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One Year Later, Delivery Workers Are Still Waiting for Their Charging Hubs

More than a year — and a dozen-plus fatal fires — since the city announced charging stations for delivery workers, the hubs aren't ready,

12:00 AM EST on November 21, 2023

Ligia Guallpa with Sen. Chuck Schumer and Mayor Adams last year announcing plans to turn vacant newsstands, like the one behind them, into charging hubs for delivery workers. Photo: Julianne Cuba

This project is running on low power.

More than a year — and a dozen-plus fatal fires — since the city announced it would create new charging stations for delivery workers, the hubs are still nowhere near ready, multiple sources and officials told Streetsblog.

“Everything is at a standstill, because the city doesn't have its act together,” said a source familiar with the process. “It shouldn't be this chaotic.”

Last October, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Mayor Adams said the city would transform defunct newsstands into safe charging stations, which would also be equipped with bike parking and a place for the city’s 65,000 deliveristas to rest and recharge, either themselves or their powerful power packs. The city had proposed just two hubs, one outside City Hall and the other on the Upper West Side at W. 72nd Street and Broadway.

Schumer said he had secured over $1 million in federal funding for the initiative — the first of its kind in the nation — and Parks Department Commissioner Sue Donoghue said at the time that the conversion process would “take at least a few months.”

But now more than13 months later, it’s unclear how much longer workers will have to wait for safe charging — too late for Salah Ahmed Alyafi, whose 7-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter were killed after a battery caught fire in their Queens home in April.

So far this year, there have been 239 fires the FDNY says have been sparked by lithium-ion batteries, causing 124 injuries and 17 fatalities. The latest of which was in Crown Heights on Nov. 12, killing three people: Albertha West, 81, her son, Michael West, 58, and her grandson, Jamiyl West, 33.

Back in January, the city’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee granted the Parks Department the authorization to negotiate an agreement for the hubs with Los Deliveristas Unidos. But neither a design nor an agreement is ready, according to the mayor's office. And once they are, they must first be presented to the local community board and franchise review committee in a public hearing — a process that could derail the project entirely.

An Upper West Side community board in March rejected a charging station and rest hub for workers, even though residents of that same neighborhood place tens of thousands of food delivery orders every day.

“The Adams administration needs to roll out these hubs ASAP, and their siting should absolutely not be subject to NIMBY whims,” Eric McClure, the executive director of StreetsPAC, had said, citing New Yorkers' hypocrisy when it comes to delivery workers.

Last month, during an unrelated City Council hearing, Ligia Guallpa of the Worker's Justice Project, said that her team had “already submitted” its designs and plans to the city, and were just waiting for approval.

“We’re hoping that the agencies approve the plan so we can start the development of these hubs soon,” she said.

A spokesperson for the FDNY said the agency has no discretion over the design of the hubs as long as the chargers are approved by the nationally recognized UL Solutions (Underwriters Laboratory). The Parks Department and City Hall declined to provide a timeline for completion.

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