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Fourth Avenue freeze-out

The Park Slope Civic Council wants the intersection of Union Street and Fourth Avenue to get a facelift to remove the northbound left-turn lane (arrow) and add more space for pedestrians.
The Brooklyn Paper / Julie Rosenberg

The Park Slope Civic Council — fresh from rallying the troops to defeat the city’s controversial “One-Way Seventh Avenue” plan earlier this summer — now has its sights set on fixing an “unsafe” situation on much-busier Fourth Avenue.

The cluster-truck in question lies at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Union Street, the epicenter of an area that’s experiencing a meteoric rise in population.

The problem with the intersection is the “very, very narrow” sliver of median at the center of the bustling thoroughfare, said Michael Cairl, a Civic Council member.

“There’s no pedestrian refuge zone, except for a very, very narrow section,” said Cairl.

The reason for the sliver stems from what Cairl called an unnecessary left-turn lane from northbound Fourth Avenue. Union Street dead-ends at Third Avenue, one block away, so there’s no point in having westbound cars turn onto it, the Council believes.

The proposed solution? Eliminate the turn lane.

“There is no reason that traffic from northbound Fourth Avenue could not proceed westbound on any number of other streets on either side of Union Street,” Civic Council President Ken Freeman wrote in a letter to Community Board 6 and to the Department of Transportation. “The current northbound left-turn bay is inadequate for vehicular traffic and its removal would not be a loss.”

Craig Chin, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, would not comment on the proposal. But he did say that the agency was in the process of making other safety improvements to the intersection by extending the curbs into the street in the form of so-called “neckdowns.”

“Neckdowns reduce the width of travel lanes … so pedestrians are more visible and have a shorter crossing distance,” said Chin.

Craig Hammerman, the district manager of Community Board 6, said officials and community members should proceed with caution.

“We need to balance the need for safe, pedestrian friendly streets with the recognition that Fourth Avenue is an important conveyor of volumes of traffic through the region,” said Hammerman.

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