A padlocked chain secures the rusted garage door behind which Peter Reich tightens the bolts to a folding bicycle.
The New Jersey native and industrial designer who developed and manufactures the Swift Folder, a single-gear bicycle that folds to half its size, lives and works on the western edge of Brooklyn. The city’s plan to rezone Gowanus from industrial to residential is a challenge for Reich’s one-man-in-a-garage manufacturing ethos, as well as his vision for the neighborhood’s future.
Reich lives and works at 280 Nevins Street in a four story former factory building with a sign hanging above the door that reads “Artists in Residence on 2nd–3rd–4th floors.” His workshop is sandwiched between his home and the Gowanus Canal, a century and a half old commercial waterway recovering from years of pollution by industrial sludge and sewage overflow.
“The canal used to be the no-man’s land between two gentrifying neighborhoods—now the artist folk have been forced to the water’s edge,” said Reich. His mustache, graying temples and a white tuft of hair on his chin complement Reich’s cut-off jean shorts and John Lennon-style eyeglasses to provide an air of casual artistry.
As I stepped into the G train at Fulton Street, ready to settle myself in for the what has ranged from a 15 minute to one hour ride to Greenpoint Avenue, a clear, authoritative voice rang through the intercom system, “This is the express G.”
Express G? I could hardly wrap my brain around the prospect. I mean seriously–the train is known at the Brooklyn-Queens Crosstown Local. My cursory research has found little to support that this express G was anything more than a figment of my imagination.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that the G train is running even less frequently than usual this weekend or shared compassion between the riders of the crosstown local, but the only train on the New York subway that doesn’t enter Manhattan seems to have inspired a slew of missed connections on craigslist.
Love is in the air on the shuttle buses, “I saw you on the g train shuttle bus on sunday the 13th, you sat in the front. You were wearing a white jacket, a pair of cool high boots and you had the face of an angel. Every now and then I would take a glimpse at you but would look away quickly in fear of making you feel uncomfortable. I had a mohawk, if you can tell me the color of my jacket or any other distinct feature, I’ll know its you.”
On the trains, “i was reading Nick Cave and you were listening to your ipod. when we got off the train at Greenpoint Ave, before exiting to the street we looked back for one another. i was entirely in black and you were in a brown leather members only jacket. i always want to say hello, i’m simply just too shy. so, hi.”
And, on the platform, “i liked your music, so i sat down and watched you from the side.
and gave you my week’s food money.
At least the G proves good for something.
Who doesn’t like a free ride? New Jersey Transit is offering all college students a free ride on their buses, trains and light rail until Sept. 23. You need to show this coupon and a valid student id. Happy travels!