CB 10 Votes Against Centerpiece of Bay Ridge’s Fourth Avenue Safety Plan

Last night, Brooklyn Community Board 10 voted on a slate of pedestrian safety improvements for Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge. While a number of smaller changes, such as wider crosswalks and curb extensions, received the board’s support, the board rejected the centerpiece of the plan — trimming traffic lanes to slow speeding drivers [PDF].

CB 10 prefers Fourth Avenue stay a four-lane speedway, but wants to make tweaks around the edges. Image: DOT

The current high-speed environment on Fourth Avenue contributes to a high rate of injuries and deaths. Two pedestrians have been killed along this stretch of the street this year alone. One driver killed a woman crossing mid-block at 86th Street, and weeks later another motorist fatally struck an elderly woman while turning onto Fourth from 82nd Street.

The road diet called for converting Fourth Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one, with a center turn lane, from Ovington Avenue to 86th Street [PDF]. From 101st Street to 95th Street the changes would have applied only to the northbound side.

In May, CB 10’s transportation committee recommended that the full board support the road diet. This positive vote was undercut in August by newly-elected board chair Brian Kieran, who previously served as transportation committee chair. Even though the road diet was refined over months of public workshops, Kieran urged board members to ignore the committee’s recommendations and instead pick and choose from the proposal.

Last night, the board voted down the road diet: The vote for the section from 101st Street to 95th Street was 7-29, and 4-32 for the section from Ovington Avenue to 86th Street.

“I supported it because something needs to be done, and as long as people keep dying on our streets, I’m willing to try anything,” committee member Andrew Gounardes told Streetsblog. “At the end of the day it’s just paint. If it doesn’t work, we can put it back.”

“This is the main piece of the proposal. All of the other stuff we are doing will not save as many pedestrian lives as this one piece alone, but people are not willing to hear it,” committee member Bob HuDock told Streetsblog, adding that many board members were worried the road diet would create congestion, even though DOT’s studies showed that it would not. “It was a rehash of all the same old tired arguments we’ve been hearing for the past two years,” HuDock said of board members’ objections.

Some board members said they wanted the avenue to keep its current format, even if it endangers residents walking in the neighborhood. “I think Fourth Avenue must remain a thoroughfare, even to the detriment of locality use,” board member Judy Grimaldi said at the meeting, according to a report from Brooklyn Daily.

Following the committee’s lead, the board also voted against DOT’s proposals for a pedestrian island, pedestrian fence, and left turn lane at the busy intersection of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street, though it did support a curb extension on the southwest corner of the intersection.

The board voted to support a wider crosswalk at the intersection of 85th Street, which would remove two parking spaces. The board also supported painted curb extensions at 85th and 82nd Streets, as well as Bay Ridge Parkway, which would remove additional parking spaces.

Even with the community board’s failure to vote for the full safety plan, supporters of the road diet see the glass as half-full. “I’m glad we’ve called a lot of attention to this problem, and we’re getting some results,” Gounardes said. “There’s a lot of recognition from people on the board that yes, something has to be done.”

“It’s a step in the right direction. We’ll make some impact on the pedestrian fatality rate, I hope,” HuDock said. “We’re setting ourselves up for future progress on other proposals.”

The board also voted to support requests for traffic calming measures DOT hadn’t proposed, including a study of curb extensions and pedestrian countdown signals at all intersections of Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge, additional speed limit signage, and a request to study dedicated turn signals at 75th, 86th, and 92nd Streets.

DOT said it will decide how to proceed once it receives a resolution from the board. “We will review any that we do receive, and continue to work with the board to improve street safety for all users of Fourth Avenue,” a spokesperson said in an e-mail.

In Park Slope, after Community Board 6 voted to reverse its own committee and condemn a traffic calming plan for Fourth Avenue, Council Members Brad Lander and Steve Levin asked DOT to implement the road diet anyway. One month later, CB 6 ended up voting for a slightly modified version of the plan. Streetsblog asked Council Member Vincent Gentile and his Republican challenger John Quaglione if they would follow the example and encourage DOT to proceed with the road diet.

Gentile said that “public safety will always be my top priority” but added that DOT should implement the plans as supported by CB 10. “That said, there is much more to be done and I look forward to continuing to work with the Department of Transportation,” Gentile said. Quaglione did not respond.

  • Andrew

    “I’ve seen all these lane reductions all over the city and all over Fourth Avenue. And all they do is clog things up,” said board member Greg Ahl. He added that his personal commute from 69th Street to Atlantic Avenue has gone from 11 minutes to half an hour as a result of recent reforms.

    Maybe he should try that newfangled device called the R train, which takes 16 minutes.

  • Anonymous

    Im more concerned with the width of the lanes than the number of them. Is it just me, or do the lanes look wider after the road diet?

  • Anonymous

    Wow, that is as shameless a car commute as ive ever heard. You think he’s paying for parking?

  • Joe R.

    Did he ever consider with the economy picking up a bit more people are driving? It might only take an increase of a few percent to drastically increase travel times. Also, generally when there’s more lanes, traffic just expands to fill them, taking you right back to where you were before. The converse is true also. Removing travel lanes doesn’t necessarily increase travel times once traffic levels have a chance to adjust.

  • krstrois

    I think we know the answer to that.

  • Ben Kintisch

    Shame on the Bay Ridge community board. The next time someone gets killed on fourth avenue, the blood will be on their hands. This bad vote is all in the name of keeping their fast roads fast. Disgusting.

  • KillMoto

    Joe, you’re right. If a road is near capacity, an additional 5% of volume increases commute times 50%. That’s from “Traffic” by Tom Vanderbilt, wherein he cites the original research.

  • KillMoto

    Now is the time for all good people to take their business elsewhere.

  • Anonymous

    Aside from a couple of relentless car people on CB 10, can we just consider that maybe DOT’s plan was well-meaning but flawed? It seems to me that both sides have a lot of learning to do here.

  • Anonymous

    I think Bill de Blasio would call that fear-mongering. I don’t agree with their decision either, but it’s within CB10’s rights to call for a better plan.

  • Ben K

    Perhaps you didn’t like the phrase used. But why is nearly every plan designed to reduce death and carnage in Bay Ridge scuttled so drivers can keep driving as fast as they want?

  • Brad

    Just take the train! Pedestrian safety is more important than travel times for drivers.

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Elevated from today’s headline stack: The Brooklyn Paper has a recap of DOT’s presentation to the Fourth Avenue Task Force last week, outlining options for the major avenue in Bay Ridge. The changes include a left-turn lane at 75th Street, a concrete pedestrian island at 86th Street, and a road diet along 13 blocks that would replace […]