Park Slope Nixes 4th Avenue Overhaul

Despite Community Board Six’s Transportation Committee approving major streetscape changes for a 28-block strip of 4th Avenue, from Atlantic to 15th Street, the full board voted down the proposal Wednesday. According to The Daily News, some members of the board expressed concern that the changes — which include shrinking traffic lanes, banning eight left turns, and broadening the medians — wouldn’t work due to the already increased traffic near the Barclays Center. According to the Daily News, “opponents of the revamp said their neighborhood doesn’t have a speeding problem, but a traffic problem.” Community Boards in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge already approved proposals from the Department of Transportation to revamp the southern stretches of 4th Avenue. As the Community Board vote is advisory, it’s likely the DOT will move ahead with these changes in Park Slope anyway.
Park Slope Rejects Massive 4th Avenue Overhaul [Daily News]
Community Board Approval for 4th Avenue [Brownstoner]
Photo via the DOT

34 Comment

  • “opponents of the revamp said their neighborhood doesn’t have a speeding problem, but a traffic problem.”

    I suppose this could be read as “there’s too much traffic for speeding to be a problem,” but I doubt that’s what they meant. What’s insane about it is that their own Transp committee approved it 14-1 and several groups (FoFa for example) have been discussing these changes with them for over a year, without any indication of much opposition.

    Further, changes like this have already been made from 14th St or so on south.

  • “…opponents of the revamp said their neighborhood doesn’t have a speeding problem, but a traffic problem.”

    Last time I was on 4th Avenue, all that traffic seemed to be speeding along. Maybe someone stood to lose his shortcut home if a left turn was eliminated?

  • I ride 4th ave every day, from Union St to 65th.

    The lights are in sync differently at different times of the day.

    There is no speeding, just stupid people that don’t pay attention when crossing the street.

    ie: the dumb mother on a cell while strolling her baby across 4th Ave.

    double parking is a problem of course…..

    • As you point out, double parking is a huge problem between Prospect Ave and Atlantic Ave. I think this is because a surprising number of blocks are not metered.

      Usually lights are synchonized differently at different times of the day — I think normally they are sync’ed only to facilitate rush hour directional traffic and at other times they are sync’d to cause things to slow down.

      However, speeding is a real issue (much like it used to be on Atlantic from the BQE to Flatbush). Apart from the anecdotal report of knuckleheads dragging along there at 50+mph, I am pretty sure that the DOT studies provided failry strong evidence of significant speeding (over 40 mph).

    • “No speeding?” Thats a preposterous statement. Of course there is speeding, as there is on almost any free-flowing wide street in New York City.

      I am glad DOT will move forward with traffic calming and streetscape changes along 4th Avenue. Anything that makes it safer for all users of 4th Avenue is welcome.

      Its hard to understand the Board on this one. They have been generally supportive of traffic calming on Hicks, Atlantic, Smith, slow speed zones, bike infrastructure, etc.

      What appears to have happened here is some of the specifics of the plan (eliminating of the left turn onto 9th Street) brought opposition to the entire plan.

  • Stargazer is onto something.

    trade a lane for lights being synchronized.

  • I walk across 4th Ave every day and damned if I don’t see cars blowing lights, cutting turns, speeding, and getting aggro in the crosswalks. During rush hour traffic is crawling, but guess what? Traffic crawls during rush hour! Every other time of day drivers go as fast as they can get away with.

    Early in the morning, trucks don’t even bother to stop at red lights before turning; I know that only because I’ve almost been clipped by a couple while I had the light and was in the crosswalk. And no, I wasn’t checking Facebook while strolling a child.

    If you’re in a car, it seems that auto traffic can never, ever go fast enough. On foot, it’s a different story.

    The improvements at Prospect and 4th are really helpful and the board should have recommended that DOT proceed with the proposed improvements for CB6.

  • As cmu suggests, the sad thing is that a number of Board members who voted against the proposal freely admitted that the meeting was the first time they had seen the proposal – or even knew about it. Because of the procedural rules, all public discussion was supposed to be at the committee level, so there was no opportunity to explain the plan to people who hadn’t bothered to attend any of the meetings (reported on Brownstoner) or hadn’t gone to the DOT website. There is something very wrong about a process that ignores over a year of discussion and planning by people who live and work near 4th avenue – there were lots of opportunities for information exchange and and thoughtful discussion – but an uninformed, end of meeting vote could totally ignore that.

    • I can’t believe that the CB6 can be so un-informed about a 4th Ave safety discussion that’s been going on for months if not years. How can the vocal support of the plan by the community (people who live, work or take their kids to school on 4th Ave) be dismissed without proper review? It’s outrageous!

  • I live near Fourth Avenue, so I have been to some of the public meetings on this initiative. I am encouraged by the fact, mentioned as a footnote by the Daily News (and not at all by the Brooklyn Paper), that CB2 voted unanimously to support the changes proposed for the northern part of the road.

  • I periodically drive on 4th ave, and I cannot understand how removing left turn lanes would make the thoroughfare safer. It seems to me that it would be more dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians without the turning lanes. For that reason, voting the measure down was the right thing to do.

    • Turning across traffic is always more dangerous than not doing so; those turns usually have to wait until the traffic lights are changing yellow to red, or even after they turn red. This causes blockages for the cross-traffic with right of way, and also with pedestrians crossing on the walk signal. Forcing traffic to (safely) go right should almost always have fewer collisions.

    • Although the 3rd St. turn in particular needs addressing, basically that was the problem with the plan. Banning left turns on both 3rd St. and 9th St. would redirect traffic onto narrower, already overutilized streets like 5th St., 7th St. and 10th St. Bus and truck traffic would not be able to move easily up these streets, which see a lot of double parking from non-residents due to Methodist hospital, MS 51 and John Jay related traffic. The safety of the hundreds of student pedestrians that crowd the narrow sidewalks 3x day was also a major concern. Residents of the blocks near 4th Ave. seemed to support the other aspects of the plan, but because the DOT would not budge on these 2 left turn bans, nor consider other options, the best option for CB6 was to reject the plan as it stands and hope that the DOT would make changes before implementing.

      • Petunia – the 3rd and 9th Street turns account for most of the accidents on 4th Ave – there is a huge problem with failure to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks. Something really needs to be done about those intersections – the 9th especially because of the subway location and the very large pedestrian crowds (including students) crossing both 9th and 4th ….and 3rd is only going to get busier when Whole Foods opens. Delivery trucks that use 3rd avenue as a cross street would not have a problem heading up either 3rd or 9th. Saying CB 6 had to kill the whole plan to preserve left turns is a little like saying they had to bomb the village to save it. Plus, all of the proposed changes will be going through a period of evaluation.

        • Actually, the DOT data shows 1 pedestrian injury at the 3rd St. intersection over the years covered in the their study. The problem there is vehicular injuries caused by the 2 left turns, which could also be addressed by an alternating signal. 9th St. does have the largest volume of pedestrian and vehicle traffic, but that was not taken into account in the DOT’s data. Also, their study was conducted before the recent traffic improvements to 9th St., so we really don’t know how safe the intersection is now, data-wise.

          The problem with the plan is that rather than really banning left turns, they are being redirected to streets that are less capable of handling them. 7th St. already gets a huge amount of vehicle traffic, and 5th St. from 4th to 7th ave. has more student pedestrian traffic coming from MS 51 and the John Jay schools than any street in the area, with less than half as much sidewalk width as 3rd St. Left-turning cars redirected to 5th St. will be turning without a light (and the DOT has said they can’t put in a light), which is a danger to both pedestrians and vehicles. Also, many of these redirected vehicles will then attempt turns onto 5th ave., which is where traffic from the middle school is heaviest.

          I am saying that CB6 had to vote no on the plan to counter the DOT’s refusal to budge, or to consider the impact of the plan beyond strictly 4th ave. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to is in favor of the other aspects of the plan, but wants actual traffic calming on 4th ave. without merely shifting the traffic load onto narrow residential streets. The “no” vote is the only way the DOT may listen, they would ignore anything less (and may ignore the vote anyway).

          • According to a study Brad Lander’s office released yesterday (NY PD crashes 2011 to 2013), 3rd st and 4th ave had 38 crashes (%16% with injuries) and 4 ped/cycl injuries. 9th st and 4th ave had 46 crashes (13% injuries) and 5 ped/cycl injuries. I don’t think there is a outstanding question about the safety of those intersections.

          • There are ways to make those intersections safer that don’t involve shuffling the problem to intersections that are even less safe. The DOT is too invested in their plan to seriously look at other options, unless the community pushes them to do so. I get Brad’s emails and have not yet seen those figures – the ones the DOT presented just a few days ago were outdated and flawed. The principal of MS 51, the director of a preschool on the new left-turn route, the director of the Old Stone House/Washington Park and residents of the Novo have all voiced concerns re- this aspect of the plan. Personally, I would much prefer this plan be modified than shelved.

          • Did you come out to the community meetings about this? There have been 4 or more through the last few months, with 100s of attendees. If you wanted DOT to “listen”, why didn’t you bring up objections then?
            My understanding is the the MS51 principal specifically asked for better calming at 3rd st Left-Turn.

          • The left-turn bans were not made public until about 2 weeks ago. The ramifications of the plan caught many people (who would otherwise support the plan) by surprise, including the principals of some of the schools affected, officials at Methodist and Washington Park, and the directors of nearby day care centers. As I understand it, Ms. Berner at MS51 had not voiced support for this aspect of the plan, contrary to what the DOT had stated. So there was an obvious communication breakdown somewhere. Don’t think 100% of the blame lies with either side, but regardless, the problem w/the plan should be fixed before implementing.

          • Just to get the facts straight, DOT suggested the left turn bans on April 9th at a public meeting held on 9th st and 4th ave, I believe. I don’t expect every citizen to be following this in detail, but the Community Board has a responsibility to keep abreast of developments and ask questions/raise concerns in a timely manner. As someone who has worked on improving 4th Ave for several years, I wish these concerns had been brought to light sooner. Now we are in a postion where Park Slope has voted strongly against safety.

          • Claiming that DOT “refused to budge” is nonsense. The Transportation Committee, on which I serve, voted 14-1 to adopt the plan as proposed. DOT was never asked to change anything. We’re talking about a minimal amount of left-turning traffic being redirected to streets that don’t get much traffic anyway, and probably wouldn’t be noticed. And the idea that 5th, 7th and 10th Streets are “over utilized” is just not based in any fact. The fact is that the turning movements on 4th Avenue are the root of many of the injuries to pedestrians; drivers look to shoot a gap in oncoming traffic when turning without paying attention to the presence of pedestrians. Here’s hoping that DOT moves forward with their plan, since most Park Slope residents not rooted in a 1950s perspective on transportation clearly want 4th Avenue to be made safer.

          • Eric – I am usually on your side in these matters, and I am about as far from having a ’50s/Iris Weinshall-era traffic mentality as one can get. When someone like me, who has been active on other Slope traffic-calming measures in the past (and still remembers which of our elected officials shot down congestion pricing), has serious qualms about certain aspects of this plan, please do not oversimplify our concerns by painting the opposition as a bunch of Fred Flinstones mowing down schoolchildren. That response ties in with the DOT’s “my way or the highway” inflexibility they have shown since this plan was announced. We want traffic calming. I am a big fan of the DOT’s general position. However, shifting left-turn traffic off 3rd and 9th will endanger the same schoolchildren (including my kids) only at different crossing points. How can you say a left-turn on 5th St. is safer for them if there isn’t even a traffic light? Many kids cross from one side of 5th to the other. Many of us strongly suspect the DOT’s data on left-turns per traffic cycle is inaccurate. And if you don’t think 5th and 7th streets don’t already have major traffic problems from Methodist, MS 51 and John Jay, I invite you (seriously!) to come to our street and hear what the neighbors have to say.

  • Isn’t that problem easily fixed with a little time for a green arrow indicating a left turn has the right of way? Especially when the left is allowed on green arrow only?

  • There are two new public schools opening in September on 4th Ave, PS 133 and PS 118. Fourth Avenue is in the top 10% of most dangerous streets in Brooklyn.

    Shame on Daniel Kummer and Tom Miskel for prioritizing high traffic speeds and the status quo over the safety of children.

    This board needs to be cleaned out.

    • Pedestrianite, most of the kids zoned for PS 118 are north of 5th St. and many will be crossing from the northeast to the southeast side of 5th to get to school. This is where, under the new plan, a higher volume of southbound traffic will be attempting left turns against oncoming northbound traffic, but without any traffic light, much less a delayed green or pedestrian timer. As Eric McClure stated above, it is that kind of scenario that causes drivers to turn into the crosswalk without looking for pedestrians. The one-additional-car-per-cycle number stated by the DOT is highly debatable. However many additional cars there are will then enter the 5th St./5th ave. intersection, which is thronged with literally hundreds of MS 51 kids several times a day. So please do not say that to oppose this plan is to oppose the safety of children. As a parent of one of these children, I take this issue very seriously, and hope the DOT can fix these left-turn issues and then proceed with the plan.

  • I live in Park Slope. Facts are being misconstrued here.

    1st – If you are wishing that DOT moves ahead with this flawed plan without CB6 approval (in fact, a vote specifically AGAINST it), be very careful what you wish for… Can you imagine what kind of horrendous precedent this would set? Imagine how you would feel on the next issue that you too disagree with… I don’t even know if it’s ever been done…. God, I hope not

    2nd: DOT was indeed asked to modify their plan but out of either hubris or some other motivating factor, refused to do so. What kind of compromise is that? This was one of the main reasons why few could support their plan. There would’ve been no need to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” when all DOT had to do was easily change its bathwater

    3rd: If you are arguing that a vote against DOTs plan is a vote against safety, this is simply inaccurate. Those who voted down DOTs flawed plan are very much for safety, along 4th Ave and on our blocks. Moving traffic, pedestrian & safety hazards from one area to another doesn’t solve the problem… It just moves it while potentially causing more, worse problems elsewhere.

    4th: DOTs traffic count numbers also came under fire, throwing their entire calculus into question

    5th – Just because Bay-Ridge voted in favor of a plan for them does not mean that it is right for Park Slope.

    6th – 4th Ave is being misconstrued as the most dangerous street in NYC but given how long it is, and how many pedestrians and vehicles and bikers use it, it is actually relatively much safer than the claims, measured as a rate (per capita / per user, etc…)

    7th – Data presented by DOT did not take into account safety measures implemented in 2011 and 2012 and so misrepresented the facts.

    8th – In addition to the ill-conceived left-turn bans, there were other easily fixed flaws with the plan. DOT refused.

    The DOT problem is not lost or unresolvable… They just need to fix their flaws and try again. Simple, really. Public policy making is and should be an iterative, consultative process.

    Hope this sheds some light on the thinking of those who could not support the DOT plan as presented. No need to disparage those in the community – there are many – who disagree with your particular point of view.

    Slopey Joe
    Park Sloper