BROOKLYN NAVY YARD (PIX11) – Trying to find and keep secure employment can sometimes feel like a job in itself. But with the bike becoming more and more important in the city, the need for mechanics is also increasing.
A month-long training program at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is giving people — including formerly incarcerated — a second chance at steady employment.
For Quansae Herring, working on bikes means having another chance at life.
“I literally knew nothing about bikes,” Herring said. “I didn’t know the complexity of bikes. I didn’t even know bikes had more than five parts.
The 20-year-old was in the juvenile justice system and said the court sent him to an alternative prison program. Determined to learn a new skill, he was accepted into the Cycle Path program.
Ken Podziba is the President and CEO of Bike New York, which facilitates training with One Community.
“We are trying to level the playing field and give people a second chance,” Podziba said. “Finding a stable, good quality, well-paying job is not easy, especially when you have encountered so many obstacles in your life.”
In four weeks, students of all ages and backgrounds learn how to become bicycle mechanics to hopefully be employed by a company called Motivate to work on Citi Bikes.
“If Motivate likes them after interviewing them and seeing what they can do, they’ll hire them,” Podziba added. “So far, all students in the program have been hired.”
They are approaching their 100th placement.
Shernell ‘Nelly’ Wilkins is also a student and has many jobs. She said that at 41, it’s never too late to learn a new one.
“I already play with the gears, I already fix the brakes,” Wilkins said. “I’ve worked a lot with bikes.”
In fact, she already has a job lined up with Motivate to start working on Citi Bikes and can’t wait to get started.
Assemblyman Emily Gallagher provided a $10,000 grant that helps extend the program through the end of the year.
The bikes the students work on are donated and many are in poor condition – but just like the students, they also get a second chance.
“Instead of these bikes going to the junkyard or the trash like someone left them on the curb, we’re actually diagnosing the issues and dealing with those issues one by one,” said Herring.
In two weeks, the students will have their graduation ceremony at the Brooklyn Navy Yard where they will receive their certificates and begin applying for those jobs to work on Citi Bikes. The program hopes to eventually extend to the five boroughs.
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