On Thursday, May 11, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) hosted a presentation and workshop at P.S. 136 Charles O. Dewey, 4004 Fourth Avenue, to discuss the proposal to add protected bicycle lanes to Fourth Avenue.
The evening, which was attended dozens of local participants, elected officials, Community Board 7 members and others, was designed to give an update on the plan along with hearing opinions from the community.
DOT Bicycle Program Director Ted Wright discussed updates on the proposals with several renderings in hand.
According to Wright, the plan, which incorporates the stretch from Barclays Center to Bay Ridge through Sunset Park, includes taking some space off of the median and shifting it to the sides to create a parking-protected bike lane. Two travel lanes would also be slightly narrower.
The plan also calls for adding pedestrian refuge islands with landscaping, removal of some parking for islands and loading zones as well as wide parking lanes with lost width possibly impacting traffic, and the addition of landscaping on islands.
“A lot of community constituents have reached out and we have heard that people would like to see a protected bike lane like you see in other parts of city so what we did was take an honest look at this design and thought about whether this could be incorporated into this capital project at this time,” he said. “It’s not easy, but it is something we feel is feasible.”
Wright also discussed why Fourth Avenue had been chosen. “Fifth Avenue is too narrow,” he said. “We have some shared bike lanes there that are often double parked and don’t work well. Third Avenue is a speedway and becomes the conduit for the Gowanus when it breaks down. Logically, because we have a hill on one side of Sunset Park and a waterfront on the other side, Fourth Avenue is only the real option if we’re talking about a protected bike lane network in Brooklyn.”
Unchanged elements of the design include the rush-hour lane from 38th Street to Prospect Avenue.
Though split on the plan, attendees found both the workshop and update to be beneficial to the community.
“I think it’s awesome and I’m fully in support of the bike lane,” said Sara Greenfield, a 15-year Sunset resident. “We have a lot of bikers in this community and it’s not just gentrification bikers. It’s an important mode of transportation, especially for immigrants, and it would be nice if we had more people represented that way. Doing another meeting in Spanish and Chinese would be a big bonus.”
“I thought there were some very thoughtful ideas that came out of tonight,” said Zachary Jasie, chair of the CB 7 Transportation Committee. “I’m glad that the DOT is doing this throughout the areas that the bike lanes are going to go through and really take community feedback,” he said. “I think it is important to think about pedestrians, bikers and drivers. It’s also important we think about schools and loading zones and make sure Fourth Avenue is the artery that it needs to be. I think if done correctly, it would be a benefit to all the communities.”
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca applauded the DOT for reaching out to the community, but voiced a few concerns. “I didn’t see a lot of focus on small businesses,” he said. “Fourth Avenue is a big corridor for small businesses. We want to make sure we get that outreach.”.
“My concern about this gathering is that it does not represent a cross section of this community,” agreed Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of Uprose. “This is a homogeneous group. This community is largely Latino and Asian, and that is the community that is going to be mostly impacted and needs to be represented in the outcomes.”
“We are communities of families and they’re not here today,” added Menchaca. “We want to make sure we get to them especially the ones traversing over and through Fourth Avenue.”
Chair of the Education Committee for CB 7 Cesar Zuniga discussed some of the opposition he has heard from locals. “What I’ve heard is that this (plan) is going to take up parking spots and is going to create more traffic because it narrows the avenue into two lanes now as opposed to three which is what we have now, “ he said, adding that traffic calming is another concern for some. “That creates a safer environment for cyclists and pedestrians but this is what we’re dealing with in this community and really I think we have to work together to find the best solutions.”