Lander and Levin to DOT: A Safer Fourth Avenue Can’t Wait

The left-turn bans opposed by CB 6 protect pedestrians from turning drivers and widen medians while reducing crossing distances. Image: NYC DOT

City Council members Brad Lander and Steve Levin are urging NYC DOT to move forward with safety improvements for Fourth Avenue in Park Slope despite a vote against the proposal by Brooklyn Community Board 6.

The Daily News reported today that in response to the CB 6 vote, DOT might take out some of the left-turn bans in its proposal. The turn bans reduce conflicts between motorists and pedestrians, and free up space for wider medians and shorter crossings. Lander and Levin endorse them. In their joint letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the council members say they “look forward to seeing any modifications you propose in the very near future” but that they disagree with the CB 6 vote against the plan and want to see it implemented this summer.

Here’s the meat of the letter:

DOT conducted extensive community outreach to gather input and share ideas for improving safety on 4th Avenue. We were pleased to have taken part in the 4th Avenue Task Force, convened by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the subsequent public planning process organized by DOT with the support of the Park Slope Civic Council’s Forth on Fourth Committee and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. DOT conducted a well-attended public traffic safety workshop for community members on February 13 to gather input, utilized an innovative online input map (nyc.gov/4thAve), held an open house on April 9 to display the proposal, met with principals from 6 schools along the corridor, and made presentations to the CB2 and CB6 transportation committees during May to gather feedback.

After having participated in the planning process and having heard from numerous residents and other stakeholders in our districts and along the corridor, we support your proposal. The Corridor Safety Improvements you propose – similar to improvements implemented on 4th Avenue in Sunset Park from 15th Street to 65th Street last year – will narrow traffic from three lanes to two lanes in both directions south of Union Street, and southbound north of Union Street (leaving three northbound lanes from Union Street north toward Flatbush). This will calm traffic, allow for longer turn bays (a major improvement for drivers), and allow the medians to be significantly widened (a major improvement for pedestrians). Because left turn bans have worked further south on 4th Avenue—to reduce safety risks for pedestrians and drivers alike—your proposal will ban selected left turns along the corridor in pedestrian-heavy locations near subways and schools, and where opposing left turns have contributed to a large number of crashes.

We are aware that on June 12, 2013, Brooklyn Community Board 6 (CB6) resolved by a vote of 18 to 9, with 5 abstentions, to disapprove DOT’s proposed redesign of 4th Avenue. During our terms in elected office, there have been very few instances in which our position on an issue differs with that of a local Community Board, and doing so is not a decision we take lightly. However, given the severity of the safety risks along 4th Avenue, we respectfully but strongly disagree with CB6’s rejection of the proposal.

  • Daphna

    Cheers to city council members Brad Lander and Steve Levin!! I hope this plan gets implemented this summer!!!!! That would be great!!! Brad Lander and Steve Levin need to appoint different people to the community boards in their districts! They have that ability. The practice of letting community board members re-up every two years when their term is up needs to end. There should be scrutiny of the merits of existing members in terms of what they supported or failed to support, and how they effected quality of life and safety issues in their neighborhood. Community boards should be more reflective of the sentiment of their communities; but often they are very regressive instead.

  • Daphna

    The city council decides the NYC DOT budget. Hopefully Brad Lander and Steve Levin have a lot of influence by virtue of that. Money is at stake!

    By comparison, all a positive vote from a community board does for the DOT is gives them another meeting they can point to when the press claims that the DOT did this all on their own; but the press never listens anyway and continues to make the false claim that the DOT acted without community involvement; so that positive vote from the community board really gains the DOT very little in terms of public relations.

    Bard Lander and Steve Levin should also do what Melissa Mark-Viverito did when Manhattan CB11 voted against the protected bike lanes on 1st and 2nd Avenue. She spoke very publicly at CB11 meetings in favor of the plan. I think those against the bike lanes realized that they would not get re-appointed by her to CB11 when their term was up if they kept pushing against the safer street re-design.

  • Daphna

    The city council decides the NYC DOT budget. Hopefully Brad Lander and Steve Levin have a lot of influence by virtue of that. Money is at stake!

    By comparison, all a positive vote from a community board does for the DOT is gives them another meeting they can point to when the press claims that the DOT did this all on their own; but the press never listens anyway and continues to make the false claim that the DOT acted without community involvement; so that positive vote from the community board really gains the DOT very little in terms of public relations.

    Bard Lander and Steve Levin should also do what Melissa Mark-Viverito did when Manhattan CB11 voted against the protected bike lanes on 1st and 2nd Avenue. She spoke very publicly at CB11 meetings in favor of the plan. I think those against the bike lanes realized that they would not get re-appointed by her to CB11 when their term was up if they kept pushing against the safer street re-design.

  • Daphna

    That is a beautiful letter! Many cheers to Brad Lander and Steve Levin.

  • Daphna

    That is a beautiful letter! Many cheers to Brad Lander and Steve Levin.

  • 4thaveparent

    Well, I’m as pro-traffic calming and road-sharing as they come and I can see the problem with the left-turn-ban part of the plan, which is the aspect that CB6 objected to. It is not as simple an issue as DOT progressives vs. Markowitz-appointed old fogies, fun as that may be.

    Everyone wants 4th Ave. to be safer, but the left-turn ban just moves the safety issue a couple of blocks down. Those who are hollering that the CB6 doesn’t care about pedestrian safety should take a walk and look at the 3rd St. vs 5th St. crosswalks.

    3rd St. has wide sidewalks, bulb-outs, a timed pedestrian crossing, and a signal for the northbound left-turners. While 5th St. does not have a lot of foot traffic crossing east/west on 4th ave., it does have a lot of pedestrians crossing north/south on 5th St, including many students of MS 51 and, next year, PS 118.

    The intersection at 5th St. has narrow sidewalks (about half the width as 3rd St.), and NO SIGNALS whatsoever. Lander’s office will “push” for a signal but because of federal regulations, it is very unclear that a signal will be installed any time soon. So all southbound left turning traffic must dodge oncoming traffic, which is tricky enough already without taking 3rd and 9th St.’s out of the mix. It is exactly this scenario where drivers may not notice pedestrians, as they are so focused on avoiding northbound vehicles.

    These vehicles will then proceed up 5th St., which is the main crossing street for hundreds of middle school kids from MS 51, and up to 7th ave., the main crossing point for the students of 4 schools in the John Jay complex. It is insulting and disingenuous that opposition to this specific element of the plan is being framed as indifference to children’s safety – in addition to many parenst, the proprietors of a day care center on 5th St. have stated their reservations about the left turn ban, and the principal of MS 51 has also registered concern.

    So-called “opponents” want this part of the plan to be fixed before implementing. That is all.

  • Joe R.

    Left turns should be banned citiwide. They’re a major source of problems in a crowded urban environment. The grid is generally tight enough that you can make three rights instead of one left without going too much out of your way.

  • Brooklynite

    Let’s see how it works. Most likely your predictions of traffic cataclysm will be wrong — it seems these kinds of predictions always are. And if in the off chance you’re correct it’ll be easy enough to restore 4th ave back to its current crappy state.

  • Daphna

    There is no way to “fix” this plan before implementation as you want. With any street change, there will be people who are inconvenienced and others who are helped by the changes. There is no way to “fix” any road or intersection so that everybody has what they want. Street improvements need to benefit the majority rather than the minority of road users, and street improvements need to increase safety. Fewer left turns and better facilitation of left turns at the intersections where they are allowed leads to calmer, safer traffic flow. Maybe one cross street will become marginally less busy with traffic while another cross street will become marginally more busy. Some residents will be pleased and others not. As much as you have your theories of what will happen, the DOT has studied the street thoroughly and done analysis and looked at all factors involved. The DOT likely already considered all the issues you mentioned before developing this plan.

  • 4thaveparent

    Well, there is a way, and that would be to give 3rd St. an alternating turn signal. It’s just more of a pain for the DOT to do. I have heard directly from the DOT about these particular intersections, and have seen all their data, and they don’t have a good answer as to why an unsignaled, narrow street with two large schools and a couple day-care centers would be safer for pedestrians to cross with additional left-turn traffic. According to the DOT’s own account, the problems they are trying to solve on 3rd St. involve vehicular accidents, not pedestrian injuries, so they would solve one problem while creating another. And where do you get this “no fix is possible” nonsense? Traffic proposals are altered all the time, and it is much easier to make the changes before the plan is implemented.
    For all your talk about pedestrian safety, you and Brooklynite seem pretty cavalier about the pedestrian “minority,” mostly children, who will be endangered by redirecting left turns (left turns will still be happening, just moved 2 blocks away to a more dangerous intersection). You also seem unfamiliar with the intersections in question, not to mention what the sidewalks nearby look like when school gets out. I and many others support this plan otherwise, it is certainly not all or nothing, and the inflexibility and hostility shown here and elsewhere leads me to question people’s grasp (or concern) for the details.

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