A local nonprofit has blossomed in Flowerfield with the mission to provide bicycles for those in need.
The all-volunteer Brookhaven Bike Co-Op opened at Flowerfield in St. James this past fall. The co-op provides a space for unwanted bikes to be refurbished and then given to those in need. The co-op also provides the public access to tools and spare parts to fix their own bikes and provides a community space for gatherings and meetings both bike and nonbike related, according to founder Greg Ferguson.
“It’s a place to sort of create a little bicycling community,” Ferguson said.
The original plan for the co-op was to enter into a public-private partnership with the Town of Brookhaven, hence the name, according to the Setauket resident. However, when the space the town allocated for the 501(c) didn’t work out, it was decided to open in the current location. It’s a spot Ferguson said is perfect for the co-op, with other surrounding nonprofits located nearby.
Ferguson, a lawyer who runs the Ferguson Foundation with his brother Chris, said there is a need in Suffolk County for free transportation such as bicycles. One example is around East Patchogue and Manorville where there is a sort of “food desert,” he said, with few grocery stores and many in the area without cars. With a bike, a person can get to stores, doctors and jobs easier than if they were walking. He said there are successful bike co-ops around the country, including in upstate New York, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Connecticut.
“It’s a place to sort of create a little bicycling community.”
– Greg Ferguson
Ferguson, who jokes that he is a slow bicyclist, said he joined the cycling club Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association where he found a thriving organization and members who were helpful in teaching him and other volunteers at the new co-op.
“I was surprised at how willing people were to come out and teach us how to fix bikes — donate parts and bikes,” he said. “It’s been a very positive experience.”
The founder said the co-op has been working with Ward Melville High School’s DECA Club, which is planning a bike drive and is helping with the nonprofit’s social media. He said he has also been in touch with representatives from Stony Brook University to collect bikes that are left behind by students after the semester ends. The nonprofit also plans to work in some way with Brookhaven in the future.
Ward Melville DECA faculty adviser Ilene Littman said the club heard about the co-op from one of its board members Jim Komosinski. After a site visit to the workshop, she reported back to the DECA members and helped form two teamsw of interested students.
“I personally feel that the students connected with this mission because they all have bikes and want to help others who are less fortunate and do not have the means or resources to buy a bike of their own,” Littman said. “By doing so, they are not only providing transportation, they are enabling a fun and healthy activity for those in need.”
“I personally feel that the students connected with this mission because they all have bikes and want to help others who are less fortunate…”
– Ilene Litman
Recently the co-op began offering free bicycle repair classes and a course on how to ride properly in groups. Volunteer Richard Dittmar, a bike mechanic and former bike shop owner, leads the classes.
Dittmar said he found out about the co-op through SBRA’s newsletter and started sharing his expertise to pay it forward.
“I thought it would be a great thing for me to pass on,” he said.
Dittmar said the level of difficulty when it comes to repairing bikes ranges from easily fixing a flat tire to more complex jobs like problems with the gears.
The bike mechanic said he looks forward to volunteering with the co-op and said future partnerships with junk removal companies will be a big help.
“There’s probably bicycles in every garage they walk into when they’re hauling a family’s junk away,” he said. “They don’t know what to do with the bikes, so at least there’s an outlet for that now.”
Volunteer and board member Lori Neiste said the co-op is also an example of being environmentally friendly as old bicycles will be refurbished and used again instead of being thrown in the trash.
Ferguson said while the original plan was to distribute bicycles at food pantries, they have had social workers reach out to them for clients.
Bicycles in all conditions are accepted, Ferguson said, even rusty bikes as parts can be used. Those interested in donating can drop off bikes at the co-op at 8 Flowerfield, Unit 18, in St. James, or have volunteers pick them up by calling 631-371-3886.