Sunset Park community board approves Fourth Avenue redesign with new bike paths

Sunset Parkers clash over Fourth Avenue bike lane
Department of Transportation

Bike lanes just got the green light in Sunset Park.

Community Board 7 gave the city’s controversial plan to revamp Fourth Avenue the thumbs up at its meeting last week, kissing 225 parking spaces in the district goodbye in exchange for new bike lanes, loading zones, expanded metered parking, and pedestrian-safety measures along the thoroughfare.

Board members’ 30–5 vote in favor of the plan to remake the roadway from 65th Street to Atlantic Avenue followed the proposal’s approval by Park Slope’s Community Board 6, which endorsed it in a near-unanimous vote earlier this month.

CB7’s district manager said the lack of opposition to the redesign scheme surprised some board members, especially because previous meetings about it were advertised with 6,000 fliers throughout the district.

“No matter what the issue, when you’re talking change, there’s usually strong opposition,” said Jeremy Laufer. “We didn’t see what we had anticipated in terms of opposition.”

To make room for cyclists, the Department of Transportation will narrow the parking lanes on both sides of the avenue to eight feet, allowing for a two-and-a-half-foot-wide buffer and five-foot-wide bike lanes. The avenue will retain its two travel lanes in both directions, but will receive new loading zones and lose four parking spots per block to make room for pedestrian islands.

The proposal has been in the works for years and builds on safety improvements that the transportation department made to the thoroughfare in 2012.

Cycling advocates have long called for protected bike lanes on Fourth Avenue, arguing that it’s the most convenient route to Downtown, but that it is unsafe for bike riders. The Department of Transportation previously told the activists that the avenue was too narrow for protected bike lanes, but finally agreed to add them to its proposal last year.

And last month, the transportation department sped up its plan to paint on the lanes by about a year or so at the request of locals and Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who insisted that the original 2021 end date for the bike lanes’ Eighth Street-to-Atlantic-Avenue stretch be accelerated because it would be dangerous for cyclists to pedal along a partially complete path.

The agency will now finish painting the lanes in 2019, and workers will begin construction on other Fourth Avenue capital improvements — including installing the pedestrian islands, protective planters, and other sidewalk amenities — between 65th and Eighth streets this spring as opposed to next fall, according to a transit agency rep. The same capital-improvement projects will begin between Eighth Street and Atlantic Avenue in 2021.

The bike lanes’ addition to the Fourth Avenue makeover previously sparked controversy among locals, with some calling them “rolling gentrification.”

And other residents recently railed against a similar board-approved city plan to add bike lanes and remove parking spots on several streets between Seventh Avenue and the waterfront, which locals complained could make the roads impassable for emergency vehicles.

Construction of those bike lanes will begin next spring, according to the Department of Transportation.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.