Member accuses famously liberal Park Slope Food Coop of bias


A longtime member of the famously liberal Park Slope Food Coop says he’s been discarded like so much wilted kale — accused of being an “angry black man” by the store.

Reginald Ferguson, 49, a real estate agent from Carroll Gardens, says the store slapped him with an 18-month suspension — prohibiting him from shopping for the co-op’s discounted groceries — following a dispute related to him playing music during his shifts there.

“They wrap themselves up in democracy and cooperation,” he said. “That hasn’t happened to my black ass. Not in the least. I’m an owner-member as they call it. What happened to me?”

Ferguson was a “squad leader” during his stints working at the store, a requirement for members of the 17,000-strong cooperative, which has included A-listers such as Maggie Gyllenhaal and Adrian Grenier.

He said he managed workers on Saturdays for two hours and 45 minutes and always played a mix of rock, R&B, world music and salsa.

Liberal Park Slope Food Coop accused of bias by member
Helayne Seidman

“It can be a mundane type of gig,” said Ferguson, a member of the co-op for 20 years. “We found that the music kept us going.”

But the tunes hit a sour note with one shopper who complained about the volume, he said.

He then had a dispute in September 2017 with another member who came for a “make-up shift” but, Ferguson says, didn’t want to wait to sign in.

“We went back and forth. He start whining, literally,” Ferguson said. The man promptly filed a complaint against him, he says.

Ferguson said he got a call a few weeks later from someone on the co-op’s “Dispute Resolution Committee,” who identified himself only as Curtis, and — citing the music and the disagreement— summarily dismissed him as a squad leader.

When other members tried to stand up for Ferguson, the panel dodged them, according Malcolm Armstrong, another co-op shift leader who witnessed the disagreement.

“They weren’t interested,” said Armstrong. “If they can’t be fair about little things, how can they be so righteous about big things.”

Clara Goetz, a retired social worker who belonged to Ferguson’s squad, said he was treated unfairly.

Liberal Park Slope Food Coop accused of bias by member
Helayne Seidman

“I believe that an organization that calls itself a cooperative and acts in fascist manner should not be calling themselves a cooperative,” she said.

When Ferguson continued to work as a squad leader as a form of protest, he landed before another co-op committee that found he was “uncooperative in his interpersonal conduct” and showed a “forceful anger” and slapped him with the suspension, according to a co-op document.

Ferguson, who is also a member of the local Community Board, has now taken to protesting outside the store to demand a hearing.

“They want to wear you down, but they picked the wrong person,” he said.

The co-op’s general manager did not return a request for comment.



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