FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh was in Forest Hills Thursday morning to announce that an e-scooter shop on Queens Boulevard had been temporarily shut down after being found to be not just selling illegal lithium-ion batteries but manufacturing them as well in a storefront directly above a subway station.
A task force including FDNY Fire Marshals, Fire Prevention Inspectors and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) inspected Wilson’s Electric Scooter Sale & Repair at 109-19 Queens Blvd. on Tuesday and recovered sixty battery packs, hundreds of individual lithium-ion cells, and components used to alter, create, and repair battery packs from individual lithium-ion battery cells.
“We call them Frankensteins,” Kavanagh said in front of the shuttered storefront. “They hold a tremendous amount of power effectively packed into a tiny space, once you damage them, they explode.”
An FDNY Hazmat unit responded to the scene Tuesday and packed five metal drums to safely remove the uncertified batteries after some began to fail and ignite and had to be extinguished.
“So anyone who is doing this kind of work that is one not trained to do it, or two doing it in a residence or business like this that is not meant or built to handle what is effectively an industrial operation, there’s a reason that other sorts of businesses that do industrial work are not on the bottom floor of someone’s home or not in an apartment,” Kavanagh said.
The business was issued violations by the FDNY, DWCP, as well as the Department of Buildings and the Department of Environmental Protection. Two dozen e-scooters and 25 gas-powered mopeds were also seized.
“Tuesday’s inspections saved lives and property,” Chief Fire Marshall Daniel Flynn said. “The work between agencies on this inspection is critical to public safety. We really want to thank the inspectors for doing their job here and we also want to send a warning to businesses who are not in compliance with these laws. This is incredibly dangerous, and we will find you and we will enforce these laws to make sure that New Yorkers and our members of the fire department are safe.”
Last year, lithium-ion batteries caused 268 fires citywide, killing 18 and injuring 150 New Yorkers. Kavanagh said she is in talks with the Adams administration and the City Council to formulate legislation that would further restrict illegal batteries. Flynn noted how a single illegal lithium-ion battery destroyed an entire shopping plaza in the Bronx.
“We have stressed time and time again that unregulated tampered with, and non-certified batteries, are extremely dangerous. And they’re deadly,” Flynn said. “They have killed people and they will kill more people if businesses continue to operate in this manner. I hope this message to other businesses that are operating like this one is that we will find you and we will shut you down and that what you are doing is dangerous.”