First steps taken toward creating Brooklyn Boulevard

August 22, 2011 Helen Klein
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Fourth Avenue is a natural boulevard, sewing together theneighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Greenwood Heights, ParkSlope and Downtown Brooklyn.

However, the strip – -which runs for 6.2 miles between AtlanticAvenue and Shore Road – has not lived up to its potential,something that Borough President Marty Markowitz wants tochange.

it’s now more and more residential, explained Markowitz in aphone interview, because It’s a very popular place to be. The onething that’s been lagging behind is the beauty of the street. It’sbeen ignored, yet it’s one of the grand avenues of Brooklyn, so wewant to beautify it.

To jumpstart the strip’s rejuvenation, a couple of years backMarkowitz commissioned a report – Vision for the Fourth AvenueCorridor, a collaboration between the borough president’s officeand urban planning students from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner GraduateSchool of Public Service released in 2010.

More recently, Markowitz convened a task force to consider ideas inthe report, solicit feedback, and implement changes that will,ultimately, result in a reimagined thoroughfare – potentially theborough’s own Champs Elysees.

That group, which is being chaired by Carlo Scissura, Markowitz’schief of staff, held its first meeting on August 10, kicking off aprocess which is an amalgam of short and long-term goals, that,Scissura said, will serve to bring neighborhoods together,stimulate economic development, increase safety and beautify theavenue.

Among the short-term projects is the rezoning of the strip betweenAtlantic Avenue and 24th Street to require new construction toinclude ground-floor retail, with the goal, said Scissura, of,Increasing street life and street activity, to make the stripmore livable and more pedestrian-friendly, and also stoke theborough’s economic engine.

The review process for the change began earlier this year, and newzoning could be in place before a year is out.

Other short-term goals include the renovation of the vintage NinthStreet subway station for which Markowitz has allocated $2 million,also expected to be completed within a year, said Scissura, withthe planting of trees along the avenue occurring within two orthree years, as well as the formulation of a plan for reinventingthe medians that run down the center of the thoroughfare for muchof its length.

Street signs identifying the strip as Brooklyn Boulevard are alsolikely in the offing, as well as traffic engineering changes withthe goals of calming traffic and reducing congestion.

Many of the planned changes are likely to bypass Bay Ridge, notedCouncilmember Vincent Gentile, in part because of the lack ofcenter medians between 65th Street and Shore Road.

But, said Gentile, that shouldn’t mean that Bay Ridge’s portionshouldn’t get some TLC. I want to make sure we get included, hestressed, noting that countdown signals proposed for the strip wereoriginally supposed to stop at 65th Street. I want to make surethey consider using them all the way along, since they would behelpful to the safety of kids crossing Fourth Avenue to go toschool, Gentile added.

The project will be accompanied by opportunities for public input,Scissura promised. He said there would be public hearings in eachcommunity to gauge public reaction and get ideas.

And that will be just the beginning. It’s not all going to happenon my watch, Markowitz said. But, he added, the project will serveas, A catalyst for the next steps in years to come, like manyother projects that Markowitz has instituted.

Looking ahead, he added, A lot of people say Brooklyn in thefifties was our golden age. I would argue these are our golden daystoo, and we’re not even halfway through all the changes that willbe happening.

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