Proud Bay Ridge motorists drew a line in the asphalt against Borough President Markowitz’s plan to rejuvenate Fourth Avenue last week — demanding that the task force assigned to redesigning and beautifying the dangerous roadway keeps its hands off their cherished car lanes.
“It takes me 35 minutes to go from 69th Street to Atlantic Avenue, off-rush hour,” griped Community Board 10 member Greg Ahl during an April 18 task force meeting at Our Lady of Angels Church. “Reducing the number of lanes on Fourth Avenue is only going to make it worse.”
Markowitz wants to transform Fourth Avenue from the Verrazano Bridge to Atlantic Avenue into a tree-lined stretch replete with street furniture and wider sidewalks, leafier curbs, brick crosswalks and pedestrian walkways that will have space for vendors.
He has enlisted grad students from New York University’s Urban Planning program to help him flesh out his vision for the boulevard, where six-lanes transport motorists from Downtown to Sunset Park, then shrinks to four lanes between 65th Street and Shore Road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the six-mile thoroughfare was the third most dangerous road in Brooklyn, tied with Avenue U and Eastern Parkway. Four pedestrians were killed on the strip between 2008 and 2010, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report did not indicate just where these fatal accidents occurred.
Yet Shore Road resident Allen Bortnick, who tried to get the city to rent him a public parking spot outside of his building earlier this year, said Markowitz’s plans for Fourth Avenue will destroy a motorist’s day.
“The Department of Transportation has made its mind up to destroy traffic in New York,” Bortnick said. “My fear is this is just part of a plan to reduce the number of lanes on a major thoroughfare,” Bortnick said. “Beautify the building facades all you want. But keep it curb-to-block, not curb-to-curb.”
CB10 member Ann Falutico told task force attendees that any attempt to limit traffic on Fourth Avenue would cause an exodus from New York.
“Creating an environment that is frustrating for drivers does not change things, it does not turn the world around, it just encourages people to move to New Jersey,” said Falutico.
Yet not everyone was against reducing traffic on Fourth Avenue.
“This is a vision to move forward,” said longtime Bay Ridge resident John Murphy who admitted that he’s taken up bicycling, even though he is nearing retirement age. “A lot of people here are looking behind. If you look at Fourth Avenue now and think it’s good the way it is, you’re kidding yourself.”
Project head Carlo Scissura, considered the front runner for Markowitz’s seat in 2013, assured outraged car lovers that no one has decided to reduce traffic on Fourth Avenue. The proposals for wider curbs and pedestrian walkways were just “conversation starters,” he said.
“We’re at just the beginning of a very long process,” Scissura said.
But the city is already taking steps to reduce traffic on Bay Ridge streets feeding into Fourth Avenue.
Last month, CB10 rejected a Department of Transportation proposal to strip away two lanes of traffic on 86th Street between Fourth Avenue and Shore Road. The city also wanted to ban left turn lanes from Fourth Avenue onto 86th Street, claiming that the change will alleviate traffic congestion.