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Making Park Slope Safer

More room for people, less for cars on Fourth Avenue in Slope

The Brooklyn Paper

Dangerous Fourth Avenue could become a pedestrian’s paradise if the city’s newly proposed redesign of Park Slope’s thoroughfare goes through, backers of the plan say.

The Department of Transportation’s new proposal for the speeding-prone boulevard will decrease the amount of lanes for cars from three to two in each direction, making room for wider parking lanes and fatter pedestrian islands on a 28 blocks stretch of the strip from 15th Street to Atlantic Avenue, moves which residents hope will slow down traffic.

“Fourth Avenue has been a bit of a wild-west show for far too long, and I am glad that the DOT is taking steps to change that,” said Eric McClure, a member of Community Board 6. “I expect that [the plan] will reduce pedestrian injuries and death and I don’t think that is something we can place a price tag on.”

Shrinking traffic lanes will curb speeders, who many say treat the busy avenue like a raceway, by minimizing lane changes. This should reduce the risk of car crashes, said project manager Jesse Mintz-Roth at public forum on the plans last Thursday. Some residents were concerned that the lost lane would result in traffic back ups, but Mintz-Roth said the city’s studies showed that congestion would not be significant.

The redesign proposal would also ban eight left turns near playgrounds and schools at what the city is calling “underutilized” left-turn bays. The turns will no longer be allowed by Bay Ridge-bound traffic at Dean Street, Third Street, Ninth Street, and 14th Street. Downtown-bound traffic will no longer be allowed to make left turns onto Butler Street, Degraw Street, Eighth Street, and 13th Street. At those intersections, the short turning bays will become part of wider pedestrian islands that will be marked by lane delineators.

At intersections keeping the existing turn lanes, the two-foot medians would broaden from two feet to six feet and the 11-foot crosswalk median opposite the turn bay would expand to up to 19 feet with paint and street posts.

The new infrastructure would give pedestrians more room to wait when crossing the wide, bustling avenue. From 2007 to 2011, according to transportation statistics, 53 people have been killed or severely injured along a 1.4-mile stretch.

Mintz-Roth said that the strip is a crash hot spot because it’s a “very chaotic intersection with trucks, vehicles, and lots of pedestrians.”

Most neighbors who showed up applauded the plan, saying that it is a necessary for safety’s sake.

“The redesign is needed urgently because the dangers along Fourth Avenue have been constant for far too long,” said Cobble Hill resident Dave Paco Abraham. “Fourth Avenue has been an out-of-place highway in a residential setting that poses significant danger to young, old, and everyone in between.”

The new designs are a response to resident complaints about speeding, narrow medians, double parking, and hazardous pedestrian conditions, which the agency heard at a Feb. 12 public workshop in the neighborhood. Groups such as the Fourth Avenue Task Force and the Park Slope Civic Council’s Fourth on Fourth Avenue Committee have long pushed for safety enhancements along the thoroughfare.

The city also plans to add planters to the pedestrian island between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue, and to extend the curb on the corner of Pacific Street near the subway entrance. In addition, the proposal includes the installation of on-street bike corrals and Muni-Metered parking along the avenue.

Transportation officials said the new plan closely mirrors Sunset Park’s recently redesigned Fourth Avenue traffic lanes from 15th to 65th streets.

Gene Aronowitz, a resident of 45th Street in Sunset Park, said that as a driver, bicyclist, and pedestrian, he has been satisfied with the changes.

“Left turn prohibitions took some getting used to, but now are not a problem, and help to keep the traffic moving,” he said.

Transportation officials were unable to provide statistics on the Sunset Park stretch that was redesigned last year, but Mintz-Roth said that the changes have been effective.

“If the goal is crash reduction, then every type of crash is down,” he said.

This isn’t the only part of Fourth Avenue up for a pedestrian-friendly makeover. The city is moving forward with a similar plan in Bay Ridge.

The only portion of the roadway that will retain the existing three-lanes will be the Downtown-bound lanes from Union Street to Atlantic Avenue, which the city says requires the extra lane during the busy morning commute.

Community Board 6’s transportation committee signed off on the plan. However, it asked that the DOT come back before the board with the locations for the proposed bike corrals and the installation of metered parking. The plan will go to the full board next month.

The city will present the plan to Community Board 2’s transportation committee Tuesday night.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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Reader Feedback

joey from clinton hills says:
ok. but a little enforcement of speeding laws and double parking laws could have increased revenues instead of spending millions to muck with the traffic lanes.
May 21, 2013, 10:03 am
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
joey,

Enforcing laws doesn't stop people from breaking them. It only punishes those who get caught. This will make it safer for my kids to get to school.
May 21, 2013, 10:06 am
S from Brooklyn says:
The 78th Precinct writes about 5 speeding tickets per month. So it would be nice if they could crack down on drivers, but they don't, hence the need for a new design to do the NYPD's job.
May 21, 2013, 10:19 am
ty from pps says:
"to muck with the traffic lanes" -- hmm...
May 21, 2013, 10:51 am
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
yea "to muck with the traffic lanes" . Are you saying we should just pave everything and let drivers fight for the lead and every green light.

Because that is what is there now.
May 21, 2013, 11:38 am
dave from PS says:
this is a great idea and will be a boom to the real estate over there.
May 21, 2013, 11:44 am
charles in charge from CobbleVille says:
I saw a guy get hit crossing the street there. Worst thing I've ever seen. That street is a nightmare.
May 21, 2013, 11:45 am
TimRedChin from BayRidge says:
Friggin Yuppie Lefties taking more space from us drivers. I never seen such a stupider idea. What's next, closing it off for bikers like Bloomie does to Broadway? This city is gone to thedogs.
May 21, 2013, 11:47 am
freddy from slope says:
Maybe they should widen the sidewalks back to the original dimensions removing a lane on both sides.

Not sure that removing left hand turns does other than shunt one left hand turn to 3 right hand turns including a visit to the idle 5th avenue.

just widen the sidewalks and enforce the speeding laws w/ a constant presence.
May 21, 2013, 12:51 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Quiet Comrades! Get on your bikes! Pack on the bus that never comes! Take mass transit, the one that does not run on the weekend!

Text while you cross the street - No need for a light on your bike, and that stipe of yellow paint on the street that surrounds the island will protect you!

The Commisars in their limos need to get through.

Forward! The nomenklatura have given you your orders.
May 21, 2013, 12:55 pm
gnyc from Gowanus says:
Semi tractor trailers that have to get down 13th street can only make the turn if they make a downtown bound left. They always get stuck on the corner trying to make a Bay Ridge bound right and end up shutting down two lanes of fourth ave in the process. Crack down on double parking at 8/9, 9/10, and 11/12 streets.
May 21, 2013, 1:59 pm
trans alt from my bike says:
timredchin, yes comrade, that is what's coming next. Your suburban cul de sac is waiting for you. Go there.
May 21, 2013, 2:04 pm
Tim from Gowamamma says:
Tractor trailers should be banished.
May 21, 2013, 3:04 pm
Joe Vitacco from Midwood says:
This is just another attack on the motoring citizens. Bike lanes and bike parking racks, pedestrian plazas and now this plan. What next? Sure cut the flow of traffic on Fourth Avenue and what happens when the highway shuts down for any reason, it will paralyze Brooklyn. The mayor only cares about Manhattan. If the mayor had his way he would ban cars from entering Manhattan. Enforce the traffic regulation and the jerk that said "it punishes those who get caught" did he think that if people get caught others would think twice about speeding. Maybe he would like to stop all ticketing so that no one would get caught. He must be one of the mayors advisors. By the way Mr. Mayor for the most part over the three terms you did good. This war on the motoring citizens and the fiasco in the public schools are the only two things that I feel where ill advised.
May 21, 2013, 4:40 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Joe,

I guess I am the jerk who said, "it punishes those who get caught". I am also a "motoring citizen". Yes I own a car and I drive a lot. and I drive like everyone else on city streets. AS FAST AS I CAN. Because nobody gets speeding tickets. If the cops started enforcing the speed limit on 4th Ave then a little more than nobody would get tickets.

Joe, have you been on the Belt Pky? There is enforcement and nobody drives the speed limit. Yes enforcement "punishes those who get caught".
May 21, 2013, 4:54 pm
Joe Vitacco from Mid wood says:
I am happy you proved the fact that I feel you are a jerk. People in general do not drive as fast as they can. I find it strange that you would admitt in this media that you are constantly breaking the law propelling a two ton missile through the streets at a dangerous rate of speed.
If you compare speeding on a highway with no cross street no pedestrians and no traffic lights to a city street with all of the above you are a real danger to all of us.
The NYPD was successful in getting a very high percentage of drivers to wear their seat belts. They could do the same with speeders, like you. By-the-way do you wear a seat belt?
Keep writing and dig a bigger hole.
Joe
May 21, 2013, 5:16 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Once the youth of America read "On the Road" longed for a duece coup, and settled for a VW bus to tour the country.

Now?

The Trans Alts and Tiny Tys quiver in fear because they don't know how to cross the street.
May 21, 2013, 5:33 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
I do use a seat belt and police all over the country were able to get people to use them because it is easy to enforce and a good excuse to pull someone over.

Have you ever actually driven on 4th Ave, Ocean Pky ? Everyone is speeding.

Anyway, how do you know why so few speeding tickets are given out? Because it is really hard. It is easy to give out no seatbelt tickets.
May 21, 2013, 5:37 pm
ty from pps says:
Joe Vitacco... Are you serious?! You're questioning someone's use of hyperbole when you enter the conversation with:

"Sure cut the flow of traffic on Fourth Avenue and what happens when the highway shuts down for any reason, it will paralyze Brooklyn."

Reducing a section of 4th avenue from 6 lanes to 4 lanes, making the intersections more predictable and removing the *excess* capacity that is a major contributing factor to speeding will "paralyze Brooklyn"?! But, if the highways were closed, this extra 2 lanes of roadway for 28 blocks will make a highway closure not a problem?!

Guess what? If the Gowanus Expressway has to close for an extended period of time, guess where the extra capacity can come from? No Parking -- Wamm-O Zamm-O! Another lane more moving traffic!

In the meantime, let's see if the vast majority of street users (i.e., pedestrians) can enjoy some increased safety from shortened crossing distances and slower traffic while we wait for your "what if" scenario to happen.

I'm thinking your term "paralyze Brooklyn" actually means "slightly inconvenienced."
May 21, 2013, 5:37 pm
Ack! from Park Slope says:
Man am I grateful to live in a city that at least partially gets that cars are A. dangerous as hell and B. going out of style, fast. And it's especially fun to read all the bellowing fools crying that their precious road space is being diminished. Sorry guys, the days of everyone giving over space and subsidies to your driving are coming to an end. If I never had to drive my car I'd be a much happier person. Keep it up, NYC.

I'll also note that these improvements are actually very cheap. Nowhere near the "millions" the first poster suggests. But it would be even more effective to combine the improvements with much better enforcement, city-wide. Hopefully we'll get there soon.
May 21, 2013, 5:41 pm
ty from pps says:
By the way, Joe. It does sound like you've never driven on 4th Avenue. Whenever I drive down it (which is fairly often), I am ALWAYS overtaken by other drivers swerving around me. ALWAYS. And this is even if I'm driving 35 mph, 5 mph *over* the speed limit.
May 21, 2013, 5:43 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
and Joe, did you know why this is going to happen? To make things safer.

This is how we make things safer in the real world.
May 21, 2013, 6:08 pm
Dan M. from Boerum Hill says:
Let's be realistic, it is anticipated that NYC's population will continue to climb by significant amounts. We'll need to make room for these new people in an already congested city. Pedestrians and bikers take up much less space than cars so the easiest way to give a congested city more space is to make a city more pedestrian friendly. Don't like it? Detroit is a highly car friendly city with plenty of cheap real estate available for you.

What will the new residents want? They'll want to live in pleasant neighborhoods with cultural institutions and access to mass transit. However, Boerum Hill and Park Slope have major zoning regulations preventing high scale development. Where will this development take place? Areas like Fourth Avenue which has looser zoning and is not historical. So unless population trends reverse, expect more condos on Fourth Ave with a more pedestrian/bike friendly infrastructure to accommodate the new residents.
May 21, 2013, 6:56 pm
Joe Vitacco says:
Yes, I do drive on Fourth Avenue, on an average of twice a week. If anyone is speeding on the avenue it must be at 3am because traffic is usually so heavy you cannot attaint the speeds that you describe. You fail to understand that there are many people who must use a car: the handicapped and others. You are part of this great city but you would like to make the Slope, Heights and the Hill a gated community.
It is very difficult to have a logical discourse with those with tunnel vision and refused to acknowledge the needs of those outside their community.
I also notice that you do not use you full names. Ashamed of you positions?
May 21, 2013, 8:04 pm
ty from pps says:
Oh, I forgot... the roads are gridlocked by the handicapped and elderly. Oh silly me.

Oh and... "It is very difficult to have a logical discourse with those with tunnel vision and refused to acknowledge the needs of those outside their community." HAHHAAHAHAHAHAHA! Just dripping with absurd irony.
May 21, 2013, 8:14 pm
Joe V from NYC says:
Next time I decide to enter into a discussion I will check the maturity level of the participants. Oh and their level of intelligence. It sounds like you have reached the point of desperation in your attempt to defend the indefensible. Have a good night!
May 21, 2013, 9:18 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Joe

I drive almost every day too.
May 21, 2013, 10:26 pm
ty from pps says:
Joe V -

If it's so "indefensible" -- Why was this plan endorsed by the Community Boards? Why have the traffic engineering experts at the DOT determined that there is indeed excess capacity contributing to dangerous pedestrian conditions? Why did DOT determine that the portion of 4th Avenue north of Union needed to maintain it's higher capacity? (That doesn't sound like they are ignoring the needs of the motor vehicle users, does it?)

Do you even know what "indefensible" means?

I feel like you might be another irrational, self-deluded Tal Barzilai-type... but worse, because you actually live in Brooklyn.
May 21, 2013, 10:59 pm
Johnny Hammersticks from Brooklyn says:
You're all a bunch of @$$holes.
May 22, 2013, 1:05 am
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Joe V,

You insult the people who disagree with you and then call us immature. Whatever...

My kids have to cross 4th Ave to get to school, I don't care what you think of me. This is about safety.

Speaking of immaturity, where is Tal?
May 22, 2013, 6:14 am
Dan M from Boerum Hill says:
I live on 4th Avenue. I dodge speeding drivers all of the time.
May 22, 2013, 6:31 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Dan, get out of the street - it is a roadway afterall - then you won't have to dodge the drivers.
May 22, 2013, 8:39 am
Dave from Slope says:
Why does everyone get so mad about this? And why do so many people live with their heads in a hole?

I don't own a car, but used to, and still use zip car or borrow a friend's car often. I speed a lot when I do. I zip around other cars. It's fun. It's fast and I do realize it's moronically dangerous and I shouldn't do it.

Do I think it would suck if they made the street a little narrower, a little slower and a whole lot safer? Nope, that sounds good to me. I can manage. I'd like clean up that street a bit. It's really not safe, and just because you speed down it and never drive down it doesn't mean it should not be safe for other people than you. Can't we alllllll just get along?

Ticket the speeders, btw. I'd slow down if I knew there was a monetary-issue connected to it. Until there is though, I'll stupidly speed.
May 22, 2013, 11:08 am
Nic says:
I get that drivers feel that they are being pushed out, but I don't get how that equates to pedestrians "don't know how to cross the street".

Have you ever tried to cross on 4th ave? And I'm not just talking across the full avenue, I'm talking about on the avenue trying to cross over blocks. More often than I should, I've had to dodge cars that aren't following the law. I know how to cross a street, and I know when the light tells me I have the right-of-way to do so. That doesn't mean others abide by those rules.

That being said, I'm not sure this particular solution would cut down on that anyway.
May 22, 2013, 12:13 pm
Susan from Sunset Park says:
More Garbage!!!!
May 22, 2013, 8:09 pm
yerma from swampville says:
who is this clown "TimRedChin"?

hahah, what a dolt:

"I never seen such a stupider idea. "
May 24, 2013, 2:19 pm
Pauline Urano from Bay Ridge says:
Darn Yuppies! Another attempt to drive out the average Joe.

Yuppies are taking over. They'll fight for bike lanes for cleaner are and less noise but don't mind driving their gas guzzling vehicles from one side of the borough to the other to buy their overpriced but freshly organic and 100% grass fed groceries.

Hypocrites!

If you really desire the better life, all natural, green pastures, clean water and fresh air....then why do you live in this polluted air, rat infested and congested city? Or is that trendy urban lifestyle that you really desire?
June 4, 2013, 9:57 am

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