Fire was too close to home

Electeds discuss need for legislation related to crises, and the rise of illegal lithium-ion batteries in New York City


The fire in a Marble Hill apartment last week that displaced 27 tenants while injuring 10 people was caused by a lithium-ion battery, according to investigators.  And that has some worried about when the dangerous batteries — used primarily in scooters and e-bikes — can be taken off the streets.

Firefighters responded to a three-alarm fire at 36 Marble Hill Ave., last week, with more than 130 fire and EMS personnel on scene.

Among those were New York Police Department captain Alesandro Florentino, who told Community Board 8 members afterward that two firefighters suffered chest pain and smoke inhalation. All 10 who were hospitalized are said to be recovering, however.

Fire marshals later revealed the fire originated from underneath the first floor stairwell where an e-bike frame and battery remnants were recovered. The fire trapped residents, forcing several to use the fire escape.

Jeni Ayala, a neighbor next door, was working at the time the fire broke out, coming home to grim news.

“It was really scary because I live right next door,” she said. “It was a windy day, so my fear was that the fire jumps. I also see a lot of the people who live in there, so it was pretty disheartening for them. And it was just, it was a sad sight honestly.”

For anyone who was in the area during and after the fire, the smell of smoke carried across the neighborhood. Someone else who lives in that area, Vicky Beato, couldn’t help but smell it.

“We saw a bunch of smoke coming out from the top,” she said. “We didn’t see any flames right there. At least I didn’t see it from where I live. But we saw big black smoke coming out from the top, and the wind was really strong that day.

“So, we smelled it coming. Then this whole strip was full of ambulance firefighters.”

But how close the buildings are had Beato scared all of this could’ve been a lot worse.

“We were really nervous it was going to spread out,” she said

The families of several residents who were displaced created fundraisers in the fire’s aftermath.

One of them, created by Alexandra Lopez, was organized on the behalf of her grandparents.

“This is my family home where we were all raised, and my grandparents have lived for over 35 years,” according to her online fundraiser. “In a span of an hour, they’ve lost everything they had.”

Lopez’s fundraiser has raised about 10 percent of its $30,000 goal, and can be accessed at

Another fundraiser organized by Rosemary Ortega seeks to help her family and “long-time neighbors who are also considered family since we have been living in the same building for over 35 years.”

“My childhood home was burned down on March 11,” according to her website. “My mother, dad, siblings and daughter — who also turned 11 months the same day the fire started — were at home, and they had to run down the fire escape leaving everything we owned behind and lost.”

That fundraiser, which raised $1,100 so far, can be found at

Posted on the door of the vacated apartment was a flyer encouraging displaced tenants to contact the state’s housing and community renewal division to learn about their rights. Those vacated can file an application for a rent reduction based upon decreased services with DHCR at


Legislation to mitigate future fires

Councilman Eric Dinowitz has introduced legislation he says would help those who are displaced by a fire or crisis by designating rapid emergency response centers in each community district.

These centers would offer essentials such as coats, toiletries and diapers.

The legislation was inspired by a Wakefield fire that moved residents from their homes and into a nearby school. By luck, the school had extra clothing, Dinowitz said.

“We’re not really a city that should rely on luck to provide residents what they need, particularly in a time of crisis,” he said.

“So Councilman (Kevin) Riley and I said, ‘So why is this the case?’ It should be the case that our city is prepared in case someone is displaced (has) just the basic necessities. That they can get to work the next day. Take care of business the next day. Go to school the next day. To disrupt their lives as little as possible.”

The councilman’s father, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, said the fire showed the need for significant action to be taken. A bill he sponsored in Abany that recently passed the lower chamber would prohibit the sale of lithium-ion batteries used in bicycles and such, unless those batteries are manufactured in accordance with certain standards.

“This is something which is really out of control at this point,” the Assemblyman said. “People are dying or being injured as a result of this phenomenon, which is relatively new. And we can’t just sit back and watch people die.

“There needs to be changes in the law and there needs to be enforcement of the laws.”

Marble Hill fire Lithium-ion battery fire E-bike battery fire Apartment fire displacement Community Board 8 Firefighters injuries Fire evacuation Marble Hill fundraiser Rapid emergency response centers Councilman Eric Dinowitz Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz Fire safety legislation Lithium-ion battery standards Fire prevention measures Housing rights after fire