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Ridgeites rehash Fourth avenue redesign plans

In an extraordinary summer meeting, Community Board 10 members met to discuss the Fourth Avenue redesign plans on Wednesday, July 31 at the Norwegian Christian Home and Health Center.

Brian Kieran, outgoing chair of the Traffic and Transportation Committee, as well as the newly appointed chair of the community board, gave a comprehensive report outlining each of the proposed changes to the thoroughfare – with two new additions.

At 82nd Street – which was the scene of a fatal accident in late April – the Department of Transportation proposed extending the northeast curb cut to shorten the northern crosswalk and to slow down right hand turns. The Traffic and Transportation Committee voted to recommend this change.

Another addition is at 85th Street, which includes banning right hand turns onto 85th Street from Fourth Avenue; fanning the south crosswalk to connect with the southwest corner and the subway stairs; extending the southeast curb to shorten crossing in the southern crosswalk and upgrading all crosswalks to high visibility, with raised and better quality paint.

The committee voted to recommend all these changes, except the right turn ban, which members contended would force drivers to circle around, thus causing more traffic, since the municipal parking lot is on the corner of 85th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Gene Aronowitz, a Sunset Park resident, gave comment during the public portion of the meeting, testifying that he was pleased with the changes in his section of the thoroughfare.

“The whole thing is incredible. It’s just wonderful,” he said. “When I am driving, I know that no one is in my way. It’s slower but better. As a pedestrian…walking on 86th Street is like a minefield.

“I’m not a traffic engineer so I don’t know about safety in technical terms, but I know in usual terms: I feel safer crossing the street,” he concluded.

“We need and deserve anti-speeding measures on Fourth Avenue,” Kieran contended. “Lane reductions don’t guarantee reduced speeding. The plan should directly incorporate anti-speeding measures, like raised speed reducers, speed bumps and humps, which can be incorporated on the roadway on Fourth Avenue and the surrounding streets.”

Some members had issues with the proposed changes between Ovington Avenue and 86th Street, where the number of lanes is proposed to be reduced to one each way, with left hand turning bays at each corner.

“[Left hand turning bays] will further impede traffic in that lane,” Dean Rasinya said.

Jayne Capetanakis pointed the left hand turn bays along Bay Ridge Parkway near Fort Hamilton Parkway and Seventh Avenue. She contended that drivers rarely follow those rules, causing traffic to snarl.

“People drive straight, anyway,” Capetanakis said.

“If we reduce to one lane, we will be literally be committing traffic suicide,” contended Allen Bortnick.

But Jean Ryan noted, “That’s the whole point of this: to slow things down,” she said. “We have to do something because if we do nothing, we will have the same conditions we do now with speeding.”

Doris Cruz said that she was concerned about the amount emergency vehicles parked on the avenue, especially with such a large population of senior citizens.

“I worry about the guy who sees the ambulance and makes an erratic turn,” she said. “Ambulances can be parked in front of a building for a long time.”

“They are just making it more dangerous and it’s scaring the heck out of us,” Greg Ahl contended.

When it comes to the intersection of 86th Street, many members said they did not support the pedestrian island.

“There is absolutely nothing safe about that island,” said Susan Romero, adding that buses and trucks turn often at the crossing, which is also “too congested.”

Bortnick added, “Someone’s ox is going to get gored, no matter what we do. It’s just a question of whose ox is going to get it.”

Andrew Gounardes – who supports the plan — contended that members were hesitant to vote because they weren’t sure if the plan will work or not.

“I didn’t see a good enough reason not to try it,” he said.

The full board is expected to vote on whether or not to recommend the changes at the October meeting.

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