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Want to fix Fourth Avenue? Slow ‘em down!

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In all the talk about how to fix Fourth Avenue, a consensus is emerging around one single idea: slow those cars down!

That’s the new message being touted by city planners, transportation officials and residents as more and more people get on the bandwagon to turn at least the Park Slope portion of the Downtown-Bay Ridge speedway into more of a neighborhood street.

“This is one of the most dangerous roads in Brooklyn,” Ryan Lynch, senior planner for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said on Thursday night at the Park Slope Civic Council’s forum on the “future” of Fourth Avenue. “We need to lower the sight distance for drivers — and they will instinctively slow down.”

The 11-block stretch from Carroll Street to Ninth Street is a treacherously wide-open, six-lane freeway, with cars moving at high speeds. A barren, two-foot median is essentially the only buffer between walkers and their mobile nemeses.

There were plenty of other solutions bandied about at the forum, held at the St. Thomas Aquinas Church Hall on Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street, fixes such as more trees, a wider array of users and more things to stop and look at. But it all came back to speeds.

“The street should facilitate a broad range of needs to be complete, and should involve pedestrians, vehicles and bikers,” said Ethan Kent, vice president of the international Project for Public Spaces. “Give us congestion. Give us green space and welcoming areas on the sidewalk for our neighbors. Make it so drivers looking to go through town, rather than stay, will decide to go around Fourth Avenue.”

Some drivers argue that Fourth Avenue is already the last speedy thoroughfare between Park Slope and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

“If it’s even more congested over here, traffic will have to spill over onto other streets,” said Bob Smith, who has been using the avenue as an artery for years. “It’s bad enough on Fifth Avenue as it is.”

He and other panelists agreed that trees and green space — like the one being proposed by New York University grad students that would refurbish the dead space along the median and sidewalks — would slow down the horrendous vehicle traffic, thereby allowing visitors to walk the sidewalk comfortably.

The students will present their final proposal in May. NYU grad student Noah Levine wouldn’t release much until the proposal is finished, but we do know that Borough President Markowitz wants furniture on the sidewalks, a tree-lined portion that mimics Park Avenue in Manhattan and a wide pedestrian walkway.

But he also wants the New Jersey Nets to move to a 19,000-seat arena at the northern terminus of Fourth Avenue, which is expected to be completed in 2012 and would be something of a punctuation mark on the boulevard’s boom, which began with the 2003 rezoning that allowed 12-story residential buildings, a change in zoning that set off a wave of construction, mostly between Atlantic Avenue and the Prospect Expressway.

Some wish that Brooklyn could go back in time.

“It’s already going to be dangerous for her when she starts walking,” said Park Slope and Fourth Avenue resident Ben Leidner, who pushed his daughter in a stroller near 13th Street on Friday. “It’s just going to be worse on all the streets around here.”

But until a symbiotic relationship can be built on the strip between people, cars and bikes, it seems that Markowitz’s dream of the rechristened “Brooklyn Boulevard” will instead hold Lynch’s new favorite title: the most dangerous road in the borough.

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Reader Feedback

Michael from Bay ridge says:
Why not just close it off? Like no car traffic at all. That would make it wonderful. There is a big highway if cars want to do quick traffic between neighborhoods. There is no need to have cars running along 4th avenune.
Build a high speed tram going up and down the avenue so that there is no longer a need for car traffic!
March 8, 2010, 11:10 am
freddy from slope says:
the avenue was two fewer lanes through the 50's.

just imagine how wide the orignal sidewalks were.

this could be an opening salvo in taking back our city from the rights of individual drivers and giving it back to a more communal style.

close two lanes, put in light rail, drop the speed limit to 10 MPH and put up some greenery.

rhen you will have something to be proud of.
March 8, 2010, 12:03 pm
Jay says:
Cars need a north south thoroughfare that actually moves. When people started moving to the derelict 4th Ave, they knew it was a main traffic artery. Now that's supposed to be shut down? 5th-8th Aves are slow... Keep 4th for traffic. That it's even called Park Slope is hilarious to all but the latest newcomers to the area -- and the huckster real estate agents marketing the place. Sync lights and do other things to keep cars from racing past a comfortable 25, but limiting a decent north/south roadway is only going to spread out the menacing traffic elsewhere. Your choice.
March 8, 2010, 5:46 pm
PatK from BayRidge says:
Jay has some good points. I'm looking or a photo of 4th, ave in the 50's with just two lanes. I don't think it existed but will check. .
March 8, 2010, 6:41 pm
freddy from slope says:
the brooklyn public library has plenty of photos of 4th ave with ridiculously wide walkways.

and jay... before there were 9 lanes (including parking) there were fewer. just because we let autos gobble up our city doesnt mean we cant take some of it back.

you cant argue a particular point in time defines an area forever. do you even know the city you live in?

a "thoroughfare that actually moves" is one of the most dangerous thorouhfares inthe city. i think that at least 6 people have died in recent years for the convenience of your "thoroughfare that actually moves."

i'll go with stripping a bit of that away.
March 9, 2010, 8:22 am
Jay says:
Freddy, prove it. Facts, figures and nature of the accident. Then offset vs. other accidents and get back to us. Where cars are driving erratically, it's an enforcement issue... Live on a major thoroughfare and you need to be careful. Reminds me of the people in the suburbs who buy an inexpensive house near the highway and then complain to the municipality about noise.
March 9, 2010, 10:45 am
freddy from slope says:
Uh Jay,

The Park Slope Civic Council proferred those numbers in the community meeting last week.

I have been front and center on any number of screech and thuds over the years on 4th Avenue. Why do you think the neckdowns went in place? Too many gentrifiers(full disclosure: i could be considered a gentrifier) were getting picked off.

If you had been paying attention the last several years you wouldn't be on such a high horse. No city needs a speedway.

Your need to go Bay Ridge to Brooklyn Heights unfettered by the safety and well being of the locals should shunt you to the BQE, deathtrap that it is.

But, troll that you are, I will bite because I ca't seem to find anythng else to do...

Do you claim 4th Avenue is a safe place to be with regards to vehicles and pedestrans?

Do you claim that the accidents (deaths) did not occur?

Maybe our journalistic overlords can search ther archives and settle the issue.

I will bet you a beer that there are 10 deaths in 10 years.

I challenge you to show the math that your convenience is worth their lives.
March 9, 2010, 11:45 am
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
They have already slowed the traffic down with the Stupid bike lanes for outoftowners. Biking in NYC is seasonal not a year round reality. Next thing is that they want the car eliminated and a tax on fat people.
March 9, 2010, 4:34 pm
Jim from Park Slope says:
I lived at the corner of 17th and 4th and I heard screeching all the time. I saw a three car accident in front of my apartment after a car blew through a red light going 40 and t-boned a van. As someone who drives, I know how convenient it is to drive down 4th avenue. I don't think it's safe for the the people who walk down the street every day on the sidewalk. Taking away 2 lanes and putting trees in the middle would certainly have a calming effect on the traffic. With the new influx of high rise residents/gentrifiers on 4th, there's going to be a lot more pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks and that's reason enough to make changes.
March 9, 2010, 9:46 pm
Bill from 4th Avenue says:
@Freddy,

"Ridiculously wide walkways?" I think you meant "APPROPRIATELY wide walkways," to accommodate all the pedestrian traffic before all the auto traffic made devastated the avenue.

@Pacholo,

Seems to me that plenty of people are biking year-round, and they all seem to live here, not out of town. We might not need that fat tax if more people rode bikes. And I seem to move just fine on my bike, as I pass all those stupid drivers stuck in traffic.
March 9, 2010, 10:50 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
@Pacholo - I'm from Brooklyn (always, brn and raised) but still bike all year round. It's perfectly reasonable to expect to be able to do so.

Cars and fat people are actually two of my major annoyances - maybe there should be more taxes on them because they cost the city more money in terms of infrastructure damage.
March 10, 2010, 9:22 am
JP from Park Slope says:
Jay,

I'd be happy to make space on 4th for cars if they did go 25 mph. Heck, I'd be happy if they even went the posted speed limit of 35. But the fact is, drivers go way too fast on this street which impacts safety and, yes, aesthetics. And if you don't think aesthetics are important, then we just have different values. I happen to think a city is for living in, not for speeding through.
March 10, 2010, 4:04 pm
freddy from slope says:
@bill...

can't the sidewalks be ridiculous and appropriate at the same time ;)
March 10, 2010, 6 pm
tom murphy from sunset park says:
Just for the record:
4th Avenue was widened in 1972 to accommodate vehicle traffic--BQE was not enough. Park Slope slept.
BQE is obstructed by repair/reconstruction now and for the future(see plans to close highway from Atlantic to Tillary when the Gowanus Hill is done). 4th Avenue will be essential as a bypass, even with the Barclay Area blocking it at Atlantic!
Check out planned reconstruction of Kent Ave.--4,000 daily vehicles are to be banned in favor of 300 daily bikers. I can see the FOR LEASE/FOR SALE CHEAP signs going up shortly.
April 6, 2010, 10:19 am
Jose Fleice from Sunset Park says:
"The 11-block stretch from Carroll Street to Ninth Street is a treacherously wide-open, six-lane freeway, with cars moving at high speeds."

AH...spoken like a true racist newcomer to Brooklyn Andy Campbell. $TH Ave is deasly all the way through Bay Ridge, but whitey dont know that since whitey is new to town and only thinks his neighborhood exists. Back to the suburbs whitey!
April 6, 2010, 3:35 pm
Gerard from East Harlem says:
Every one of you arguing for slower/elimination of traffic on this main thoroughfare need to GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM....... AND LOBBY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF TRAFFIC ON THE MAIN THOROUGHFARE THERE. But how will Mommy get to Chruch and the Grocery store? Well, I DON'T CARE, just like YOU DON'T CARE how your neighbors, and businesses/people whose livelihood DEPEND on getting from point A to point B in a timely manor.

Oh yeah, and 40 MPH isnt F***ING NASCAR, PEOPLE.
Oct. 26, 2010, 10:43 pm

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