After a delay, Community Board 7 (CB7) has finally voted on and approved the proposal by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide Fourth Avenue with a parking-protected bike lane.
The final tally was overwhelmingly in favor of the plan with 30 in favor, 5 opposed with zero abstentions during the board’s monthly meeting on Wednesday, January 17.
The vote was originally scheduled for December but was pushed back to January due to a small turnout.
“The meetings we have held on this have been overwhelmingly positive,” said District Manager of CB 7 Jeremy Laufer.
The plan, which involves the stretch from Barclays Center to Bay Ridge through Sunset Park, includes shaving some space off the median and shifting it to the sides of the roadway. Two travel lanes would also be slightly narrower.
The proposal 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.
“This was a follow-up effort from what we’ve done in years past with trying to make Fourth Avenue safer,” Laufer explained. “There are sensitive sites including schools, a public library, senior housing and public transportation. We want to make it as safe as possible for pedestrians because it’s a very wide boulevard and often used as the alternative to the Gowanus Expressway. We don’t want that so, for a number of years, we have worked with DOT to try to make it safer, and this is the next phase, which is to make it a much safer street for people riding bikes and for anyone who uses it.”
The loss of parking is an issue, however.
“It would take away quite a bit of parking, I believe 225 spots between 15th and 65th Streets,” Laufer added. “We are very hopeful we will recapture some of those spots beneath the Gowanus Expressway. We know DOT is looking to regularize parking beneath the expressway so we hope the community will regain some of those spots.”
Laufer also acknowledged the strip’s double parking problem.
“Part of that is because of double parked trucks so loading zones are a part of this as well as meters in the commercial areas to try to keep parking spaces opening up throughout the day,” Laufer said.
The protected bike lanes, he added, are a logical extension of prior bike lanes the board had approved — specifically the Upland Connector bike lanes on 43rd, 44th, 57th and 58th Streets. These “east-west bike lanes that help people get down to the waterfront and throughout the waterfront,” will eventually connect with bike lanes on Fourth, which, Laufer stressed, is “one of the few north-south streets that is not blocked by either the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, Green-Wood Cemetery or bodies of water.”
CB 7 Chair Cesar Zuniga told this paper weeks ago he supported the plan. “ I’ve been clear that an intentional effort to make the streets safer for everyone including bikers, pedestrians and travelers was something that shouldn’t be controversial,” he said.
He also acknowledged some of the plan’s detractors.
“I think a lot of people, for whatever reason, see bike lanes and the idea of traffic calming as something that gentrifiers or folks that are newcomers want to see and are pushing to change the community,” he added. “Those are two separate discussions that brings complications on how our community is changing.”
According to Laufer, the first phase is just paint and will start this spring. The following phase which will involve new cement being laid will take place a year after that.