City goes ‘Fourth’ with new Slope avenue plan

Going Fourth: Brooklyn’s boulevard seems ready for retail
The Brooklyn Paper / Noelle D’Arrigo

Could Fourth Avenue become the new Fifth Avenue?

That’s the desire of city planners, who announced on Monday a rezoning plan to morph the “unscenic” Park Slope highway into a “vibrant” retail paradise by requiring that half of all new ground-floor development space be set aside as retail.

City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said the goal is to foster a “complete” neighborhood — where a “dynamic commercial” strip is accessible by foot, much like its shop-and-restaurant-boasting neighbor Fifth Avenue.

“Fourth Avenue is a wide, transit-rich corridor with new housing and residents — but lacks an active pedestrian environment,” she said in a statement. “This new proposal will help ensure [its] continued transformation.”

The proposal is an effort to tinker with a 2003 zoning change that allowed developers to build tall residential towers on Fourth Avenue, yet did not require ground-floor retail. The rezoning triggered a residential boom, but also complaints of little street life.

Under the proposal — which spans from Atlantic Avenue to 24th Street — ground floor developments must be made up of 50 percent glass, which city officials say is a welcoming alternative to the now-industrial-looking blank walls and gates.

It would also forbid any new parking lots and limit sidewalk “curb cuts” in order to make the street more “walkable.”

Shop owners along avenue — dotted by drab apartments and auto body shops, with pockets of retail life springing up — are in favor of fostering new commercial activity.

“It’ll be good for pedestrian traffic,” said Mike Winsch, owner of The Rock Shop — a bar and concert space that opened last year near President Street. “I sure wouldn’t mind if the street had more of a Fifth Avenue feel.”

Jimmy Dontas, owner of the nearby Station Café, echoed that idea. “They should have done this years ago,” he said.

The business push is a natural extension of Fifth Avenue — now a hub for dining and shopping — which years ago emerged as a less-expensive alternative to the first-to-be-hip Seventh Avenue.

But Fourth Avenue faces challenges its neighbor Fifth Avenue doesn’t.

For now, it has no formal merchants group. And its four lanes of traffic create the perception that the street belongs to cars, not cyclists or pedestrians.

“The challenge is getting people to think of it as a place to travel to, not just through,” said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, which will vote on the proposal in several months.

Community Board 6 will hold a hearing at the John Jay HS building [237 Seventh Ave. between Fourth and Fifth streets in Park Slope, (718) 643-3027], June 23 at 6:30 pm.