After months of discussion and debate, a local advisory panel has flatly rejected the centerpiece of the city’s plan to make Fourth Avenue safer for pedestrians and cyclists, resoundingly voting in opposition to narrowing the roadway in two different segments.
On October 21, voting item by item, Community Board 10 approved some aspects of the Department of Transportation’s lengthy proposal during a meeting that lasted for four hours, but turned down DOT’s idea of shrinking Fourth Avenue from two lanes of moving traffic to one with left-turn bays added in both directions between 86th Street and Ovington Avenue, as well as DOT’s proposal to eliminate one lane of moving traffic northbound from 101st to 95th Street.
“Pedestrians have to be equally as responsible for their safety,” asserted board member Susan Romero. “Why are drivers the only ones who are penalized?”
Nonetheless, board members did support curb extensions [bulb-outs or neckdowns] at certain intersections (86th and 82nd Streets and Bay Ridge Parkway) to shorten the crossing distance and make it easier for pedestrians to make it from one side of the street to the other safely, as well as improved markings and signage, and wider, more obvious crosswalks in some spots, including at Shore Road and 85th Street, where the crosswalk would be repainted to meet the subway exit.
The board also approved moving the S53 bus stop, now between 86th and 87th Streets, one block south to between 87th and 88th Streets, as well as a proposal by DOT to delineate a nine-foot-wide parking lane with a stripe of white paint between Ovington Avenue and 67th Street, recommending also that the marked parking lane be extended to 86th Street.
There was definite concern that the removal of lanes would result in congestion. Board member Greg Ahl, said that lane reductions “just close things up.” He contended that he used to be able to get to downtown Brooklyn from Bay Ridge in 11 minutes, before DOT re-engineered the strip in Sunset Park and Park Slope, reducing the number of lanes in places. “Now, it’s more than half an hour. I don’t see what this is doing for us,” Ahl asserted.
“It’s going into a bottle with a very small opening,” added Allen Bortnick.
Kevin Peter Carroll called for increased enforcement along the strip as an alternative. “If they are enforcing speeding,” he asserted, “we don’t need to worry about lane reductions.”
However, Bob HuDock, one of the few members of the board to vote in favor of the “road diet,” said that the goal of the lane reduction “is to reduce speeding, to reduce injuries and fatalities.
“Fourth Avenue is dangerous to pedestrians,” he stressed. “I think we should be thinking about pedestrians, not about treating Fourth Avenue as an alternate highway. It’s a neighborhood street. All the bulb-outs, pedestrian islands and fences are not going to save as many lives as this piece [reducing the number of lanes of moving traffic in the heart of the strip].”
But, Liz Amato disagreed. “The changes being implemented are going to slow down traffic and make it safer,” she contended.
Besides turning down DOT’s proposed road diet, board members also rejected the DOT proposal to add a refuge island at 86th Street, as well as an 80-foot-long barrier along the west side of Fourth Avenue between 86th and 87th Streets, which had been suggested as a way of discouraging passenger drop-offs in the bus zone that takes up the block, as well as parking by drivers who run into the delis on the block, and double-parking.
Finally, the board turned down the DOT’s suggestion of taking parking away along Fourth Avenue at 65th Street, moving it adjacent to the park, in order to reduce congestion at the intersection that had resulted when the city installed a left-turn bay there. Instead, board members voted to request that DOT remove the left-turn bay and restore the roadway as it had been.
The board also voted in favor of a slate of additional recommendations, including requesting studies by the DOT on adding curb extensions and countdown signals along the entire stretch as well as of turning lights at Bay Ridge Parkway, 86th Street and 92nd Street.
The entire proposal can be found on the board’s website, www.bkcb10.org.
The board’s recommendations are advisory only.