The sound of bells and panicked voices hung in the air at a holiday event last week. They were bike bells, not holiday bells, and the panic was rising as hundreds of employees from Bloomberg and the New York Mets front office gathered inside Citi Field to speed build more than 1,000 bikes to be delivered to New York City children living in underserved communities.
“It’s just really giving these children some sort of independence where they can just take their bike and ride it away,” said Haeda Mihaltses, the executive director of external affairs for the New York Mets.
The two companies worked together last year to build over 750 bikes for children of military personnel in the city. They got help this year from Bike New York, a nonprofit that offers bike riding and safety classes to children and adults across the city.
About 400 employees from Bloomberg and the Mets volunteered to build the bikes. The Bike New York staff answered questions, made sure all bolts were tightened and provided general quality control checks.
Jeremy Takacs putting together the seat for a pink bike. (The Ink/Jessica Cartwright)
“Everybody remembers the first time they learned how to ride a bike, and it’s the most amazing feeling,” said Kenneth Podziba, the chief executive officer of Bike New York. “The second most amazing feeling is when you actually get a bike, and we’re going to be making a lot of dreams come true.”
The volunteers built bikes for children of all different ages and sizes. From large shiny black bikes to small sparkly pink and white bikes, more and more were completed and rolled into a loading area.
Jeremy Takacs, manager of Bloomberg’s terminal sales team for Boston and New England, volunteered for the bike-building event last year. This year, he decided to bring his entire team of eight people to help out.
“Not only is it for charity, it’s a team-building event,” said Takacs as he attached purple tassels to the handlebars of a little pink bike.
Ashley Nagele, who works in partner relations with the New York Mets, said the hardest part was making sure all the bolts on the bike were tight enough. After building fives bikes in less than an hour, she said she had mastered putting them together quickly. Nagele and her teammates had their game faces on as they approached bike number six.
“It’s kind of fun competing against your co-workers,” said Nagele. “And it’s for a great cause.”
The volunteers rushed to work through the bike boxes at their stations. Each box contained all the parts necessary to complete a bike. The teams had written instructions, but some found the how-to videos provided by Bike New York on screens around the room to be a little bit more helpful. Some teams fumbled at first as they tried to figure out which parts went where, but after the first couple bikes were built they picked up speed and intensity.
Adam Fisher, director of baseball operations for the New York Mets, worked with his team on finishing their third bike. They started slow but were finally getting the hang of it, he said. Fisher was involved in the bike building last year and was eager to do so again.
“It’s a busy time of year, but you can definitely find time to do a good thing,” said Fisher.
Jaime Winters, from the chief risk and compliance team at Bloomberg, said that one left pedal gave her team a bit of trouble. Winters, a first-time bike builder, said she would definitely be involved in the event next year.
“We did it as a team, and it’s nice to give back,” said Winters as her team finished off its ninth, and final, bike of the day.
Bloomberg and New York Mets employees building bikes. (The Ink/Jessica Cartwright)