City puts big bucks towards Fourth Avenue overhaul

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

The city wants to overhaul Fourth Avenue as part of its latest push to make dangerous streets safer.

The street that stretches from Bay Ridge to Atlantic Terminal is one on a list of hairy thoroughfares up for $250 million worth of rejiggering, announced as part of the mayor’s preliminary budget last week. Details, including how much of Fourth Avenue would be affected, have not yet been announced, but the Department of Transportation has floated tree-lined medians, physically separated bike lanes, and sidewalk expansions as some possible measures.

A road-safety activist who has worked with Park Slope’s 78th Precinct on reckless driving enforcement measures said that reshaping roads is another key component of the city’s Vision Zero push, which is meant to end traffic deaths by 2024.

“I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of infrastructure upgrades,” Eric McClure said. “Police can’t be everywhere. Education plays an important role, but engineering becomes really important in creating safe spaces.”

Work will not begin on major Brooklyn streets — the East New York leg of Atlantic Avenue is also up for a redesign — for another two years, transportation department Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the Council on March 5.

Between 2009 and 2013, six pedestrians were killed on Fourth Avenue and 55 were seriously injured, while Atlantic Avenue saw four pedestrian fatalities and 60 serious injuries during the same stretch, according to city data.

McClure, who lives in Park Slope and is an avid cyclist, said that Fourth Avenue provides a straight shot toward Downtown and Manhattan, but he usually avoids it on bike because speeding drivers and a lack of separated cycling lanes make it a dicey proposition.

“Sometimes if I’m in a hurry I’ll take Fourth Ave., but it generally is not my first choice,” he said. “Bike lanes would certainly be a benefit.”

Proposed pedestrian-friendly modifications of sections of Fourth in Park Slope and Bay Ridge have sparked heated debate in recent years, and both community boards have rejected early city plans, demanding tweaks from the city, which in some cases they got.

The community board and police precinct in Sunset Park, on the other hand, invited such a redesign, and the city says crashes have decreased and drive times have remained the same since it narrowed the road from six lanes to four through the neighborhood in late 2012.

The city has long planned to widen the median from Atlantic Avenue to 65th Street, and overhaul the crash-prone intersection of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street in Bay Ridge. The city has not yet made clear what its latest money allocation will add to those plans.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Context added.
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

bkdude64 says:
March 9, 2015, 6:57 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
We need a $tudy to $ee the be$t way to turn an efficient thoroughfare into a bottleneck becau$e people walk into traffic.
March 9, 2015, 7:47 am
Parent from Park Slope says:
This is great news! Please make Fourth Avenue safer for all!
March 9, 2015, 8:06 am
Jacob from Park Slope says:
This is an obvious location for protected bike lanes, which would give people in the neighborhood a safe, convenient, and efficient way to get from one place to another. More options to get around = fewer cars on the road and better quality of life.
March 9, 2015, 8:10 am
BrooklynGersh from The WT says:
Story doesn't get into the central issue: Say you have cyclists heading up Fourth towards Flatbush. What happens when they GET to Flatbush? There's no bike lane (nor should there be!) on Flatbush. And there is no bike lane (nor could there be) on Atlantic.

So what does Polly want us to do?

March 9, 2015, 9:01 am
Jimmy from Flatbush says:
BrooklynGersh -- Why shouldn't there be a bike lane on Flatbush? Why couldn't there be a bike lane on Atlantic?

Regardless, how about you take a look at the current bicycling network and answer your own question.
March 9, 2015, 9:10 am
Guest from NYC says:
City needs to calm all arteries and establish a citywide protected bicycle network plan.
March 9, 2015, 9:20 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
First we "calm all arteries" then we call it "congestion" and tax it!
March 9, 2015, 9:27 am
brooklyn red from Park Slope says:
Always nice to hear what Eric is thinking, but little or no real information in this article - and some is incorrect. While CB 6 initially voted down the DOT plan for 4th Ave, it was subsequently approved (with a very small modification) at a subsequent meeting. That subsequent meeting was occasioned by very strong neighborhood opposition to the board's original action - a safer 4th ave is a critical issue in the neighborhood.
March 9, 2015, 9:48 am
BrianVan from Gramercy says:
Even if you de-prioritize bicycle lane installations here, the fact of the matter is that this is a roadway that doesn't work as it is currently laid out. It can't decide if it's a highway, a freeway, or a local street. Meanwhile there is an actual elevated freeway one block away for much of its middle section.

The DOT needs to make some difficult decisions about what this roadway is supposed to be, and then it needs to act on those decisions without making disastrous compromises for a niche group of complainers. There will always be people who argue that the status quo suits them perfectly, and that's self-serving and unethical - the DOT needs to ignore that for a change.

It's a tough assignment, because the city historically has done a bang-up job of creating failed boulevards. Grand Concourse, Queens Boulevard, and Atlantic Avenue are examples of grand visions turned into ——holes. Whatever design mistake that was applied in those cases needs to be undone for each of those disasters, and not re-done here on Fourth Avenue.
March 9, 2015, 9:50 am
guest from broooklyn says:
The narrowed lanes on 4th Ave have prolonged drive times and it often results in bottlenecks because businesses along 4th need space for delivery; and the pass through traffic stalls.
There is no need for a bike lane on 4th Ave, Atlantic Ave nor Flatbush Ave. It is not safe! Those are designated truck routes. It is dumb to put cyclists on the same roads as our trucks. Go over one block to 5th, there are bike lanes. Or 6th Ave, again, there are bike lanes. Truck drivers can not see bikers. There is logic to keeping the bike lanes off truck routes.
March 9, 2015, 9:52 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
If only the city council would repeal the law of unintended consequences, 4th avenue would be the road to utopia!
March 9, 2015, 10:04 am
Jimmy from Flatbush says:
"The narrowed lanes on 4th Ave have prolonged drive times" -- Not based in facts. (Unless you mean, I can't accelerate to 10-20 mph above the speed limit between red lights, but that's not "drive time" is it?)

guest -- You clearly don't know what a protected bike lane is. What sort of conflict with trucks do you imagine when there is a WHOLE LINE of parked cars or a loading zone between the travel lane and the bike lane?! There is no room on 5th Avenue for a proper protected bike lane -- there is on 4th avenue.

And, as BrianVan wrote, even if you de-prioritize bicycle infrastructure, 4th Avenue doesn't work. It's dangerous for all users (drivers and pedestrians).

The solution for bottlenecks due to deliveries is to create loading zones and commerical vehicle-only parking areas. That said, I'm not really sure how you think the bottlenecks have increased because of some new paint on the road. 3 lanes minus Delivery truck = 2 lanes. 2 wider lanes minus Delivery Truck = 2 lanes.
March 9, 2015, 10:12 am
Resident from Brooklyn says:
"While CB 6 initially voted down the DOT plan for 4th Ave, it was subsequently approved (with a very small modification) at a subsequent meeting. That subsequent meeting was occasioned by very strong neighborhood opposition to the board's original action - a safer 4th ave is a critical issue in the neighborhood."

Actually, the CB6 transportation committee originally approved the plan overwhelmingly. Lots of advocates and neighborhood residents were there in support. However, it was then voted down by the full board over small concerns related to the potential installation of a handful of bike corrals and some of the left-turn bans.

The rejection was so surprising that CB6 held an additional session at which DOT offered a tweaked plan. That also garnered the attention of lots of advocates and finally passed.

There is a huge amount of support for an even safer Fourth Avenue.

Guest, the stats don't bear you out. Travel times on Fourth have improved now that traffic flow is more logical. Turning lanes are wider, meaning drivers don't get stuck behind people waiting to turn left. The design is a win for everyone.
March 9, 2015, 10:16 am
tee gee from sunset park says:
peter - the data from the DOT study is suspect. they only did traffic data on one day! And although the temperature was higher than normal there was almost a foot of snow on the ground from previous falls. They did NO baseline study to compare their improved safety stats from. They did NOT count bikes - on purpose they said - because they didn't want to attract bikers. But yet they included 4th ave as a bike lane on their official map (without any signage and without telling anyone). There is a good chance they did this to get federal bike improvement money for 4th ave but with no intention of including bikes. now the commissioner is saying they might put a shared bike lane on 4th - all nyc streets are shared bike lanes. the bottom line - the test data is faulty. additionally they refuse to address two car washes that block pedestrians from nearby P.S. 24. They refuse to add a "dont block the box" grid at 38th where vehicles exit the gowanus and ignore the red light - adjacent to two schools. NYC DOT has screwed up and are in a hurry to pour concrete before we find out. 40 years ago I protested turning 4th from 4 to 6 they reversed themselves...I won't be here in 40 years to say "I told you so"
March 9, 2015, 12:55 pm
AS from Boerum Hill says:
This is great. In my neighborhood, 4th avenue is unpleasant to walk on and a nightmare to cross. I suspect that's why it has trouble supporting good businesses.

I think wider sidewalks and trees will definitely help. Bike lanes would be really nice, too.
March 9, 2015, 12:58 pm
tee gee from sunset park says:
4th Avenue is a perfect location for a protected bike lane. there is enough unused space (5' unmarked lane next to parked cars that drivers think is for double parking) and three more feet that they want to add to the median...that makes an 8' wide bike lane - one north bound and one south bound - a bikers dream - we already printed up 10,000 car window stickers to remind drivers & passengers to look for bikes before opening their doors. The two protected bike lanes and the parking lanes would cut the distance pedestrians have to walk to cross 4th Avenue - making the median unneeded. We did our own bike counts - 39 per hour even in the rain. We also used San Francisco's pedestrian crossing standards (the best in the nation) to test crossing on 4th and there was plenty of time....we need everyone to contact Polly Trottenberg and tell her now is the time to at least try the bike lane for a year.
March 9, 2015, 1 pm
TOM MURPHY from Sunset Park says:
In the original report from Hunter College to Boro Prez Marty Markowitz on improvements to Fourth Avenue(Atlantic Avenue to the Atlantic Ocean) it was clearly stated that there was too much traffic on Fourth Avenue and no bike lane should ever be considered. Instead they strongly suggested either Fifth Avenue or Third Avenue as alternates. As a result the entire length of Fifth Avenue has a "shared" bike lane. I voted for the last segment as a member of Community Board #7 which required a repeat of the voting to gain approval. The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative will incorporate part of Third Avenue in Sunset Park into its route. This segment of the routing was recently approved by CB#7.
In the eventual re-design of Fourth Avenue NYC DOT recognized that this heavy traffic volume at the north end of Fourth Avenue precluded its "road diet" and that stretch remains at the old configuration of three lanes north.
For the Bay Ridge segment(south of the Third Avenue Extension between 64th and 65th Street) the "road diet" to one lane both north and south was rejected outright. This was a result of their observation that the "road diet" along Sunset Park's longer segment was producing more not less congestion.
Since the original considerations of the changes there have been further developments. First, Fourth Avenue, classified as an urban arterial roadway, has been added to the Federal Highway system in the federal transportation funding law known as MAP-21(Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century). This is because Fourth Avenue's direct connections to and from(spillway) a federal interstate highway(I-278), the Belt highway system, and a segment of an Intermodal Connector Roadway that links I-278 to both rail and port facilities. Also, the NYC Council voted that any further installation of bike lanes need local community board approval. The 2014 NYC bike lane map shows a "shared" bike lane from 65th Street north to Atlantic Avenue where there never was one before 2014. I wrote to NYC DOT that neither Board #6 nor Board #7 ever were asked or even informed of this change, and, declaring to bikers it is now a viable bike lane without any markings or changes to the roadway would be putting bikers to unnecessary risk. I have never gotten an answer, and have given up asking. Please note the number of pedalcyclists killed in traffic in NYC rose in 2014 over 2013. None on Fourth Avenue, thank God. Fatalities among all other categories of road users continued to trend down but this has been true since the NYC default motor vehicle speed limit was increased to 30mph some fifty years ago.
I myself commuted six miles by pedal-bike into Manhattan for some twenty years and did so originally on Fourth Avenue. Although I was never seriously hurt I learned there were safer, less threatening and easier routes. I finished up utilizing Third Avenue and residential streets. It was slow but reliable and I was never knocked off using that route.
Between now and 2040 the volume of freight moved in NYC will increase by 50%. There is no ready alternative such as rail, or marine and rail, available so it will be moved by trucks. Fourth Avenue for most of its length is a legal truck route. Fourth Avenue for All its length is an ILLEGAL truck route. This will not change. Presently the Staten Island segment of I-278 leading to the VNB is being widened to allow for more traffic, the VNB is being modified to accommodate it, the Gowanus has been widened to seven travel lanes(with more at the merger bottlenecks), the Gothals will become two spans with more on-ramps at the NJ end. Unfortunately, the Belt will not be changed as Sam Schwartz envisioned so all trucks to JFK must head north on I-278.
Before any consideration of reassigning or constricting further the now-more-limited capacity of Fourth or Third or Fifth Avenues please answer the real question of what is to be done with the steadily mounting motor vehicle traffic. Please feel free to share any good news with all of us.

March 9, 2015, 2:26 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
There are ways to improve this avenue without creating problems for others and without having to spend so much. One of them is fixing the timing of the traffic lights and crosswalks. By doing so, the motorists that are turning don't have to wait and miss a light that normally allows for them to turn just because the walk signal is on the intersecting streets. Also, this is being done elsewhere, so I don't see why that can't be the case here. Another is to actually enforce the jaywalking laws since it does tend to place pedestrians into harm's way making them at fault for what happens. The only reason why jaywalking is done so much in NYC is mainly because it's not that much enforced and the penalty for doing it is nothing more than a slap on the wrist unlike everywhere else. Of course, the anti-car fanatics will always oppose this because it will make their plan to inconvenience motorists obsolete as well as unnecessary. More importantly, 4th Avenue is a major thoroughfare and traffic calming on it will make it bad for all the commercial vehicles that are known for constantly using it. For the record, I'm all for safe streets, but not in the way some of you want it to be, and I feel that all groups should be held responsible, not just one only, plus I was applauded at a Vision Zero hearing from a live crowd not that long ago for mentioning such.
March 9, 2015, 3:17 pm
Old School from Bay Ridge says:

Simple answer. Remove the capacity, and the traffic goes away. It might sitting in some gridlock for the message to sink in. And the message is, we don't want you and your cars here.
March 9, 2015, 3:17 pm
Old School from Bay Ridge says:
Sorry, Tom not James. And we want people here, just not their cars :)
March 9, 2015, 3:18 pm
Jimmy from Flatbush says:
Tom Murphy clearly doesn't understand the concept of induced demand.

Also... If 3rd Avenue is a better choice for bicycles, why isn't it a better choice for cars?! I'm so tired of hearing this same ol' refrain. "Cyclists should use other roads, not this one." If you actually told the business community the truth, I haven a feeling they would quickly stop agreeing with that message.

Such foolish thinking. And he's a voting member of one of our community boards?
March 9, 2015, 3:37 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
No money to be made in retiming lights Tal. This is about money. If you pour concrete - that's real money!
March 9, 2015, 3:57 pm
tee gee from sunset Park says:
Tom I was against bikes on 4th and while Restoration was doing a study of 4th Avenue we kept getting reports of many bikers on 4th despite 5th as a shared lane. We had to reevaluate 4th Avenue for a bike lane because of the sheer numbers - 39 per hour. DOT's study is faulty - they used data from the worst winter in memory - when there were less pedestrians and less vehicles. They are rushing to judgement. The 5 foot "non-defined" lane is being used for double parking and of course vehicles cannot fit in there...we are seeing an accident ready to happen once the concrete is poured and the medians permanently widened. Also, north of 38th Street is only 3 lanes during the morning rush - which is very dangerous because "cowboys" are using the far right "parking" lane as a passing lane. DOT did a very poor job on this. And proof of their incompetence is when the new 25mph speed limit became law, Restoration asked them when the new signs would go up and they said "they are not going up, everyone knows that unmarked streets are 25mph" we went out and posted our own signs and then they changed their mind - DOT is out of control. a one year study of bikes on 4th should be done...5th ave is far more dangerous for bikers.
March 9, 2015, 6:28 pm
Jay Cee from Sunset Park says:
Western Brooklyn needs an accessible (not a marginally located greenway protected bike lane which is more for recreation not transportation) class one protected bike running south north, providing a truly safe corridor for the growing number of bike commuters in the boro, If Vision Zero is to be realized a greater network of protected bike lanes needs to be built which separate cyclists from traffic. Class two bike lanes like the one on much of 5th avenue in Brooklyn create the illusion of safety since they rely entirely on the honor system : that motorists will respect the painted lines and stay out of the bike lane, which many don't--in fact, in a Streetsblog poll of the most dangerous biking routes in the boro 5th ave was voted one of the most dangerous because of the pervasive amount of double parking in the bike lane. It seems to me that 4th ave, its location and width with a median strip the entire length, makes the most sense in terms of where to locate such a much needed cycling corridor. Certainly if protected bike lanes could be installed on 1st, 2nd, 8th and 9th aves in Manhattan without producing traffic woes, 4th ave in BK is certainly a strong candidate. I would also add that the further traffic calming effects that happen with protected bike lanes would help turn 4th ave into a destination that would see an attendant increase in foot traffic and lead to an economic revitalization of the boulevard; also, it will help integrate the waterfront with the upland areas. To answer Tom Murphy's question of how will we accommodate the anticipated increase in freight traffic over the next 30 years I'd say if you build it they will come: that's the lesson we learned from the Robert Moses era: highway expansion did not relieve congestion it created even more congestion. Remove lanes and only those who truly need to be on the road--and they are few--will be on the road the rest will quickly learn that it isn't practical. In a city that cannot increase in size and which will most certainly continue to grow in population it is imperative that more residents be discouraged from motoring and encouraged to bike or walk, especially since our subway and above surface train system is not likely to expand very much and is already heavily taxed causing overcrowding and delays. Truck traffic should be more highly regulated than it is now, hours for delivery should be restricted, more city streets should be off limits to tractor trailers just as they currently are in peer first class cities throughout the world--the cities we compete with economically. Again, if you build it they will come or in this case use it: its imperative that a truly safe complete bike network be built through out the city which will make cycling even more accessible, to children, the elderly, women. I can't tell you how many friends and people I meet say they would regularly cycle in the city if they thought it was safer. Communities with a greater cycling mode share affect better safety, health, quality of life and economic outcomes than those attached to a now bygone peak motoring mindset and culture with all of its associated maladies. And I say if the community boards remain reactionary and obstruct--they are hardly democratic or representative being comprised disproportionately of older whiter wealthier native NYCers stuck in the 80s and 70s (who insist they are the real legitimate NYCers but who with out any sense of irony apparently want to live in Tulsa on the Atlantic), then the DOT should stop seeking their approval and do what a majority of residents say they support in polls: build complete streets. And, no, the DOT is not required to get community board approval for street redesigns they do it as a courtesy as an outreach to mollify these unelected lifers with too much free time on their hands.
April 16, 2015, 10:39 am

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: