Three gutsy gals will spend two months riding their Giant Defy bikes from Providence, Rhode Island, to San Francisco to bring attention to what they say is the need for additional affordable housing apartments in Brooklyn’s low-income neighborhoods.
Biking may seem like an odd way to plead for cheap apartments but Park Slope resident Kristie Gerhart, who will make the trek with 30 cyclists, including fellow Sloper Kelly Kraft and Ditmas Park resident Angela Parrotta, says it makes perfect sense.
While many activists take their protests directly to politicians and government agencies, Gerhart believes the unconventional biking trip may bring more media attention to Brooklyn’s affordable housing crisis.
“It’s not like we’re in a cardboard box outside of City Hall,” she said. “It’s more lighthearted than just telling people that we need housing.”
The trip, from June 11 to Aug. 21, is arranged by Bike & Build, a nonprofit organization raising funds to support the construction of affordable housing. The organization has offered grants to housing groups run by young adults and donated money to Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for families in need.
Gerhart, a graphic designer, can afford market rents — she and her boyfriend pay $1,800 for a one-bedroom apartment — but she’s interested in helping the less fortunate.
Gearing up for her second Bike & Build ride, she must raise $4,000 for the cause. Last year, her entire team of 32 people collected $150,000.
Fulfilling the “build” portion of the journey, cyclists will make pit stops in states like Kansas and Colorado to help Habitat for Humanity build homes.
They’ll be rewarded for their hard work — with a roof over their heads. In each town, church groups and community centers will provide meals and lodging.
“It’s amazing. Everybody is really great and pretty generous,” Gerhart said.
Can these Brooklynites really be so happy about riding 4,115 miles from June to August? Are there any drawbacks?
“I am most nervous about spending two months in Spandex and that I’ll walk funny after 70 plus miles on a bike every day,” Kraft worried.
Parrotta said the pain is a fair trade-off for being able to help Bike & Build create homes for needy families.
“A summer without biking and building is no summer at all,” she said.
Donate to Bike & Build at www.bikeandbuild.org.