By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bay Ridge residents got the chance to help the city come up with a new look for Fourth Avenue when the Department of Transportation held a workshop on Borough President Marty Markowitz’s project to turn the thoroughfare into a grand boulevard.
Transportation engineers presented ideas on how to both beautify Fourth Avenue and make the street safer for pedestrians.
The workshop, which took place at P.S. 264, at 371 89th St. on Jan. 24, drew dozens of local residents and Community Board 10 members, despite the freezing temperatures brought on the cold spell hitting New York City last week. Participants were asked to consider ways to change the section of Fourth Avenue between 65th Street and Shore Road.
Participants were expected to work at the session and offer comments and suggestions. “We’re here for more than a committee meeting,” Brian Kieran, chairman of Board 10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, told the group at the start of the workshop. As far as the new look for Fourth Avenue, “nothing is set in stone,” Kieran said. “It’s for you to make that vision come true,” he said.
Participants broke up into small groups clustered around lunch tables in the school cafeteria with Dept. of Transportation representatives to exchange ideas.
Under Markowitz’s vision, Fourth Avenue, which stretches from downtown Brooklyn to Bay Ridge, would become a beautiful boulevard with trees, wider sidewalks, medians in center of the roadway containing small gardens, lovely shops, and affordable housing all along the route.
The Jan. 24 workshop was one of many that the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) has held to move the Markowitz project forward. Similar meetings have taken place in Park Slope, Sunset Park and other communities bordering Fourth Avenue.
One of the main objectives of the Fourth Avenue project is to increase safety, according to officials.
At Table 2, the talk was how to make key intersections along the avenue safer for pedestrians. The intersections of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street, Fourth Avenue and 75th Street, and Fourth Avenue and 69th Street were each singled out as danger spots due to the high volume of traffic each corner sees on a daily basis.
Traffic engineers pointed out that Fourth Avenue is in the top third in the city in terms of fatal accidents. Between 2006 and 2010, three pedestrians were killed crossing Fourth Avenue at 86th Street. Two of the three were senior citizens. In all three cases, the pedestrian was crossing with a green light. “They were not jaywalking,” Heidi Wolf, a DOT representative, said.
In addition, the block on Fourth Avenue between 86th and 87th Streets was pointed out as a trouble spot. Four bus lines converge on that block. The entrance to the 86th Street R train station is also located on the block. “That’s definitely a safety situation,” Board 10 member Liz Amato said.
The DOT has many things it can do to move vehicular and pedestrian traffic more smoothly and safety, Wolf told everyone at Table 2. The possibilities include installing countdown signals to let pedestrians know how much time they have to cross, banning left-hand turns at certain intersections, extending the curb to give pedestrians a buffer against the traffic, and designating loading zones for truck deliveries to keep large trucks from blocking large sections of the street. The trucks would be able to load and unload only in the designated spots.
Barbara Slattery, a Bay Ridge resident, said she wasn’t crazy about the idea of loading zones. “Let me tell you about loading zones!” she told the DOT experts. “If you put one in where there wasn’t one before, the sign goes up overnight and people who have parked there before still think they can park there. And they get tickets,” she said.
Slattery and Amato suggested that the DOT conduct a public education campaign to inform residents of the new parking rules if loading zones are put in.
The ideas on how to beautify Fourth Avenue include building center medians in the roadway and filling them with flower beds. The medians would only be built on blocks containing bus stops, according to a DOT engineer.
Board 10 member Judith Collins suggested that the agency take a look at look at the blocks on Fourth Avenue between 98th and 100th Streets. The avenue is wider in that area, she said. “That would be an area where beautification could go well,” she said.
Markowitz unveiled his Fourth Avenue plan in his State of the Borough Address in 2010. In 2011, the borough president formed the task force to implement his vision.
Dept. of Transportation experts will digest the ideas presented at the workshop and return to Bay Ridge to present their designs on Feb. 26. The presentation will take place at P.S. 264, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information, call 718-222-7259.