Need for speed: Ridgites square off over Fourth Ave slow-down plan

Need for speed: Ridgites square off over Fourth Ave slow-down plan
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Members of a Bay Ridge panel who attacked a plan by the city to slow down traffic along dangerous Fourth Avenue got rear-ended by one of the group’s traffic experts, who claimed the nay-sayers are most likely part of the problem on the strip.

Community Board 10’s former traffic and transportation committee chairwoman told the many residents who complained about the city’s plan to redesign the thoroughfare — which a federal study declared the third-most dangerous in Brooklyn — to make sure they weren’t breaking the law the next time they’re driving on Fourth.

“All you people complaining, next time you’re on Fourth, look at your speedometer and see what speed you’re going,” said Doris Cruz, who wants to see the city’s pedestrian-friendly plan implemented. “Because I don’t think you’re going 30.”

Cruz comments came during a heated debate Monday when members of the board picked apart the Department of Transportation’s planned overhaul of the roadway between Ovington Avenue and 86th Street that intends to make the safer for pedestrians by removing a lane of traffic in each direction, widening parking areas, and adding concrete islands and pedestrian safety barriers — moves that some said would do nothing to help.

“It is not any more safe. It may even be worse,” said board member Scott Klein, who argued that a similar revamp caused chaos when implemented in Sunset Park, where he claimed the overhaul between 15th and 64th streets led to cars sitting two and three deep along the curb, blocking the pathway for drivers entirely.

But the proposal hit its biggest speed bump at the busy 86th Street intersection, where the Department of Transportation wants to install a concrete island on the southern side, erect a Manhattan-style pedestrian fence from 86th halfway to 87th Street, designate the right-hand lane heading toward the Verrazano Bridge as a bus-only corridor, and extend the bus stop to the block between 87th and 88th streets — all moves that were roundly booed out of fear they would disrupt vehicular traffic to much.

“If an ambulance had to pass there, it could cause a real problem,” said Rev. Khader El-Yateem.

One resident argued that the projected wrought-iron pedestrian corral — similar to the ones on Jay Street near the Manhattan Bridge off-ramp, where cars flow from the bridge on to local streets toward the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — was bizarre, unnecessary, and ultimately useless.

“In Manhattan, I understand. But here I don’t think we need a fence,” said Rhea McCone. “We’ll just end up with people jumping over it.”

And Lawrence Stelter argued the idea to nudge the bus stop up half a block would result in desperate straphangers running into 87th Street traffic to catch their ride to Staten Island.

“We’re going to have people running across 87th Street, and cars coming,” Stelter said.

The city’s vision also involves stripping away a lane between 95th and 101st streets on the Sunset Park-bound side to slow down drivers coming off the Belt Parkway, relocating eight parking spots from Fourth Avenue between 65th and 66th streets to Shore Road Drive in order to create a new lane to reduce congestion, and installing a painted median and 22 left turn bays between Ovington Avenue and 86th Street.

For the record, the board members we spoke to said they don’t speed on Fourth Avenue — or at least try not to.

“I usually watch my speed, not only for my safety, but for the safety of others,” siad El-Yateem.

The Community Board will not vote on the proposal until after a larger public hearing scheduled for June 5.

Public Forum on Department of Transportation Proposal for Fourth Avenue at Saint Anselm’s Church [365 83rd St. between Third and Fourth avenues in Bay Ridge] June 5, 7:15 pm.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him attwitter.com/WillBredderman.

Fan of the plan: Board member and former Traffic and Transportation committee chairwoman Doris Cruz suggested that critics of the Fourth Avenue proposal take a look at themselves — or at least at their speedometers.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini