On Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn CB 6 Prioritizes Left Turns Over People’s Lives

Community Board 6 rejected a plan for wider pedestrian medians on one of Brooklyn's most dangerous streets because the design calls for restricting left turns.

Brooklyn Community Board 6 tossed aside years of community activism and months of public meetings about safety improvements on Fourth Avenue Wednesday night, voting against a DOT proposal to calm traffic and expand pedestrian space on one of the borough’s deadliest streets. The board not only rejected a resolution in support of the plan but also passed a resolution expressing its disapproval.

Between 2007 and 2011, 52 people were severely injured on the 1.4 mile stretch of Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, and a senior citizen was killed in 2008, according to DOT. In addition to all the foot traffic generated by the subway lines that run beneath the street, the wave of residential development following a 2003 rezoning means more people than ever are walking on Fourth Avenue. There are seven schools along this stretch, including one, PS 118, set to open this year on Fourth Avenue at 8th Street. The safety improvements that CB 6 rejected would have narrowed traffic lanes and expanded pedestrian space, similar to improvements implemented on 50 blocks of Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park last year.

Community Board 6 chair Daniel Kummer. Photo: ##http://parkslope.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/meet-the-new-chairman-of-the-board##Park Slope Patch##

In introducing the proposal to the full board, transportation committee chair Tom Miskel spoke against the safety plan, before the board, chaired by Daniel Kummer, failed to pass a resolution supporting the proposal, 10-18 with four abstentions. After that vote, James Bernard, appointed to CB 6 by Council Member Stephen Levin, decided to go one step further and put forward another resolution expressing the board’s rejection of the safety plan. His resolution passed 18-9, with five abstentions.

CB 6’s full board is an outlier along Fourth Avenue. CB 2, which includes a few of Fourth Avenue’s northernmost blocks, unanimously voted, 27-0, to support the plan on Wednesday. CB 7 approved the Sunset Park section last year in a 31-2 vote. In Bay Ridge, CB 10’s transportation committee voted on Monday to support Fourth Avenue traffic calming; the plan goes before CB 10’s full board on Monday.

In a letter to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan [PDF], Kummer acknowledged the extensive planning process, culminating in a plan that received the support of his board’s transportation committee last month in a 14-1 vote, but said the board voted against the proposal after some residents and board members objected to key components of the safety plan. Those components include the wider pedestrian medians, which would reclaim street space for walking by implementing left turn restrictions and reducing travel lanes from three to two in each direction.

DOT’s plan already maintains three northbound lanes north of Union Street, but Kummer said that trimming the northbound side of the street to two lanes south of Union Street could exacerbate morning rush-hour congestion. In addition, Kummer said the board objected to eight left-turn restrictions at intersections that would receive wider pedestrian medians, after residents on Fifth Street went to last night’s meeting to express their opposition, saying the plan would increase traffic on their blocks.

Kummer also says the board opposed the plan because it includes potential locations for bike corrals. Even though the plan does not call for the installation of any corrals, each of which would go before the community board for future consideration, Kummer used it as a reason for the board to reject the safety plan entirely. The board “has a strong preference for proposals that are parking-neutral wherever possible,” he said. Last month, the board rejected a bike corral on Columbia Street because it would have removed one car parking space.

The current conditions on Fourth Avenue place it among the most dangerous 10 percent of Brooklyn streets.

Board members who worked on the plan for months expressed frustration with the cavalier rejection of their work. “The process is broken when the board is just placing no stock in the work that these committees do,” transportation committee member Gary Reilly told Streetsblog. “This is a setback, but the cause of improving safety on Fourth Avenue is too important,” he said. “I don’t think this is over.”

On Twitter yesterday, Council Member Brad Lander, who appoints CB members, said, “I strongly support DOT’s safety improvements [and] will be working to make sure they move forward ASAP.” A spokesperson for Lander told Streetsblog via e-mail that the council member “is evaluating the best path forward.”

Streetsblog asked Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has championed safety improvements to Fourth Avenue and appoints community board members, about the board’s vote and his position on DOT’s proposal. We’ll let you know if we hear anything back.

Since community boards serve only an advisory role, Lander and Levin, whose district includes Fourth Avenue north of Union, could urge DOT to move ahead with the plan. There’s also the possibility that the community board could reverse its vote at a later date. CB 6 has an executive committee meeting scheduled for July 8. Because the board will soon be taking its summer break, the next full board meeting is scheduled for September 11, but Kummer said he is willing to call a special meeting on July 10 for DOT to present a modified plan to the full board.

This post has been corrected to accurately convey the comments of board chair Daniel Kummer and committee chair Tom Miskel when the plan was introduced to the full board.

  • Daniel S Dunnam

    How very disappointing. How ANYONE, no matter how much they like driving, could defend leaving 4th Ave like it is now is unfathomable to me. It’s just such a shitshow down there right now.

  • I’m one of the Park Slope residents very dismayed by this decision, and my reaction has basically been, “So much rage. So much rage.”

    For what it’s worth, Lander said to me via Twitter that he supports DOT’s plan for 4th Ave. and will do what he can to move it forward. I’d like to see everyone hold him to it.

  • pk

    Ugh, short-sited. Changes like these *never* result in the same number of cars suddenly spilling out onto nearby routes, they decrease the total amount of traffic all around. I drive on 4th Avenue, and would welcome losing the left turn I often make onto my block. That avenue is such a disaster, creating a nasty barrier in the neighborhood. Down in Sunset Park, it’s almost pleasant now.

  • Peter

    FWIW, I live on the northern side of Park Slope.

    It sounds like the objections were less about pro-car, and more about what the impact of throttling 4th avenue would do to the surrounding residential blocks. One thing the DOT should consider in the revisions is how to calm traffic in Park Slope proper.

    Two related notes:

    1) The removal of the left turn from 4th avenue to Flatbush has created tremendous spillover to 3rd, 5th, and 6th avenues – during both rush hours, I see 5th ave backed up from Flatbush to as far as Union Street. It was never that bad on 5th or 6th before the arena.

    2) Worse, the east/west streets in the neighborhood (*especially* Dean, Bergen, and Union) have serious problems with reckless driving. It’s common to see people doing 40mph+ on those streets, all times of day & night. Putting more drivers on fewer of those cross streets will exacerbate the issue on the blocks that remain open.

    Rather than come up with a tactical proposal that fixes one issue, but creates negative spillover in the surrounding streets, it would be nice to get a comprehensive proposal from the DOT for all of it.

  • My gym overlooks 5th Ave. at Union St., and the avenue has been backed up at rush hour long before the left turn from 4th onto Flatbush was eliminated.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    I walk on 4th avenue 4-6 times a week and routinely get left hooked by cars who don’t yield to me in the crosswalk when I have the signal. I look before I cross and am young so I can dodge pretty well but it certainly isn’t the best design.

  • ADN

    Very disappointing.

    We heard many of these same concerns about traffic congestion expressed in 2007 around DOT’s plan for a “road diet” over on 9th Street (from some of the same people involved in this decision, in fact).

    In the years prior to the road diet, we saw four of our neighbors killed by cars and trucks on 9th Street, including a 77-year-old woman and a pair of grade school boys. There have not been any fatalities on 9th Street since DOT implemented its redesign. Zero.

    Likewise, DOT improved traffic and driving conditions on 9th Street by adding left turn bays and bike lanes. Since 2007 this DOT has only gotten better in its understanding and implementation of these kinds of street redesigns, even on very big, busy streets like Fourth Avenue.

    So… DOT improved pedestrian safety on 9th Street and none of the doomsday traffic congestion concerns ever materialized. I’d expect the same thing is likely to be the case on Fourth Avenue. And if it isn’t? It’s easy enough in a year or two to tear out the temporary design elements and restore Fourth Avenue back to its current six-lane, high-speed, pedestrian-terrifying glory.

    I don’t see any downside to trying to fix a street that is responsible for severely injuring pedestrians at a rate of one per month in Park Slope alone. I see lots of downside to doing nothing.

  • Forth

    Pretty sure a member of Forth on Fourth (and 5th street resident) got 5th Street residents all riled up about this with the hope of banning left turns onto 5th as well. Seems like it backfired for overall goal of Forth on Fourth. Oops.

  • paddy

    Wouldn’t putting more drivers on the side streets slow down the side streets too. Isn’t that the point.

  • Guest

    One reason people are doing 40+ mph on the streets that come off of 4th Avenue is because they’re doing 50+ or even 60+ on 4th itself.

    But if you slow down drivers to 40 mph on 4th Ave and hopefully they’ll slow down to 30 on these side streets. You’d also have fewer collisions with pedestrians with the right of way, since drivers would have more of a chance of seeing someone and stopping before hitting them.

    Remember, no one is asking anyone to punish drivers. We’re only asking them to help them comply with the posted speed limit.

    As for spillover, DOT ran the numbers at the CB6 transportation committee meeting last month. I don’t remember the exact figures, but at 9th Street, only about 50 drivers turn left per hour off of 4th Avenue at peak times. So you’re talking about 1 – 2 cars per light cycle that would instead turn left on 7th, 10th, or 12th. And since not all 50 cars per hour would take the same route, the effect would be mostly invisible.

    In comparison, DOT said that approximately 700 pedestrians cross 4th Ave and 9th Street per hour at peak times.

    700 > 50.

  • No sane driver will do that. It is a speedway on 4th Av from start to finish.

  • Buy a horn and blow them back when they dont yield.

  • Guest

    No sane driver will do what? Only go as fast as roadway conditions will allow? I don’t follow.

  • froth

    not an active member, I’m told. The person hasn’t attended a meeting in years.

  • dave “paco” abraham

    Transportation committee voted to endorse it unanimously. The full CB overrode it. Absolutely despicable.

  • JK

    Streetsblog posts the Pct Commander contact info after deadly crashes. How about posting contact info for Brad Lander and Steve Levin? They should be contacted by local residents who support a safer 4th Avenue. New York City democracy has been malfunctioning at the community board level for decades. It’s baffling why CB’s are empowered to make life or death decisions about public safety. The City Councilmembers are responsible for the well being of their constituents, and they need to speak up be held accountable.

  • Daphna

    Daniel Kummer is very harmful in his position at Chair of Brooklyn Community Board 6. This fall I think the community board holds a vote for chair. I hope they vote someone else in. It was absurd that Daniel Kummer steered vote previously against a very needed bike corral that would have given bike parking to 8 and instead kept in its place a single car parking spot. It is now despicable that Daniel Kummer steered the board against a safer 4th Avenue because in the future bike corrals along it might be considered.

    Marty Markowitz, Stephen Levin and Brad Launder should do whatever they can to move this plan forward. Stephen Levin and Brad Launder should speak to the community board members they appointed and stress that they care about quality of life and safety for their constituents. Stephen Levin and Brad Launder should not re-appoint any CB6 members at the end of their 2 years terms who have not shown support for the same values – quality of life and safety.

  • Daphna

    It is really a shame when a small group of vocal people who have some political power deny an improvement to a neighborhood that the majority in the neighborhood would benefit from. Just as 18 people on CB6 are depriving residents in Park Slope of a safer experience on 4th Avenue, a small number of community board members from Manhattan CB9 and CB10 combined with NY State Senator Bill Perkins to deny Harlem Select Bus Service and other traffic improvements to the 125th Street corridor.

  • J

    This vote shows an utter contempt for the people who walk and ride bicycles in the area. This is a vote FOR high speed roadways in residential areas. Shameful.

    Also, a “parking-neutral” approach is code word for “we’re not willing to actually change anything”.

  • Obviously, you dont even drive on or witness 4th Av traffic conditions all day and night long. No one will slow down at speed limit. Even at Sunset Park, tghe road diet didnt work.

  • Anonymous

    This type of myopic decision is what happens when the Borough President wields total control (50% on paper, 100% behind closed doors) regarding who gets appointed to Brooklyn’s Community Boards. This down vote on 4th Avenue safety is basically Marty Markowitz beating his chest and screaming, “I love cars!” As such, the DOT should absolutely ignore this resolution.

  • Bklyn_123

    I am an active member of Forth on Fourth Avenue (FOFA) and we were totally in support of the DOT plan, based on months of work and broad community feedback we helped collect. We have held our own community meetings and have helped DOT advertise their public meetings about this safety plan. Literally hundreds of people are in support of this plan and we were totally stunned at the outcome. We have plenty of reports and minutes to document this support.

    Two of us were at the CB6 Transportation subcommittee meeting, and it was overwhelmingly supported, so we thought that was it. Lesson learned the hard way, I’m outraged that was was a true community process was shut down. If anyone spoke out against this plan acting as a member of our group, he/she was bald-faced lying.

  • Guest

    I live on 4th Avenue, drive and walk there.

  • Guest

    This is not correct at all. This was completely the doing of Tom Miskel and a group of people on 5th Street who are not involved with FOFA. They were enabled by Daniel Kummer.

  • CB6er

    Agreed. Kummer’s got to go.

  • krstrois

    Someone should chart what percentage of NYC CB decisions have “free” (read: subsidized) parking at their core. They are like a little parking court. Yet are not elected. It’s insane.

    We don’t live in the neighborhood but we were there recently and my four year old summed up 4th Ave pretty neatly : “Mama, is this a highway?” Yes.

  • urban commando

    Where is tbe evidence that the DOT plan will increase traffic congestion, as Mr Kummer suggests ? There is no evidence to support this view. It’s a false argument based on a real lack of knowledge of the dozens of taffic studies published by the Federal Highway Administration in recent years. People who make public policy have a responsibility to educate themselves on the issues. Mr. Kummer has not lived up to that responsibility.

  • Daphna

    Brooklyn CB6 chair Daniel Kummer and CB6 Transportation Committee chair Tom Miskel both did a huge disservice to their community by steering and influencing this negative vote. I hope the DOT proceeds regardless.

    Daniel Kummer needs to understand that all street space needs to be on the table for re-allocation to better suit the current needs of a street. Parking, travel lanes, turning bays, etc – all have to be looked at. For Daniel Kummer to hold parking as if it is something sacred and so worthwhile that it can not be reduced in any street re-design is an attitude that prevents all change and improvement. Parking is not something so noble that it must be maintained above all else when modifying street space allocation. (But this plan did not even lessen parking so his argument against the plan on that basis was especially false.)

    More streets having muni meters is the key to more parking availability. Free parking creates the problematic situation of demand for a resource vastly outstripping supply. No amount of supply can ever come close to meeting the demand of free parking in NYC. Trying to increase or preserve the supply of free parking is useless because demand outstrips supply exponentially.

    Also, this safer street re-design could be reversed if it did not work. Daniel Kummer, Tom Miskel, Stephen Levin and Brad Launder should show leadership towards making their community better and safer – they should advocate for this plan and calm community fears about it. They should have the courage to try change. If it does not work, and if those left turn restrictions cause traffic problems, it can be reversed. But first community leaders have to have the courage to try something new.

  • CityBiker

    The post below was posted by someone on another site pertaining to this issue. It’s an interesting read, worth considering.

    CityBiker

    ———————————-

    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 may have voted in favor of a plan for them does not mean that it is right for Park Slope. These are 2 very different neighborhoods

    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, per car / per pedestrian, 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 to the board. No need to disparage those in the community – there are many – who may disagree with your particular points of view.

    Thanks all for considering

    Slopey Joe

  • ADN

    NBBL redux.

  • Chris McNally

    The CB6 Transportation committee voted in favor of this, but they griped about the no left turn restrictions. Their concern was that it would increase cars waiting to make left turns at other intersections. The bike corrals and curbside management were not part of this plan but DOT said it would be studied first and curbside management and treatments such as Muni and bike corrals would be presented after the study. Did the full board even see the DOT presentation? Only a small fraction of CB6 with little change is even in the plan. I believe they have gone beyond their reach by attempting to kill the entire plan which covers two different community boards.

  • 4th Resident

    More like Sloppy Joe. None of what you write is correct.

    DOT was very open to a number of fixes, alterations and changes when some details were challenged at the transportation committee meeting.

    Something tells me you wouldn’t question DOT data if it aligned with your perceptions about traffic and dangers on 4th.

  • Alex Knight

    Yeah, I don’t take anything away from this guy’s post. His argument that DOT would be asserting too much power by ignoring the CB vote makes no sense at all considering that is EXACTLY what CB6 did to its constituents by voting against the plan and ignoring its own transportation committee. And the DOT worked hand-in-hand with the community, holding meeting after meeting (maybe even more than were necessary) on this redesign. So Sloppy Joe simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  • Alex Knight

    Yeah, I don’t take anything away from this guy’s post. His argument that DOT would be asserting too much power by ignoring the CB vote makes no sense at all considering that is EXACTLY what CB6 did to its constituents by voting against the plan and ignoring its own transportation committee. And the DOT worked hand-in-hand with the community, holding meeting after meeting (maybe even more than were necessary) on this redesign. So Sloppy Joe simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  • Alex Knight

    Yeah, I don’t take anything away from this guy’s post. His argument that DOT would be asserting too much power by ignoring the CB vote makes no sense at all considering that is EXACTLY what CB6 did to its constituents by voting against the plan and ignoring its own transportation committee. And the DOT worked hand-in-hand with the community, holding meeting after meeting (maybe even more than were necessary) on this redesign. So Sloppy Joe simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  • Alex Knight

    Yeah, I don’t take anything away from this guy’s post. His argument that DOT would be asserting too much power by ignoring the CB vote makes no sense at all considering that is EXACTLY what CB6 did to its constituents by voting against the plan and ignoring its own transportation committee. And the DOT worked hand-in-hand with the community, holding meeting after meeting (maybe even more than were necessary) on this redesign. So Sloppy Joe simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  • GowanusKings

    My daughter and her friends cross 4th Ave every day on the way to school. We’ve been waiting for this plan ever since DOT implemented a similar plan in Sunset Park. For shame on CB6 – favoring parking over the safety of school kids. I trust DOT will ignore their vote.

  • Chris McNally

    Oops my comment referred to CB2 Cobble Hill etc, Not Cb6 which is Red Hook. I am lazy on my tablet and did not look up which community was covered by CB6

  • adam graves

    SHOULD REMAIN 3 LANES…..

  • adam graves

    SHOULD REMAIN 3 LANES…..

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