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Greg Ferguson

Greg Ferguson is the new president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation which oversees Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Robert Reuter

The Frank Melville Memorial Foundation’s new president is a familiar name to many in the Three Village area.

Greg Ferguson replaced Robert Reuter as president of FMMF earlier this year. Reuter said after nine years in the role it was time to make room for someone new. The former president, now trustee, said it was a unanimous decision for Ferguson to take on the role. He described him as having strong management skills as well as getting along with everybody.

“He’s shown himself to be very enthusiastic about the full range of projects in the park,” Reuter said. “He initiated movie nights. He’s been a strong supporter of all the programs, and I think he’s an excellent person to lead the park in our challenging post-COVID times.”

Ferguson is the founder of Brookhaven Bike Co-op, which has  locations in St. James and Manorville. The Setauket resident and attorney also runs the Ferguson Foundation with his brother Chris. The foundation strives to find organizations where its philanthropic investments will have an ongoing impact on the beneficiaries.

Ferguson, who has lived in Setauket for more than 18 years with his wife Rena and children Hugh, Sophie and Ella, said he lives a short walk from Frank Melville Memorial Park. He became involved with the foundation as a trustee more than four years ago and said it’s been fun being involved. When asked to join the board, Ferguson said he “happily and humbly agreed.”

“It’s a great organization, and the park is a beautiful place,” he said. “There’s a ton of stuff going on, too, so it’s not a museum or static type of thing. It has programs and initiatives and efforts.”

Ferguson said while the foundation may be smaller than other nonprofits, it is well run by its board members.

“We have financial people, lawyers, scientists and naturalists, so it’s really a fantastic variety of skill sets that the board brings to the place,” he said.

As far as his skill sets, in addition to being an attorney, the Setauket resident has also been a writer with his work published in U.S. News & World Report. The opportunity came about while he was in college and an exchange student in China during the time of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. He said people were needed to report on what was happening during the incident.

“I had no fear for my safety,” he said. “It was pretty much confined to one area.”

Today Ferguson and the board members deal with the issues that COVID-19 has brought to the area.

During the pandemic, the new foundation president said the park has become more popular and events have been even more well received than before. He said that it’s due to many other recreational places being shut down, while the park was only closed for a short time toward the beginning of the pandemic. He added that the increased interest in the park is wonderful, but it also means that the foundation board has had to enhance security.

Ferguson said the board members have long-term goals and are currently waiting for a permit to dredge the ponds. He said the park staff is tackling invasive plants and drainage issues, too. A cutting-edge septic system will also be installed on the property for one of the homes.

Ferguson said he’s looking forward to the board’s future work.

“Over the years I’ve been involved in a bunch of different nonprofits and this is by far the best run I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “It’s definitely wonderful to be involved.”

Brookhaven Bike Co-op opened in Flowerfield in St. James last fall. Photo by Rita J. Egan

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.