After months of working with DOT and local residents on a traffic calming safety plan for Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn Community Board 10 voted last night, 25-11, to delay a decision on the project. The vote effectively rules out the installation of safety treatments on the avenue this year; if the board votes in favor of the plan in October, the project could be installed next spring.
Five pedestrians were killed on Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge between 2006 and 2013, according to DOT, with two of those fatalities occurring in April of this year. Transportation Alternatives clocked drivers on Fourth Avenue at an average of 37 mph, with some measured traveling as fast as 60 mph, in a report released yesterday about the extent of speeding in Brooklyn. To reduce speeding, the plan would put Fourth Avenue on a road diet in both directions from Ovington Avenue to 86th Street, and on northbound Fourth Avenue from 101st Street to 95th Street, converting the street from two lanes in each direction to one through lane plus left-turn lanes.
Before last night's vote, DOT had hosted workshops with community board members, including open houses in February and March, a community forum with full board members on June 5, and a transportation committee meeting last week, where resolutions supporting the proposal (except for a pedestrian island and fence at 86th Street) advanced to the full board.
But the board decided to delay the plan after many members said they had trouble understanding its details. "There was a lot to the Department of Transpotation proposal," district manager Josephine Beckmann told Streetsblog, noting that it covers more than 30 blocks.
As DOT received feedback on the plan, it modified the proposal, but this responsiveness may have been hard for some board members to keep up with. "There was a lot of criticism that DOT kept changing the plan after each meeting," CB 10 transportation committee member Bob HuDock told Streetsblog, noting the irony that not long ago, many board members were criticizing the agency for not being responsive enough.
"There was certainly ample opportunity and everybody was notified about every single meeting," HuDock said, adding that many board members chose not to participate. "If we need to do a few more meetings, let's do a few more meetings," he said.
There will be at least two special full board meetings dedicated solely to Fourth Avenue in July and August, after which the plan will go to the board for final review in September before a vote in October and installation next spring, under a new mayor, at the earliest. Last night, CB 10 elected Brian Kieran as its next chair; he currently serves as chair of the transportation committee and will oversee the October vote on the Fourth Avenue plan.
"The committee's done a lot of this work already," said board member Andrew Gounardes, but he added that extending the timeline would help build consensus. "I don't think most people are opposed," he said. "I don't think this is a setback, ultimately, with improving Fourth Avenue."
Neighboring CB 7 voted last year to support a similar plan to reduce the number of lanes and calm traffic on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park. CB 10's decision to delay comes on the heels of CB 6's rejection of a safety plan for its stretch of Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, though HuDock said the Park Slope decision did not come up during discussions in Bay Ridge last night.
DOT said it will continue to work with the community on Fourth Avenue. "This project reflects input by the local community to make a busy corridor safer for everyone. We look forward to discussing this further with the community," spokesperson Nick Mosquera said in an e-mail.
Council Member Vincent Gentile welcomed the board's decision to delay, saying that it shows "seriousness" about traffic safety. "I am confident that the full board will propose a comprehensive plan to the community that will help keep our neighbors safe. I look forward to a comprehensive plan this fall,” he said in a statement.