Sunset Parkers clash over Fourth Avenue bike lane

Sunset Parkers clash over Fourth Avenue bike lane
Rush hour: The Sunset Park–South Slope stretch of the Fourth Avenue path will feature a rush-hour lane for drivers from 7 to 10 am, which converts back to parking the rest of the day.
Department of Transportation

This is going to be an uphill battle.

A panel of Sunset Parkers clashed over the city’s plan to connect the nabe with Downtown via a bike lane along Fourth Avenue — with some calling it “rolling gentrification,” and others hailing it for giving transportation-starved Southern Brooklynites more options — leaving locals grinding gears over whether the path is right for the nabe.

“This is a huge deal for our community, and people are going to be passionate and all over the map on this,” said Sunset Parker Vanessa Signore at a May 11 meeting at John Dewey High School, where the Department of Transportation presented the plan. “Some see this as bad for the neighborhood, with gentrification and reducing parking, and others see it as a positive for getting around. I’m not sold that this is the right avenue for this, but I’m willing to try and make it work.”

The proposed path would run between Downtown to the edge of Bay Ridge from Dean to 65th streets. Fourth Avenue would feature a cycling path on each side of the thoroughfare from Boerum Hill through Gowanus, Park Slope, and Sunset Park, ending just short of Bay Ridge.

Cyclists would be separated from traffic with a buffer of parked cars, except for an 11-block stretch between Carroll and Dean streets on the Downtown side, where the lane drops to a mere painted line between bikers and cars because the streets are too narrow to take space from drivers, according to a Department of Transportation rep.

But overall, the lane offers two-wheelers a safer commute to Downtown, and will encourage those hesitant to pedal on the roadway, said another local.

“It’s really going to dramatically improve the safety of the avenue,” said Joseph Carole of Community Board 7’s transportation committee, who has been struck twice while biking on Fifth Avenue. “I think a lot of people in this community who wouldn’t normally bike will. It’s democratizing to the community, especially since we’re having more and more days where the trains shut down. This way, you can just hop on a bike.”

But others slammed the plan as rolling out the welcome wagon for Downtown yuppies.

“Cyclists are thought of as rolling gentrification through our community,” said Sunset Parker Elizabeth Yeampierre, the head of local activist group Uprose. “And when they show up, whether it’s in Red Hook or Bushwick, it’s the end of our time.”

Others still were concerned with the plan dumping on drivers. The reconfigured space will cut roughly three parking spots per intersection — translating to a loss of nearly 300 spaces along the thoroughfare — and drivers feel they’re getting the shaft at the benefit of bikers.

Chopping parking doesn’t seem like a good idea when locals are already getting into rows over sparse spots, said another transportation committee member.

“I have neighbors coming to blows for parking spots now, and for somebody to say we’re going to wipe 300 spots, that’s too much,” said Sunset Parker Tom Murphy. “I’m against it. I’m a nimby.”

But the plan isn’t devoid of consideration for drivers. The parking-lane buffer from 38th Street to Prospect Park will convert into a “rush hour” lane for cars from 7 to 10 am, after which time it will revert to a row of parked cars dividing drivers from bikes.

The Department of Transportation is still soaking up feedback from locals along the route, and recently met with Park Slopers. After urban planners tweak the design, a revised version will make its way to the transportation committees of community boards 2, 6, and 7, before each full board will have their say on the project.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

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