Park Slope has a lot of bikes and a lot of bike lanes, but it has only one “bike-go-cart.”
Henry Powell, 56, can be seen most days rolling through Park Slope on his homemade contraption that he calls a bike-go-cart, with his son lounging on a lawn chair attached to the back.
He attached a hand truck to the back of his Schwinn Bayside, a trike cruiser, and screwed on two lawn chairs so he can take his kids along for the ride.
Two years ago, he made a wooden push go-cart for his three kids to ride. But, when he got tired of pushing them around, he decided to make a bike that could fit all of them.
So, last year he bought a Schwinn Bayside, which is three-wheeler, and made some of his own modifications. He added a seat to the Schwinn and then connected a hand truck on the back of the trike. Powell screwed two lawn chairs on top of the hand truck and added a big basket on the back. When he wants to add a third lawn chair, he takes off the basket and screws on another chair.
Powell said it cost him $1,500 to build, but it has been worth it. He built it to hold almost 400 pounds and will eventually add an electric motor on the back to push the bike at speeds of close to 20 miles per hour.
But, his mega-ride is not only for fun. He uses it to carry things he finds on people’s stoops, which he then sells in his neighborhood of Crown Heights to make money.
“I bike around to find stuff to sell, just trying to make a living,” Powell said on Wednesday while riding his homemade four-seater. “The best thing I found was a 14 karat gold ring in a bag hanging on a fence.”
He said that he has also found other valuables, a bag of $25 in change, barely used computers and brand new toys for his partner and seven year old son, Brendon.
“I love finding toys!” Brendon said while sitting on one of the two lawn chairs connected to his dad’s contraption.
“He has found robot toys, Legos and trucks,” Powell said. “Most of the things we find are brand new.”
But, Brendon’s favorite items he has found are readable.
“I love finding books,” Brendon exclaimed. “My favorite so far was a Toy Story book with Woody and Buzz.”
For Powell, his favorite aspect of riding around the neighborhood is the friendships he makes.
“I love riding around Park Slope because I get know people,” Powell explained. “They get to know me and by now I have some friends who recognize me and say, ‘Hi’ when they see me in the neighborhood.”
Powell has his sights on bigger things then just rolling around Park Slope finding things to sell. His goal is to pay to get his bike design patented with the money he makes from selling items he finds on neighborhood stoops.
“I am working on getting this patented. I have stoop sales at the end of everyday in Crown Heights and I am saving all the money I can,” Powell explained. “I really want to get in to the market of designing bikes under my own patent. I want to make more of these in different styles and models.”
And other people are interested in getting one of his bike-go-carts too:
“A lot of people are interested in my bike,” Powell said. “They always ask where I get it and I always say, ‘I made it myself!’”
Powell has dedicated a life to riding and fixing bikes.
“I have been with bikes all my life, I am motivated and skilled at making bikes,” Powell said. “It’s only a hobby as of right now, but I have made all sorts of bikes and I want to make them for a living.”
And this skill, he said, comes to him naturally.
“It’s something I that has been gifted to me. I don’t have to draw a sketch, it just comes into my head and I make it no problem,” Powell said.
Although Powell said he is happy, he also said he rides a hard road. He is currently unemployed, after losing his job in 2004 after 15 years of working in building maintenance.
“I had to leave work to take care of my kids, their moms wasn’t around and they needed me to be around,” Powell said, explaining that he had to find work close by in order to rear his three children, a 7-year-old son and two daughters ages 9 and 11. “I’m struggling, and moms is not coming back home yet, but she will.”
“It’s been a hard road, but I have faith and belief that people can come out of the situations and predicaments that they are in,” he said.
When he needs a pick me up his bike-go-cart has just the thing to make him smile again — good music.
Powell connects his cell phone to a speaker on the back of his Schwinn. It’s also Brendon’s favorite aspect of the bike-go-cart.
“I love when my dad plays the old school music,” Brendon said. “I like the funky funky.”
Powell explained that he usually rides to R&B like Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Parliament-Funkadelic, Kool and the Gang, The Temptations and other artists.
But, Brendon’s favorite artist is Michael Jackson:
“My favorite songs are ‘Beat It’ and ‘Man in the Mirror,’” the seven-year-old said while lounging in the lawn chair.
With some good tunes and some good finds that will put money in his pocket, Powell said he can ride all day, but he doesn’t keep track of how many miles he rides.
“On the Fourth of July I rode the kids to Coney Island to go to the beach,” Powell said. “Boy, I was tired after that day. But, we had a lot of fun.”
Although he and his kids have fun on the bike-go-cart, he needs to keep on his grind to make ends meet. In terms of money, he said it’s a constant hustle.
“Sometimes my days are not good and other times my days are good,” Powell said. “But either way, I enjoy the atmosphere in Park Slope. It’s different from where I live, it’s quieter, people are friendly and some people help me. When my friends see me coming, they’ll go get something I can sell back at my house.”
Even though it’s a struggle and he usually only makes $50 a day, it beats being on the other side of the law.
“I don’t steal, I don’t take,” Powell explained. “I find things people are throwing away and it’s usually valuable.”
When he found the 14 karat gold ring, he knocked on the owner’s door and asked if they meant to leave it out. After they said ‘yes,’ he made a pretty penny after selling that.
He ends each day of riding around the Slope with a stoop sale at his house on Nostrand Avenue.
“I don’t make much, but I am always making two dollars here, three dollars there,” Powell said. “Most of the money goes to my kids and sometimes I let them buy ice cream and soda to make them happy. But I also try to save a little bit.”
“I just try to keep surviving,” Powell said.
If you want to help Henry Powell get a patent on his design, email the editor at Will.Yakowicz@Patch.com.