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Activists want affordable housing, more stores, and green measures on Fourth Avenue

Go Fourth and prosper

The Brooklyn Paper

Fourth Avenue has been wrecked by luxury developments and needs more affordable housing and beautification pronto, according to a Park Slope civic group that is calling on the city to help make the thoroughfare more livable for the average Joe.

The busy corridor that quickly morphed into a bar and restaurant strip with mid-rise housing after the 2003 rezoning of Park Slope lacks affordable digs and adequate street-level retail, partly due to construction of several 12-story condos, according to a survey by the Park Slope Civic Council. The group presented the findings, based on hundreds of interviews with Slopers, to a packed meeting at the Old Stone House on Tuesday night.

“You can’t undo some of the buildings that have been done — God knows I’d love to,” said SJ Avery, co-chair of the Fourth on Fourth Avenue committee. “We need to make sure that the expansion of Fourth Avenue does not come at the expense of people who have lived there for a while.”

The Civic Council hopes to collaborate with local politicians and activist groups such as the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership to combat the strip’s skyrocketing rents and make it safer for pedestrians and nicer looking. The gadflies are concerned about rents being raised by new luxury developments, such as the 75-apartment complex coming to the old McDonald’s site on Fourth Avenue near First Street.

“We want to protect the diversity that exists,” Avery said. “Some of it that has eroded already.”

The controversial rezoning of Park Slope over a decade ago protected low-rise residential streets from developers, but left Fourth Avenue between Union and 15th streets open for structures as high as 120 feet, creating eyesore towers with not enough retail, according to residents.

“People were allowed to build with virtually no restrictions,” Avery said.

Officials expressed support for the group’s push, echoing concerns that the thoroughfare is unsafe for walkers and is in desperate need of a green makeover.

“Our community has a lot of ideas about how to improve Fourth Avenue, including ways to increase pedestrian safety, introduce green infrastructure, and make the street more lively and livable,” Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint) said. “There was large consensus that now is the time for action on Fourth Avenue.”

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.

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Reader Feedback

SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
I can't think of a worse looking, uglier, stretch of street in Brooklyn. Just one eyesore after another. Nothing to be done now but learn from the mistake and make sure there is some control going forward
Jan. 16, 9:03 am
ty from pps says:
Certainly, these buildings are not beauty contest winners. But it's not the size that's the problem. 4th Avenue SHOULD have big buildings. The problem is the lack of street-level amenities (retail, etc.) So it looks like a ghost town on major stretches.

By the way, this is caused (in part) by the parking minimum regulations that forced these buildings to have massive parking garages... garages that were built above ground because of the subway and preventing (or making very expensive) the possibility of retail. Garages that are not close to full by any stretch of the imagination and just make the housing on the higher floors more pricey -- i.e., subsidizing unused parking.
Jan. 16, 10:07 am
JCB from Prospect Heights says:
Absolutely. NYC has been saturated with landmarking districts that correspond less with historical signficance and more with bozo patrician NIMBYISM.

NYC needs affordable housing, and densification is the only way to do it. Instead of sop and giveaway to developers, and instead of artificial crimps on segments of the housing market, it's time to build more housing and to extract more assistance related to infrastructure improvement from developers.
Jan. 16, 10:33 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
SwampYankee, I completely agree with you for once. 4th Avenue is an eyesore. It's dangerous, too. But it's not irredeemable. Some landscaping and traffic calming and it can be a boulevard we're all proud of.
Jan. 16, 1:05 pm
stu from brooklyn says:
The biggest problem is the speeding traffic. Fix that and a lot of the street life will get better. It's too dangerous to cross, too noisy to linger on...so it's not surprising that no one's interested in investing in nice stuff on the sidewalks.

we need traffic calming and enforcment, pronto!
Jan. 16, 2:36 pm
Dan from Boerum Hill says:
I live on 4th Ave closer to Atlantic. My biggest complaint by far is the trash that accumulates largely because people walking to the subway don't put in the effort to throw waste in the bins and instead throw it on the ground. We need to address the cleanliness of the streets on any discussion of 4th Ave. Trees would also help (traffic studies show trees reduce speeds).
Jan. 17, 11:55 am
The Chooch from the Bohemian Magic Show says:
Look, 4th Avenue is a recovering truck lane for cryin' out loud. It's got brutal traffic and it's a wind tunnel for trash. But 4th Avenue also happens to be an excellent candidate for new housing of all categories. If not there, then where? And Brooklyn needs housing. And down the avenue, in the netherworld between P-Slope, Gowanus, and a Sunset Park, you've got low-slung garages knee-deep in petroleum. You definitely want to rip some of that stuff up and put the land to use. More green, better architecture, better planning, for sure. But build! By all means, build build build!
Jan. 24, 11:34 am

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