Jersey City City Hall

Public safety risks associated with the sale and maintenance of lithium-ion batteries used to power e-bikes are fueling proposals by Jersey City to regulate this enterprise.

On Wednesday, City Council members will likely take initial steps to draft new laws dealing with this hazardous business which city officials have faulted for contributing to at least one resident’s death last year.

City legislators will also be asked to contract for upgrades to the city’s new animal shelter’s operation, public park infrastructure and proposed settlements.

On the public safety issue, Councilmembers Denise Ridley (Ward A) and Mira Prinz-Arey (Ward B) called for swift action to help prevent catastrophes like the multi-alarm fire at 269 Stegman St. last July that took the life of a 54-year-old resident.

Another resident, a 41-year-old woman, survived by leaping from a second-floor window, according to city officials.

Authorities said the fire erupted in an enclosed front porch where an e-bike was stored.

Deputy Fire Chief Shawn O’Connor and other city fire officials outlined the hazards associated with the sale of “second-use lithium-ion batteries,” pointing to the New York Fire Department’s efforts to control their spread.

Last year, the FDNY accounted for more than 300 fires within the city limits resulting in at least 12 fatalities whose origins, the department said, could be traced to the improper storage and/or charging of lithium-ion batteries.

These power units are typically kept in tight commercial spaces which – particularly in the absence of sprinkler systems and/or fire-rated walls – can contribute to fires spreading quickly, fire officials noted.

Taking a cue from the FDNY, Jersey City’s Bravest is proposing these steps:

  • Prohibiting the sale of second use lithium-ion batteries.
  • Requiring owners/renters of lithium batteries and owners of powered mobility businesses within Jersey City” to register with the city Police Department or city Fire Division which shall “create a data base” listing businesses that sell or rent lithium-ion batteries for powered mobility devices “and any business which provides charging services for powered-mobility devices … or stores lithium batteries in quantities deemed hazardous by the Fire Division.”
  • Lithium-ion battery businesses must annually register with the Fire Division by providing the owner’s name and/or agent, mailing address, phone number, email address, name and 24-hour contact phone number of a company representative and certificate of insurance.
  • Lithium-ion batteries shall be charged in a “suitable indoor room or area or outdoor location that has sufficient natural or mechanical ventilation … to prevent the accumulation of any flammable or other gases (and that) has an adequate electrical supply and a sufficient number of electrical receptacles, approved by the (city) construction official …. Extension cords and power strips shall not be used. A minimum of 3 feet shall be maintained beteeen each device during charging operations.”
  • Battery charging spaces cannot be used “for the storage or combustible materials, waste or hazardous materials,” must be protected by a fire barrier “with a minimum one-hour fire-resistance rating” and by “a fire sprinkler system and more or more smoke detectors or smoke alarms” that should be connected to the building’s detector system.
  • Such spaces must be properly “temperature-conrolled” and equipped with a “portable 20-pound ABC fire extinguisher.”
  • Battery packs or removable batteries must be separated by at least two feet between each pack or other removable battery.
  • Damaged or overheated lithium-ion batteries or powered mobility devices shall be removed at the direction of the Fire Division and at the owner’s expense. 
  • Businesses that sell lithium-ion batteries and powered mobility devices must pay the city a $200 inspection fee and $50 for any required reinspection.

Meanwhile, the city’s Animal Shelter, which shifted from private to public operation this year, is seeking lawmakers’ help on a 5-fold front to strengthen and diversify its connection with its current “tenants” and prospective foster owners.

W. Mark Byrnes, the city’s chief animal control officer, wants the council to authorize these contracts:

  •  Hire Dr. Adriana Hordynsky as a “traveling vet” to “come on site 2 to 6 times per month” to provide surgical services and basic veterinary care where needed at $150,000 a year.
  •  Retain Dr. Michael Santiago of East Orange Animal Hospital as the supervising vet of the shelter to provide surgical services and veterinary care “at a max(imum) of 4 hours/week” at the shelter at $60,000 a year.
  •  Employ Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG) of Hoboken to provide veterinary care “on an as-needed basis to be used for emergency services on nights/weekends after city hours” at $60,000 a year.
  •  Hire Greenfields Animal Hospital, of New York, to provide emergency veterinary services “during open city hours, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.” at $40,000 a year.
  •  Sign a memorandum of understanding with Bergen Community College permitting unpaid students enrolled in the college’s Veterinary Technology Program to work “alongside animal care staff” and “participate in surgical activities,” including performing blood draws on a dog or cat for laboratory procedures, IV catheter placement, anal gland expression, nail trimming and grooming procedures, tracheal intubation, (animal) monitoring under general anesthesia, sample collection, dental scaling and polishing and administer medication…”

Byrnes said the city shelter now has kennels accommodating 36 dogs, plus cages for “give or take that many cats.”

“We’re not currently at capacity,” Byrnes said, so there’s room for a handful of animals now being accepted from Hoboken and Guttenberg.

And, he said, “we always keep some kennels open to handle animals displaced by evictions.”

Byrnes said he’s hoping to get additional city funds to prep an on-site shelter trailer to provide additional kennel space.

The shelter, he said, is still working on reconfiguring space, shaping internal policies and getting staff in place to handle unexpected events as they happen, one recent example being a dog’s attack on a staff manager.

“This is a case of building the plane as you fly it,” Byrnes said. “It will be taking shape in time.”

Lawmakers are being asked to award a $126,975 contract to Ascape Landscape & Construction Corp,, of Blauvelt, N.Y., for the maintenance of irrigation systems and to pay Challenger Fence Inc., of Paterson, $259,622 for chain link fencing at various locations managed by the city’s Park Maintenance Division.

City Recreation Director Lucinda McLaughlin told the council that some of the existing irrigation systems – some above-ground and some below – were installed at least five years ago and that “many” are below the surface.

That’s why, she said, this year in particular, “we want to ensure that contractors doing business with the city “are familiar with the presence of drinking fountains for both humans and animals” in city parks.

As for fencing, At-Large member Daniel Rivera said the Recreation Department should be focused on fitting the type of equipment to the city’s needs, as, for example, using “small-sized fencing” for baseball/softball “backstops.”

Rivera also expressed safety concerns about the installation of netting in playing fields. At times, he said, the netting under the turf gets stuck and sections “pops up” through the turf surface, thereby creating a potential hazard interfering with the young athletes.

Lawmakers will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday for a closed session briefing on three proposed out-of-court settlements that could account for a total payout of $930,000.

Daniel Wiley is seeking $500,000 to walk away from a civil suit filed in 2020 alleging he was a victim of harassment, discrimination and retaliation during his employment with the city.

Jose Del Carmen De Los Gonzalez and Maritza Santos are suing the city and its agent Taylor C. Allen for $350,000 in connection with an accident November 9, 2019.

And Alexander Rodriguez wants $80,000 in connection with a bicycle accident on April 22, 2018, when he was age 18 and allegedly hit a raised sign stump near Ocean and Bayview avenues that knocked him off the bike and broke his left forearm.

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...