City puts big bucks towards Fourth Avenue overhaul

City puts big bucks towards Fourth Avenue overhaul
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

The city wants to overhaul Fourth Avenue as part of its latest push to make dangerous streets safer.

The street that stretches from Bay Ridge to Atlantic Terminal is one on a list of hairy thoroughfares up for $250 million worth of rejiggering, announced as part of the mayor’s preliminary budget last week. Details, including how much of Fourth Avenue would be affected, have not yet been announced, but the Department of Transportation has floated tree-lined medians, physically separated bike lanes, and sidewalk expansions as some possible measures.

A road-safety activist who has worked with Park Slope’s 78th Precinct on reckless driving enforcement measures said that reshaping roads is another key component of the city’s Vision Zero push, which is meant to end traffic deaths by 2024.

“I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of infrastructure upgrades,” Eric McClure said. “Police can’t be everywhere. Education plays an important role, but engineering becomes really important in creating safe spaces.”

Work will not begin on major Brooklyn streets — the East New York leg of Atlantic Avenue is also up for a redesign — for another two years, transportation department Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the Council on March 5.

Between 2009 and 2013, six pedestrians were killed on Fourth Avenue and 55 were seriously injured, while Atlantic Avenue saw four pedestrian fatalities and 60 serious injuries during the same stretch, according to city data.

McClure, who lives in Park Slope and is an avid cyclist, said that Fourth Avenue provides a straight shot toward Downtown and Manhattan, but he usually avoids it on bike because speeding drivers and a lack of separated cycling lanes make it a dicey proposition.

“Sometimes if I’m in a hurry I’ll take Fourth Ave., but it generally is not my first choice,” he said. “Bike lanes would certainly be a benefit.”

Proposed pedestrian-friendly modifications of sections of Fourth in Park Slope and Bay Ridge have sparked heated debate in recent years, and both community boards have rejected early city plans, demanding tweaks from the city, which in some cases they got.

The community board and police precinct in Sunset Park, on the other hand, invited such a redesign, and the city says crashes have decreased and drive times have remained the same since it narrowed the road from six lanes to four through the neighborhood in late 2012.

The city has long planned to widen the median from Atlantic Avenue to 65th Street, and overhaul the crash-prone intersection of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street in Bay Ridge. The city has not yet made clear what its latest money allocation will add to those plans.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
The scene of a hit-and-run crash at Fourth Avenue and Union Street on the border of Park Slope and Gowanus.