City goes ‘Fourth’ with new Slope avenue plan

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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.

Updated 5:24 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

One Dog's Opinion from PSlope says:
They needn't go to the trouble. After the Atlantic Yard folk close off the Pacific Street end of 4th Avenue in the coming weeks, it might as well be one big pedestrian mall!

How about a block dedicated to a dog run?
June 23, 2011, 6:48 am
ty from pps says:
One Dog -- don't be ridiculous. First of all, the 4th Avenue superhighway is relatively busy with traffic about 3 hours total per day... a while in the morning and a while in the evening. Otherwise, the road is sparsely traveled relative to its size.

The reconfiguration of the northern end of the street is appropriate. As if that intersection functions well as it is now. It's a big snarl. The reconfiguration is potentially much better.

In other words, stop with the knee jerk "It's all going to be horrible and we're going to all suffer because something is slightly different!!"
June 23, 2011, 9:11 am
Chris from 4th Avenue says:
The next thing we need on Fourth Avenue if it's to become more residential and friendly to pedestrians and walk-in businesses is traffic calming. Cars routinely go 40 or 50 mph down the avenue and cross streets. It's very dangerous. With more condos and apartments going up, plus PS 133 being built, something must be done. We need the DOT to help!

The street is so wide and under-utilized during the day that cars have ample opportunity to speed and weave in and out of traffic.
June 23, 2011, 11:13 am
Josh from Slope says:
This is a very important arterial street to move traffic from Flatbush, through Park Slope, and beyond into other parts of Brooklyn. While the objective is laudable, serious traffic study taking into consideration the very limited north-south driving options that function in this part of our city needs to be undertaken if this is to move forward. While speed limits and safe driving laws should be enforced by local police, a design that reduces the number of lanes or in any other manner impedes this one very important (and often the only functional) driving path through Brooklyn should be avoided at all costs.
June 23, 2011, 12:12 pm
Mike says:
In other words, Josh, the non-driving majority should continue to be the doormat for people driving to the free bridges, and we just have to live with blocked crosswalks, honking, aggressive driving, failure to yield, etc.?
June 23, 2011, 1:10 pm
josh from slope says:
My view is that people who elect to live in a large city understand the need of the city to serve a variety of divergent interests. Its one of the pleasures of a place like New York! City planners are charged with taking into account differing views and usages and designing policy that balances these interests in an appropriate fashion. Law enforcement's job is to enforce the rules, and make it punitive for the horrible drivers of the sort you fear. Sounds like you are a great walker (kudos!), but if you have every had ocassion to travel by automobile, you will observe that plenty of other people do so as well (I have no idea whether they are majority or minority, but there are sure a lot of them -- thats the point!), and that the traffic is a major problem where large developments are undertaken without regard to the total transportation mix. Cars are not going away - this is not utopia and urban efforts to seriously curtail use have been unsuccesful - just leads to worse conditions for all - so we may as well design a grid system that works for their efficient movement. More retail and better experience on Fourth? Great! Just make sure planners account for the fact that its an important street for transport, thats all I ask. By the way, ever considered moving to Portland, OR? very nice drivers. I think you might like it there. check it out.
June 23, 2011, 2:12 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
4th Avenue could be a grand boulevard. The number of its lanes does not need to change to make that happen. Park Avenue, for example, has 4 lanes but its vibe is quite sedate compared to 4th Avenue. The difference is in the timing of the lights and the landscaping/streetscaping. Slow the traffic down. Introduce pedestrian-friendly features. Selectively introduce pedestrian seating cut-outs the way they have in Manhattan, and you'll see an abrupt change in how 4th Avenue is perceived. After all, if pedestrians want to hang out there, they'll want to spend money there, and that's good for business.
June 23, 2011, 2:52 pm
Mike says:
Josh: "urban efforts to seriously curtail use have been unsuccesful - just leads to worse conditions for all"

Like those horribly unlivable cities in Europe, where everyone is miserable because of the broad pedestrian areas, safe bike lanes, and excellent mass transit?

Some of us love New York and want it to be the fabulous city it has the potential to be, in all respects -- we don't take pride in the hellish aspects of it, like the enormously out-of-proportion impacts that subsidized car commuters have on others.
June 23, 2011, 4:02 pm
Paul from Wankerson says:
About bloody time!
June 23, 2011, 9:33 pm
Novo Rez from 4th Ave says:
If you can reduce traffic lanes and close down parts of Broadway, right in the heart of midtown Manhattan, surely there can be a solution on at least part of 4th Avenue to do something to curb the rampant speeding and dangerous conditions.

Yeah, it's a truck route, but that doesn't mean we should accept trucks going 60 mph.
June 24, 2011, 7:42 am
Greg from Greenpoint says:
They really ——ed up the 2003 rezoning. Basic planning principles were not followed. This is a long overdue corrective, but they damage has already been done.
June 24, 2011, 10:22 am
Ace from New Utrecht says:
Want to proceed swiftly and smoothly up and down 4th Avenue? Take the R Train!
June 24, 2011, 10:48 am
Avi from park slope says:
Greg is correct. This action is to late. They should have implamented this decision back in 2003.
I doubt 4th avenue will ever be anything like 5th in the city.
July 6, 2011, 9:48 am

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