DOT gets feedback on Fourth Avenue pros and cons

Planning for the anticipated redesign of Brooklyn’s FourthAvenue continues apace as city planners with the Department ofTransportation (DOT) meet with community leaders in Sunset Park,Park Slope, Downtown Brooklyn and Bay Ridge to get feedback on thebiggest problems that residents face in using the thoroughfare thatBorough President Marty Markowitz would like to call BrooklynBoulevard.

The latest meeting on February 9, saw community advocates andaverage residents gather at Sunset Park High School for a FourthAvenue Safety Visioning Workshop in which small groups paired withDOT planners to talk, make lists and draw on giant street maps.

These are structured conversations [where] we ask where theythink is dangerous, what they use the avenue for – as a destinationor as a route to other places – and to list things they consider tobe strengths and weaknesses, said DOT planner Jesse Mintz-Roth.Then we ask how they think it can be changed. We’re here to getfeedback about possible solutions.

Within the first half an hour, the DOT had already heardconcerns about speeding, short term bays and about how FourthAvenue is designed, said planner Matthew Roe.

Other identified weaknesses included crossing distance, thenumber of cars and pollution, not enough time on countdown clocks,poor lighting, narrow medians, infrequent and poorly accessiblesubway stations when linked to bus routes, potholes south of 36thStreet and Green-Wood Cemetery, general ugliness with no trees andbenches, and an overall unsafe environment for schoolchildren andfamilies.

On the flip side, residents wanted any redesign to retain themedians and ensure that it remains a hub of commuter activity.

I feel safe along Fourth Avenue because there are so manypeople, said Amelia Estrada, who came to the event with herseven-year-old grandson to emphasize the issue of school safety.On Third Avenue, I feel safe biking, but not walking, because it’smore deserted.

Another perk between 15th and 65th Streets is that the avenue isopen, in terms of width and height, said Joe Ciccone, a member ofMarkowitz’s Fourth Avenue Task Force. There are no tall buildings.You can see the sky.

Nonetheless, everyone present agreed that Fourth Avenue is notpedestrian-friendly.

Ideas from the DOT’s toolbox to fix this include widening themedians, restricting left turns, adding a loading zone to balanceout parking, and giving pedestrians a head start on countdownclocks.

I feel the gentleman listened to us and had creative ideas tomake the avenue pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly, saidChristina Fuentes, principal of P.S. 24. I care very much aboutthe community and feel it’s important to keep it safe for thechildren. We had a child hit by a car a few years ago. Even whenthere is no speeding, it is hard to cross six lanes of traffic andthe median.

Murad Awawdeh of UPROSE agreed. There are 10 schools and seniorcenters there, he said. It is really important to consider thepeople who are really using it: the parents with three kids, theseniors with walkers. It’s really important to get some neck-downsso drivers see people wanting to cross. There’s a high crash rateat 60th Street; cars actually have to hit the curb to make theturn.

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