Ridgeites share their visions of an improved Fourth Avenue

January 25, 2013 Denise Romano
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Dozens of Ridgeites filled P.S. 264’s cafeteria to attend the Bay Ridge Fourth Avenue Safety Visioning workshop on Thursday, January 24.

Sponsored by the Department of Transportation, the workshop is part of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s Fourth Avenue Redesign project, whose goal, in his words, is to beautify and make the corridor safer for pedestrians “from Atlantic Avenue to the Atlantic Ocean.”

Changes have already been implemented in Sunset Park, which had previously gone through the redesign phase, and now Ridgeites, as well as Park Slopers, are getting their chance to sound off. This neighborhood’s area of focus is Fourth Avenue between 67th Street and Shore Road.

At the workshop, participants were broken up into several groups which were facilitated by two DOT employees. Everyone had a chance to voice concerns about the avenue, including which intersections are the most troublesome.

“Nothing is set in stone. There are no plans for our section,” explained Brian Kieran, chair of Community Board 10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee. “It’s up to you to make these visions come true.”

Each group had similar concerns. They include: safer crossings for pedestrians exiting the subway; double parking by valet parkers and people using doctor’s offices; car dealerships parking on sidewalks; too much placard parking (by individuals who have special cards they can display to park where they otherwise would be unable to park) around 81st Street overnight; preventing school buses from dropping off students curbside; too many bus stops on 86th Street; too many people circling for parking; and bike safety.

The intersection of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street is particularly concerning to residents, since there is such a high volume of buses turning, thus preventing installation of pedestrian refuges.

“It’s a strength and a weakness that Fourth Avenue is a major transit hub,” commented Josephine Beckmann, district manager of CB 10.

Andrew Gounardes, a member of Community Board 10, said he was in favor of more trees and benches. “It could be a much more beautiful throughway,” he said.

Robert Viola, one of the DOT facilitators, explained that the corridor is in the top third of Brooklyn streets for severe injuries and fatalities per mile. He added that, on this stretch of Fourth Avenue, most pedestrians are hit in intersections and that 43 percent of those that are hit are crossing with the signal.

“That’s more than double what you see citywide,” he said.

Viola added that most accidents along the strip are caused by left turns and rear-ending, which is conducive to speeding. Speeding is “hottest” at 81st Street and 82nd Street, with 63 percent of southbound cars going over the limit.

“The numbers really bear it out,” he said.

Residents also noted that drag racing is common south of 86th Street, heading towards Shore Road.

After the brainstorming was over, DOT showed a “tool box” of amenities that could be used to improve the avenue

One way to quell speeding is to install traffic signals with LPI or Leading Pedestrian Intervals, which gives pedestrians a chance to cross before cars get a green light. One LPI is already installed at 86th Street.

Another option is adding a curb to the median and installing planters in the center of the roadway which would eliminate U-turns, slow down traffic, prevent wide turns and beautify.

“When we design for pedestrians, vehicle crashes go down, too,” Viola said, adding that he personally recommends high visibility crosswalks, turn bans and loading zones, “the no-brainer things.”

All residents are encouraged to submit their ideas on an interactive map, online at www.NYC.gov/4thAve. The link will be available until mid-February.

In the meantime, DOT will compress these ideas along with data and will host another meeting sometime next month. Residents can discuss and again give feedback. Then DOT will present projects and with the community’s approval, implement the changes this year.

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