By Paula Katinas
Bay Ridge — Before you make Fourth Avenue beautiful, you have to make it safe for pedestrians.
That was the message delivered by members of the Fourth Avenue Task Force on Long-Term Planning, a group organized by Borough President Marty Markowitz to come up with ways to turn the avenue into a Brooklyn version of Paris’s Champs-Elysees.
Members of the task force’s Committee on Beautification, Medians, and Co-Naming met with representatives of Community Board 10 in the board’s office at 8119 Fifth Ave. on Feb. 13 to discuss its progress and to solicit ideas from Bay Ridge residents.
The task force, led by Markowitz’s senior advisor, Carlo Scissura, has been charged by the borough president to come up with a comprehensive plan to revamp Fourth Avenue.
Markowitz announced his intention to revamp Fourth Avenue in his State of the Borough Address in 2011. Sources close to the borough president said he doesn’t expect all of the ideas generated by the task force to be in place when he leaves office at the end of 2013.
“He’s thinking that a lot of this is going to be implemented years from now. But it’s important to start planning now,” an aide said.
The task force, composed of civic and business leaders, began holding meetings a few months ago.
The beautification committee, led by Michael Cairl, president of the Park Slope Civic Council, has been asked to submit recommendations on how to make the avenue look better. The committee will also lead the discussion on what name to give the newly refurbished avenue. Any name change would have to win the approval of the City Council.
When it comes to beautification projects, “one of the challenges of this committee is how long Fourth Avenue is,” Cairl said.
The length of the avenue presents challenges because the street configuration is different from neighborhood to neighborhood, according to committee members.
Fourth Avenue, which runs for several miles from downtown Brooklyn to Bay Ridge, is wider in some sections than in others.
For example, the avenue is narrower in Bay Ridge than it is in Sunset Park, where there are medians in the middle of the avenue dividing the northbound lanes from the southbound lanes.
“There are no medians south of 65th Street,” Cairl.
Cairl said building a median in the center of the avenue in Bay Ridge might be a possible way to improve it.
“It’s a traffic-calming element, but it can also bring beautification,” he said. “Drivers can’t make U-turns where there is a median. It is also impossible to jay-walk.”
When Board 10 members expressed concern that a median would take up a lot of room, and make the avenue narrower, Cairl said a median didn’t necessarily have to be four feet wide. There are medians on some streets in New York City that are “high but not wide,” he said
The Department of Transportation is currently looking at ways to improve safety on the avenue, according to Cairl, who solicited opinions from Board 10 members at the meeting on which intersections in Bay Ridge need to be studied.
“The big one that comes to mind is 86th Street,” Susan Pulaski said. “There are lots of buses there. Not only is it ugly, but the safety is bad.”
The intersection of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street is the terminus of three bus lines — the B1, S53, and S79 — and is also where the 86th Street R train station is located. The sidewalks often become cluttered with litter, Board 10 members said.
“Sixty-Ninth Street and Fourth is another busy location,” Pulaski said.
Like 86th Street, 69th Street has an R train station. Two bus lines — the B9 and the B64 — travel through the intersection.
“It is an intersection that could use sprucing up,” said Bob Hudock, another Board 10 member.
As for re-naming Fourth Avenue, committee said they are looking into the idea of holding a contest in which residents would submit names.