheaper one, not knowing that they're not safe.


We'll put it right over the mic. There we go. This is what it looks like. They're heavy, they're important, and there's a huge difference between the well-made ones and the cheaper ones. That's the bottom line. But our deliveristas and many others need them for their bikes.

Okay. Our mayor is really concerned with just about every aspect of New Yorker's lives in so many different ways. You see him fighting for so many good things. We work very closely with him in Washington to get as much out of Washington for New York as we can. So this is another example of the Mayor's involvement in the day-to-day lives that people have, trying to make people safer. Mayor Eric Adams from Brooklyn, New York.

Mayor Eric Adams: You're a Brooklyn guy too, Senator. Really, I cannot thank the senators, Leader Schumer and Senator Gillibrand for just their quick response on these issues that are vital to us, and this is a real issue when you lose New Yorkers to a fire of that magnitude. I was at the building the other day and just watching the charred downstairs where the bike shop was located. As I learned from the commissioner, it was not so much the flames, but the dark black smoke that these batteries create. I just want to take my hat off to the senators for bringing this immediate relief in a smart way because the introduction of lithium batteries and our push for using e-mobility has created this real market. For the most part, the market is successful, but in the areas where you have the illegal cheaply made or refurbished batteries, it creates this dangerous condition.

So this $25 million from the RAISE grant for a safe e-bike charging in NYCHA is so significant and important. Just this week when we lost four New Yorkers that lost their lives due to these batteries, it really sent a strong call across the entire country because this problem's going to continue. 

As we rely more and more on micromobility vehicles to earn a living in our daily lives, we increase the risk of fires caused by lithium-ion batteries. And as mentioned, we had over 100 deaths in this city alone on these batteries. And one of the problems that we've noticed, when you look at those taped up batteries, you see that they are refurbished. These shops are going inside attempting to refurbish the batteries and do it their own way. This is a safety issue.

A few months ago, we began a pilot with ConEd, which will allow us to accelerate developing and installing a micromobility charger station. The RAISE grant will help us significantly expand that initiative. It will allow us to install outdoor electric micromobility charging and storing stations at 157 NYCHA developments. Senator Schumer was able to show us the charging and storing station reduced the chances of e-bike related fires. The danger is that oftentimes people leave the bikes in the hallways near the exits, by the doorways. That is really blocking the egress and it also creates a very dangerous situation. We expect a total of 327 stations to be installed throughout NYCHA developments with more stations installed at larger developments. An average of 67 residents will be served by each station. This means that residents will no longer need to charge their e-bikes in their apartments, what we find to be extremely dangerous, particularly when you charge them overnight and when you leave the charging plugged up and overcharged.

The charging and storage station made possible by the RAISE grant are crucial to keeping New York safe and protected. The grant is part of a suite of efforts our administration has taken to reduce the chances of lithium-ion battery fires. 311 calls regarding questionable activity at bike repair shops, as we mentioned last week, will be responded to in 12 hours.

We want to really thank the FDNY Commissioner Kavanagh for really expediting this. Historically, it was 72 hours. That is going to change to 12 hours. Small Business Services will partner with the FDNY to reach bike and repair shops across the five boroughs because we want to educate. The goal is to really educate those who are in contact with these batteries so we can get it right.

And we release our Charge Safe, Ride Safe plan to help New Yorkers use e-bikes and scooters safely because we do want to encourage the use of micromobility, but we have to do it right. E-bikes and other micromobility vehicles are an important part of our transportation network and essential to many small businesses.

And thanks to the contribution of Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Senator Gillibrand, FDNY, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, the NYPD and SBS and our administration will make sure that hard working New Yorkers like the deliveristas we see behind us can continue to use their vehicles and continue to provide a service and remain gainfully employed in our city.

So again, senators, thank you so much for this important initiative.

Senator Gillibrand: Thank you.

Senator Schumer: Got it. Okay. Two more points here. First, usually it takes six, seven hours to charge, but these are really strong chargers. It's going to be a lot shorter, so many more people can use them. The mayor mentioned all the places we have, the list of each of the developments in NYCHA and how many chargers they're each getting. We're now going to call on Deputy Commissioner Pfeiffer.

Are you going to say a few words? Thank you. Our great fire commissioner, Deputy Fire Commissioner Joe Pfeiffer.

Deputy Fire Commissioner Joseph Pfeiffer: Thank you. Thank you. Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand for this important funding to build e-bike outdoor storage and charging stations.
Already this year, we know the dangers of e-bike fires. In just six months alone. We had 110 incidents, 71 injuries, and 13 heartbreaking fatalities of which four occurred last week.

Senators, with your funding, you are joining Mayor Adams, FDNY, and me, and all of New York in a campaign for e-safety. E-safety is having the support of the government and the private sector to build safe batteries and charging stations.

But it's also for the public to know what to do and what not to do. If you see something that's not right in an e-bike charging shop or in your building, call 311 and FDNY will come out and inspect. If you're home, do not charge a non-certified or tampered with battery. Stay alert and never charge a battery in a location that blocks your exit. All of us working together will keep New York e-safe.

Senator Schumer: Thank you.

Deputy Commissioner Pfeifer: Thank you, senators.

Senator Schumer: Great. Now we have William Medina representing the Los Deliveristas. Where's William? There you are.

William Medina: Hi. Hello. Good morning. My name is William Medina and I'm a member for Worker Justice Project and a leader of Los Deliveristas Unidos. Thank you all for having us here today. We applaud Senator Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Adams on your commitment to expand electric micromobility charging stations to NYCHA developments across all five boroughs in New York City.

This announcement is a big step forward to protect New Yorkers from fires caused by lithium-ion batteries and to help us to transition to a new era of safe electric micromobility. We are proud to support this major infrastructure plans that will promote economic opportunity and improve quality of life for NYCHA residents and deliveristas.

We look forward to continue working together in building a future of safe e-micromobility for all New Yorkers, including the creation of deliverista hubs across the city while protecting the lives for every New Yorker.

Thank you, Senator Schumer and Mayor Adams for leadership and for giving delivery work a seat at this table. And we look forward to continue the work with our partners at all levels of government to build micromobility infrastructure that prioritizes safety, access, and equity.

We look forward to continue working together in building a future of safe e-micromobility for all New Yorkers, including the creation of deliverista hubs across the city. Thank you.

Senator Schumer: Thank you, Mr. Medina. Okay. I think that's all our speakers. We have folks from Baruch Houses here, but they're not going to speak, so we'll take questions on this subject.

Question: First, Senator Schumer, I think you said it was [inaudible] charging stations and then the mayor-

Senator Schumer: The city is putting in some more charging stations on their own. This is the federal money.

Question: So the federal -

Senator Schumer: This is the federal money.

Question: So the federal is for the 173?

Senator Schumer: Correct.

Question: And the 327, that's city money?

Mayor Adams: We're going to be installing more charging stations.

Senator Schumer: It's a total of 327.

Question: Total is 372.

Senator Schumer: Yeah.

Question: Okay. And we straightened out the number of [inaudible]. One of questions I have, I think one of the reasons that you charge them inside is so that they don't get stolen or anything. These are outdoor charging stations. Are you concerned [inaudible]?

Senator Schumer: Well, look, I mean, bikes are always susceptible to be stolen and you have to have a good locking system to prevent them from being stolen. Is that the best answer deliver?

Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi, Operations:: I think there's another aspect to the [inaudible]. Yes.

Senator Schumer: Yeah.

Deputy Mayor Joshi: There's another aspect to this too. It's also secure bike locking ...

Senator Schumer: Yes.

Deputy Mayor Joshi ... to match the charging, to address the point that you just raised.

Question: The other thing is, where is the [inaudible] is the bill to regulate that? Is there a committee?

Senator Schumer: Yes, it's in the transportation committee and we're hoping to get it as part of the budget bill in September.

Question: Okay.

Senator Schumer: Yep. Yes. Yes.

Question:  Good morning. First of all, thank you. Last week I covered the story, and to know that somebody who lost their own dad was very [inaudible], so thank you so much for the [inaudible] for something like this. I want to ask you guys two very quick questions. One, when will the installation begin? When I can start seeing-

Senator Schumer: The money is delivered, just like the deliverista has delivered. We have delivered. The money is there.

Question: But we want to announce in our pieces today when we can start seeing them.

Senator Schumer: Deputy Mayor Joshi.

Question: I don't live in NYCHA. I live in a normal building in Brooklyn. I'm wondering if anybody in my building has batteries. Federally, what's going to happen with buildings that aren't from NYCHA?

Senator Schumer: Right. Good question.

Deputy Mayor Joshi: So you'll start seeing, and the city's been proactive. We've already been working with ConEd to make sure that we have the infrastructure in place, what the right designs are for charging and secure parking. And we are going to work quickly with USDOT to secure our money and get our grant agreement, which means we think the NYCHA residents will start seeing evidence of this early next year.

Question: Early next year?

Deputy Mayor Joshi: Yeah, early next year. And I want to point out one thing, and this is a credit to our mayor. We have a lot of opportunity with the infrastructure bill. This mayor, Eric Adams, has said, "Do not work in silos." This is a DOT grant. Traditionally, it's gone to a transportation agency. Because of the creativity and working together, NYCHA is now able to access transportation dollars and that means that this is part of our core infrastructure. E-bikes and e-bike charging secure locks, is as much as it means as our roads and our bridges. And I think that's a really important recognition on the federal government and a really important recognition of this city.

Senator Schumer: And let me answer your second question about what if you don't live in NYCHA. We have put $7.5 billion at my push for charging infrastructure stations in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. That would be available to New York City if it chooses to put these types of installations across the city, not just in NYCHA. And I know we're working on getting as high a percentage of that money as we can. So there's help for the rest as well.

Question: Thank you.

Senator Schumer: Not in this grant. This is a special grant, as was mentioned by Ms. Joshi.

Question: Well, I hope that we do it because -

Senator Schumer: We will. We're right on this.

Question: Thank you.

Senator Schumer: Any other questions on this subject? Well, wait. Let's - any on this subject?

Question: You talked a lot about Chinese companies manufacturing these lithium-ion batteries? So who are the top of the list of lithium-ion battery manufacturers? What are your current discussions with them? And how quickly can they manufacture batteries for New York City to have a safe-

Senator Schumer: Yeah, there is a booming industry in this because there are so many more e-bikes and everybody on an e-bike wants a lithium battery, not the old-fashioned stuff. So there's a boom in the US. We can get you the names of the top companies, but they are greatly upping their production. But because those batteries are safer, they cost more. The problem here is the Chinese batteries cut corners and that's why they have so many accidents. But people say, "Oh, this one's a couple of hundred dollars less. I'll buy it." We got to stop that. Okay?

Question: I actually have one more question, if I may. Just thinking, brainstorming, all these companies that hire are amazing [inaudible]. Is there any incentive for them to buy these original batteries for our folks, like federally speaking, can we create alliances or something with Uber Eats, DoorDash?

Senator Schumer: You want to talk a little bit?

Question: Can they provide their workers with the batteries?

Guallpa: Yes. So we are actually, [inaudible] is working with Council Member Keith Powers actually to put a bill together to create a trading program. And yes, I think there is a lot of incentives, even for delivery [inaudible] to transition. And we're proud to be working with Senator Schumer and New York City Mayor Adams because part of the problem is, one, transitioning, but also the infrastructure. So this is a big step, not only to supporting workers who are using these types of batteries. And by the way, some of these batteries that the [inaudible] use, even though they're not certified, most of these batteries that cost $500 to $600, some of them are safe. The ones that are causing most of the fires are the refurnished batteries. And as he said, the ones that are in the black market that are cheap and sometimes it's already for sale, and we're committed to that transition. As I said, infrastructure is a huge step towards transitioning the [inaudible] to this new era of safe micro-mobility. So we are proud to be working with Senator Schumer and New York City Mayor Adams.

Senator Schumer: Right. And let me just say, we've all worked together on this-

Guallpa: Hey, Senator Gillibrand, who has been also-

Senator Schumer: I was just going to mention her.

Guallpa: Yeah, yeah.

Senator Schumer: Okay. Senator Gillibrand's been a great partner in this and helped us get the push for all of this. Okay. Finished on this subject. Okay, I'm going to make a statement, not do Q&A on Russia. I was briefed this morning on Russia and this is all unclassified stuff. I'm not going to say anything that's classified. But it is true that the insurrection led by the ... What? Hm? Yeah, the Wagner Group ... has stopped and they have signed an agreement. There is no evidence of any more motion. They were about 150 miles from Moscow when they stopped. They did not get much resistance on that road to Moscow, but all of a sudden they stopped. So the speculation, and it can only be speculation as to why, one of the bits of speculation is that the head of ... How do you say his name? Prigozhin? The head of the Wagner Group thought that he'd get a lot of support from Russian armed forces and dissident Russian people and may not have. But that remains just speculation. We don't know exactly what happened yet. Okay?

Question: Do you think Putin is still in Moscow [inaudible]-

Senator Schumer: I can't answer that. Okay? Can't answer that.

Question: Okay, guys.

Senator Schumer: Okay, thank you everybody.


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