By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After months of speculation, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will unveil its plan to revamp a 36-block-long section of Fourth Avenue when officials present a detailed proposal to Bay Ridge residents at a town hall next week.
Local residents will be asked for their feedback to DOT’s plan at the meeting, set to take place on Wednesday, June 5, at Saint Anselm Church Auditorium, 365 83rd St., at 7:15 p.m.
The goal of the plan is to increase safety for both pedestrians and drivers navigating Fourth Avenue, officials said. Brian Kieran, chairman of Community Board 10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, said safety measures are needed. “In Bay Ridge, there have been five pedestrian fatalities since 2006 along the avenue,” he told colleagues at the community board’s May 20 meeting. “It is well known that there is a problem with drivers speeding along the avenue,” he said.
DOT is considering widening sidewalks, reducing traffic lanes, erecting fences at curbs, and installing pedestrian islands at various points along Fourth Avenue between 65th and 101st Streets, according to Community Board 10 officials, who got a preview of the plan at a recent meeting of the board’s Traffic and Transportation Committee.
DOT is planning a number of changes to a two-block section of Fourth Avenue between 86th and 88th Streets. The agency wants to build a pedestrian refuge island in the middle of the southern crosswalk across Fourth Avenue at 86th Street. Under DOT’s plan, a right-turn bay would be installed at the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street to accommodate drivers traveling toward Bensonhurst. The turn bay would mean the reduction of one lane of traffic.
The agency is also seeking to install an 80-foot-long fence that would stretch from the corner of 86th Street along the curb to the middle of the block between 86th and 87th Streets. The fence would discourage drivers from discharging passengers in the S79 bus stop and would also help ensure that pedestrians would cross the street at the crosswalk, officials said.
But board member June Johnson said she’s opposed to the idea of a fence. “The fence is outrageous, really,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “My feeling is; people will try to jump over the fence to get across the street. And as for the idea of preventing cars from discharging passengers in the bus stop, DOT wasn’t really able to tell us what the bus passengers will do. The fence will be there when they get off the bus. The fence is an added hazard,” she said.
Johnson said she is also skeptical of the plan to install pedestrian islands in the middle of the street. “They have them in Sunset Park and no one is really standing in the so-called safety zones,” she said.
Johnson did agree, however that safety enhancements are needed. “It’s dangerous to cross the street. Something has to be done to make it safer,” she said. Johnson also noted that St. Anselm’s Church Auditorium, the site of the June 5 meeting, is located a block from where an elderly woman was struck by car and killed while crossing the street at Fourth Avenue and 82nd Street earlier this month.
The redesign of Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge is part of a larger project by DOT to reconfigure the entire length of the busy avenue from downtown Brooklyn to Bay Ridge. DOT undertook the ambitious project at the request of Borough President Marty Markowitz.
“Safety on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn has long been a concern of DOT and the people who live and work along the corridor,” a statement on DOT’s website reads.
“DOT ranks Fourth Avenue as one of the highest-crash corridors in Brooklyn. In partnership with the borough president's Office, DOT has begun holding community workshops for sections of the corridor to develop design ideas for improving safety and traffic operations along Fourth Avenue. The first stage of street improvements is focused on Fourth Avenue between 15th and 65th Streets, a 2.5-mile stretch of Sunset Park that contains the highest incidence and severity of total traffic crashes and pedestrian injuries over the past five years,” the statement reads.
DOT previously held two workshops in Bay Ridge to solicit ideas from the public.
Kieran told board members DOT is looking to reduce traffic lanes on Fourth Avenue between 86th Street and Ovington Avenue. Currently, there are two lanes of traffic in each direction. Under DOT’s plan, that would be reduced to one lane in each direction. The parking lane would be increased to 13 feet.
“This section of the thoroughfare has had the most accidents and is considered the most dangerous to senior citizens,” Kieran said.
Board 10 Chairman Joanne Seminara told board members she hopes for a big turnout at the June 5 meeting. She urged board members to attend. “I hope you will all attend this important meeting. Our outreach has and will continue to be extensive,” she said.
For more information on the upcoming meeting, call the community board at 718-745-6827.