Traffic controller! Community board member has alternate plan for Ridge’s dysfunction junction

Island in the stream: The city is suggesting a concrete island to give refuge to pedestrians crossing Fourth Avenue on the southern side of 86th Street.
New York City Department of Transportation

The intersection of 86th Street and Fourth Avenue is about to become the site of another collision — between the Department of Transportation and Community Board 10 member Allen Bortnick.

The outspoken member of the board’s Traffic and Transportation Committee has released an alternative plan to the agency’s own designs for the intersection, which are the centerpiece of the city’s controversial vision for overhauling Fourth Avenue.

Bortnick blasted the department’s plans — and the people who drew them up — as certain to wreak havoc on the roadway.

“They don’t know what they’re doing. These people are complete idiots,” fumed the fossil-fueled firebrand. “They are going to create traffic back-up like you are not going to believe.”

The city’s proposal entails a concrete refuge island on the Verrazano Bridge side of the junction and a sidewalk pedestrian fence stretching from 86th Street halfway to 87th Street on the side nearest Third Avenue. It also calls for stripping away a driving lane in each direction between 86th Street and Ovington Avenue to put the brakes on speedsters.

Bortnick — who once put out a plan for stifling the stink from the Owls Head Sewage Treatment Plant with tubs of chlorophyllcalls instead for the construction of a seven-foot-high pedestal dead center in the intersection. Atop the pedestal, the Bortnick Plan would mount a booth outfitted with windows looking out in all directions and a switch panel for operating the traffic and walking signals. A police officer would be at the controls at all hours.

The box would also come equipped with a microphone and speaker system, so the cop can yell at pedestrians endangering themselves by jaywalking.

“He can say, ‘hey, you, in the black overcoat, you’re jaywalking, get back,’ or tell people, ‘wait for the light, don’t cross against the light,’ ” said Bortnick, arguing that reprimands would stop illegal street-crossers in their tracks. “If somebody’s doing something wrong, and you point them out, everyone’s going to be looking at them and they’ll cut it out.”

The police presence at the intersection would also be enough to deter speeders, according to Bortnick, the neighborhood panel’s leading opponent of city efforts to revamp Ridge streets.

The city said that it was not considering any measures remotely resembling Bortnick’s plan, and that it intends to push ahead with its current redesign ideas — which it claimed have already improved safety in other communities along Fourth Avenue.

“DOT continues to work with Community Board 10 on this important initiative that is already enhancing safety for all users of Fourth Avenue in neighborhoods stretching from Downtown Brooklyn to Sunset Park,” said an agency spokesman.

Community Board 10 is due to make a decision on the city plans at its October general meeting, after critics of the plan blocked a vote in June. Bortnick, who was appointed to the neighborhood panel by Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), vowed to put off the vote even longer if he can. He suggested a new mayoral administration could mean a change of plans — and argued that obstructing the free flow of automobiles through Bay Ridge would be an existential threat to the fair metropolis we call home.

“We’ve got to keep this from going through ’til next year,” said Bortnick. “If there’s no traffic, there’s no New York City.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him attwitter.com/WillBredderman.
Tower of power: The Bortnick Plan would place an observation tower at the center of the intersection of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street, staffed by a police officer with a megaphone to scold jaywalkers.
Photo illustration by Sylvan Migdal based on a drawing by Allen Bortnick

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