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Wednesday’s Headlines: What in Blazes Edition

The big story yesterday was the aftermath of the devastating, early morning fatal fire in Chinatown on Tuesday.

FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh visited the scene of Monday night’s battery fire. Photos: FDNY

The big story yesterday was the aftermath of the devastating, early morning fatal fire in Chinatown on Tuesday.

Four people were killed and two seriously injured — and the basic coverage was everywhere (NYDN, NY Post, NY Times, amNY, Gothamist)

The Daily News and The City also reported that the e-bike repair shop in question had been visited by FDNY inspectors as recently as May, and was previous summonsed, but it wasn't enough to avert disaster.

The Daily News also did a list of all of this year's fatal fires that are connected to lithium-ion batteries.

Most of the media accounts blamed e-bikes for the fires, but it's not as if there aren't solutions on the table, some of which have already become law, such as battery buy-backs,

Meanwhile, the delivery app giants don't do nearly enough to support their gig workers, as Streetsblog previously reported, but they are starting to help. And the City Council is acting.

And the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection posted on Tuesday in the City Record new fines for violating battery rules that were laid out in Local Law 39, which prohibits the sale, lease, or rental of e-bikes and electric scooters that "fail to meet recognized safety standards." Fines will reach $1,000 for third offense.

But it will take lots of inspections and enforcement, which is not something the NYPD is primed for. Our reporter Kevin Duggan had reached out to the NYPD last month to ask about its enforcement effort against illegal mopeds, and the agency revealed that its efforts are failing:

  • In 2022, the NYPD says it inspected "over 35 businesses and seized 154 non-street legal motorized scooters [mopeds!]."
  • In 2023, the agency did outreach to 38 businesses, but only one store "was found to be selling non-street legal motorized scooters [mopeds!]."

One store in the whole city? You could walk down Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn and find 10 stores selling illegal mopeds. So clearly we're not doing enough.

And Friend of Streetsblog Charles Komanoff also has a plan:

In other news:

  • We covered some of the transportation issues in the race for an open Council seat in Central Harlem, including one candidate's opposition to bike lanes and Sammy's Law.
  • Speaking of elections, Ben Guttmann of Baruch College argues that there are only two issues that voters should care about: housing and car reduction. (Crain's)
  • Speaking of housing, Bruce Schaller showed why the lack of affordable housing is the crucial issue facing American cities in a Daily News op-ed.
  • In case you missed it, Open Plans's two-day symposium and white paper designed to "Curb the Chaos" at the curb got some nice coverage in Crain's.
  • The Post is once again in climate denial.
  • As promised by Council Transportation Committee Chair Selvena Brooks-Powers, the Council will hold a hearing into defaced and covered plates on Monday. Details on the Council website.
  • As if New Yorkers weren't dealing with enough overstimulation, now the MTA is selling ad space on the subway clocks. No one is happy about this (Gothamist, Hell Gate):
  • And, finally, there was a scary-looking crash on Sunday at around 6:30 a.m. that once again reminds us all how tenuous life is when drivers speed or don't pay attention to things like painted bike lanes or other cars. We asked NYPD about this crash, and got a full rundown:
    • A 32-year-old woman driving a 2015 Ford SUV was traveling northbound on Bedford Avenue and was making a left turn onto DeKalb Avenue when a 19-year-old woman in a gray Mazda, who was traveling "in the bike lane at a high rate of speed," collided with her, then slammed into a light post, a metal trash can, and a parked unoccupied vehicle. No one was hurt too badly, but the operator of the Mazda was issued summonses for operating an unregistered car, driving without insurance, not having a driver's license and driving with a fake plate. Sound familiar? It's basically the scenario laid out in Jesse Coburn's three-part series on ghost plates (re-read it here!).

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