Sunset Parkers clash over Fourth Avenue bike lane

Rush hour: The Sunset Park–South Slope stretch of the Fourth Avenue path will feature a rush-hour lane for drivers from 7 to 10 am, which converts back to parking the rest of the day.
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This is going to be an uphill battle.

A panel of Sunset Parkers clashed over the city’s plan to connect the nabe with Downtown via a bike lane along Fourth Avenue — with some calling it “rolling gentrifica­tion,” and others hailing it for giving transportation-starved Southern Brooklynites more options — leaving locals grinding gears over whether the path is right for the nabe.

“This is a huge deal for our community, and people are going to be passionate and all over the map on this,” said Sunset Parker Vanessa Signore at a May 11 meeting at John Dewey High School, where the Department of Transportation presented the plan. “Some see this as bad for the neighborhood, with gentrification and reducing parking, and others see it as a positive for getting around. I’m not sold that this is the right avenue for this, but I’m willing to try and make it work.”

The proposed path would run between Downtown to the edge of Bay Ridge from Dean to 65th streets. Fourth Avenue would feature a cycling path on each side of the thoroughfare from Boerum Hill through Gowanus, Park Slope, and Sunset Park, ending just short of Bay Ridge.

Cyclists would be separated from traffic with a buffer of parked cars, except for an 11-block stretch between Carroll and Dean streets on the Downtown side, where the lane drops to a mere painted line between bikers and cars because the streets are too narrow to take space from drivers, according to a Department of Transportation rep.

But overall, the lane offers two-wheelers a safer commute to Downtown, and will encourage those hesitant to pedal on the roadway, said another local.

“It’s really going to dramatically improve the safety of the avenue,” said Joseph Carole of Community Board 7’s transportation committee, who has been struck twice while biking on Fifth Avenue. “I think a lot of people in this community who wouldn’t normally bike will. It’s democratizing to the community, especially since we’re having more and more days where the trains shut down. This way, you can just hop on a bike.”

But others slammed the plan as rolling out the welcome wagon for Downtown yuppies.

“Cyclists are thought of as rolling gentrification through our community,” said Sunset Parker Elizabeth Yeampierre, the head of local activist group Uprose. “And when they show up, whether it’s in Red Hook or Bushwick, it’s the end of our time.”

Others still were concerned with the plan dumping on drivers. The reconfigured space will cut roughly three parking spots per intersection — translating to a loss of nearly 300 spaces along the thoroughfare — and drivers feel they’re getting the shaft at the benefit of bikers.

Chopping parking doesn’t seem like a good idea when locals are already getting into rows over sparse spots, said another transportation committee member.

“I have neighbors coming to blows for parking spots now, and for somebody to say we’re going to wipe 300 spots, that’s too much,” said Sunset Parker Tom Murphy. “I’m against it. I’m a nimby.”

But the plan isn’t devoid of consideration for drivers. The parking-lane buffer from 38th Street to Prospect Park will convert into a “rush hour” lane for cars from 7 to 10 am, after which time it will revert to a row of parked cars dividing drivers from bikes.

The Department of Transportation is still soaking up feedback from locals along the route, and recently met with Park Slopers. After urban planners tweak the design, a revised version will make its way to the transportation committees of community boards 2, 6, and 7, before each full board will have their say on the project.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 5:59 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Noel from Park Slope says:
live and let live
May 18, 2017, 3:20 am
Ms. Me from Bay Ridge says:
Transportation starved? R train. D train. N train. Buses -- B16 Fort Hamilton Parkway; B37/3rd Avenue; B63/5th Avenue; B70/Eighth Avenue. Express buses -- X27 and X37, with weekend service. Crosstown buses -- B1, B4, B9, B11, B16, B35, B64. S53 and S79 buses to Staten Island. Transportation starved?
May 18, 2017, 7:06 am
Resident from Brooklyn says:
Tom Murphy is really crazy. I've never seen a man turn more shades of red when he talks. Time for him to move on from fighting safer streets.
May 18, 2017, 10:59 am
Chris from Sunset 41st st says:
A large number of Sunset Park residents commute to work by bicycle now and many more would do so if there was even a single safe route to ride. Anyone who thinks that this lane would provide some kind of a highway for "outsiders" moving in to this neighborhood needs to go meet their neighbors riding these dangerous streets right now.
May 18, 2017, 11:05 am
vooch from 10021 says:
The Protected Bike lane will reduce roadway congestion by offering a mobility option that requires 1/10 the space of a private car.

80% of all trips in NYC are less than 3 miles.

Every study made shows cyclists spend more money at local shops than drivers.
May 18, 2017, 11:49 am
samir kabir from downtown says:
Every study shows cyclists spend 80% of their consumable income in local bars.
May 18, 2017, 2:47 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
My parole office is on 4th Avenue and thus I need to be able to drive and park right outside.

Of course I remain on parole from the incident with the dog and the peanut butter which legally requires me to stay at least 50 feet away from bike zealots, puppies, children or really any other humans in general.
May 18, 2017, 3:16 pm
K. from ArKady says:
Poor people drive cars! Rich people ride bicycles! Section 8 housing is the new Hipster craze!
May 18, 2017, 4:18 pm
tony from sunset park says:
Gentrification is not caused by bikes, it is caused by not-for-profit groups & elected officials who keep their "constituents" poor. They do this to keep their high paying jobs. Sunset has too many folks in their third or fourth generation of poverty - they are being "farmed" by groups like UPROSE - a cash crop. Instead of worrying about gentrification maybe created career paths for their constituents so they can escape from this poverty cycle.
May 18, 2017, 5:42 pm
TOM MURPHY from Sunset Park says:
Hi Caroline. When I say I'm a nimby, I really really say I'm a NIMBY. I'm not embarrassed. I got seriously into this when I discovered a real estate developer was putting up eleven-stories of condos right up to my backyard. It was the NYC Department of Buildings doing the lying back then. That event got me started getting in people's faces.

Of course, I'm for safer streets--that's another slur used against me. Yes, when I argue a point I can get red in the face. I'm passionate about defending my studied point of view against ignorance(it just may be my heart meds kicking in).

First off, no one, not the Mayor, the City Council or NYC DOT has asked anyone along 4th Avenue or in Sunset Park if they want this.

I have looked at this sudden pop-up change-of-plans-don't-tell-any-locals because we already know the locals will say NO to another over-the-top NYC DOT "vision".

When 4th Avenue was initially changed it was agreed by all parties--NO BIKE LANES. Too risky with all the traffic. Yes, even NYC DOT was in agreement on that. Mixing bikes and trucks at speed is dangerous. It was suggested a bike lane on 3rd Avenue or 5th Avenue(only other through avenues) could and should be wiser. The 5th Avenue shared lane was put in; I voted for it myself at the Community Board. Twice in fact. The first try it failed for want of support among the members. The second try and its approval was cobbled together at a later meeting. In it went and now apparently "no one" is happy. Of course not, it was a NYC DOT "vision" beginning -to-end. Nobody had thought to listen to the bus drivers, or the retailers.

This new "vision" for 4th will certainly please bikers but let's look at it in its entirety. There is nothing really in this that will make pedestrians safer, and certainly commuters are ignored. Read Michael Bloomberg's new book. He's says to be successful you must achieve balance on the roadway, not push the current users onto residential streets.

Pedestrians will be accosted by bikers riding at the curb at intersections. "Illegal" double-parked vehicles on both sides will be replaced by legally parked vehicles exactly where the double-parkers are now. Only two narrower through-lanes will be left. Any vehicle that stops to let someone out or pick some one up, a school bus or a sanitation truck perhaps, will effectively limit this wide arterial to only one through-lane.
The same double-parkers will also effectively limit moving traffic to only one lane but for longer periods of time. You know these people: NYPD, FDNY, NYC DOT, Citibike vans, daily customers and deliveries for the various retail establishments. One less spot for "Loading/Unloading" is one less spot for a tax-paying resident. This won't change. This "vision" eliminates thirty per-cent of the current and legal parking spots at each
intersection and the loading zones(perhaps 600 spots missing--24/7). Returning the AM rush hour spots(7AM-10AM, at the east curb from 38th Street to 15th Streets) some 230 spots is no offset. That ban would eventually have to be dropped as were the AM ban on Hicks St. and the PM ban on Atlantic Ave. Mathematically it means a greater demand to double-park in the future. In fact, starting in the fall add in every Board of Education employee and their friends and relatives to those abusing parking. This is your future.

I've studied their "vision"--a term I dislike--for the new and improved 4th Avenue and it makes no sense. That is, if it were not an election year a Member of the NYC Council(with opponents), or a NYC Commissioner who needs to brag about how many miles of premium Protected Bike Lanes she has added during her tenure when she meets with her peers at the national cycling conventions. NYC has been getting bad marks since Bloomberg eased off any new real bike lanes in his last term.

As my pastor told me when I informed him of this idea and inquired how he would handle parking funerals or weddings with no room out front: "They've got to be crazy." I agreed.
May 18, 2017, 5:56 pm
John from Sunset Park says:
We don't need that in Sunset Park!!!!!!!!! Stop forcing stuff on Neighborhoods!!!!
May 18, 2017, 8:18 pm
vooch from 10021 says:

Allocating 70% of the roadway to motor vehicles is a perfectly sensible improvement. You want 100% for the tiny & shrinking minority of NYrs who drive private cars

Protected Bike Lanes are 10 times more efficient at moving people than motor lanes. If you were truly concerned about congestion, you be advocating a 50/50 split of roadway between bike lanes & cars.

800,000 New Yorkers ride bicycles for everyday tasks - commuting, shopping, and more.

Cycling is growing at double digit rates because it is efficient, easy, and convienent.

Driving is shrinking in NYC because it's expensive, dangerous, slow, and clumsy
May 18, 2017, 9:09 pm
Pat from Fort Greene says:
How about the bikers get licensed? They don't have to pass any kind of test to get on the streets, which could explain why most of them don't know that a red light means stop, a STOP sign does too and that it's illegal to go the wrong way on a street. It's legal to give cars and pedestrians the finger and to shout vulgarities at them. So bikers do know their First Amendment rights. At least they know something.
May 18, 2017, 10:16 pm
John from Bay Ridge says:
UPROSE is supposed to be working for "environmental justice", sustainability, and to mitigate against the effects of climate change. So naturally UPROSE is against this bike lane. Why? Because "outsiders" (meaning white non Hispanics) may use it, and (horror of all horrors) be attracted to live in Sunset Park.
May 19, 2017, 7:11 am
Resident from Brooklyn says:
Tom, you're wrong. The design proposed for 4th is not a whole lot different from what you see on Manhattan avenues that have a bike lane with pedestrian islands. This design will be safer for all, including the man lower-income people in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge who rely on bicycles for transportation and who walk.

You need to retire. You've harmed the city for far too long.
May 19, 2017, 9:05 am
man steam from sunset park says:
Gentrification in Sunset Park is an issue. The entire industrial side of Sunset Park will be rezoned for luxury housing. It's coming. Unfortunately, capital does what it wants in this town. It'll be sad to see the great taco spots turn into Chipotles, but this is Brooklyn 2017.
May 19, 2017, 11:49 am
Oscar from Sunset Park says:
UPROSE doesn't seem to get that most cyclists in Sunset Park are poor people of color who can't afford subway fare. That the ambitious carbon emission reductions for New York State that UPROSE in general support wont happen without the decarbonization of transportation--biking as a greater percentage of trans mode share significantly reduces carbon emissions. Many urban examples worldwide prove this. Moreover, the promotion of cycling in Sunset Park will help to address the health crisis in the community: obesity and diabetes.

The biggest obstacle to expanded cycling is the perception of safety. A protected lane along 4th Ave would significantly alter that perception. And to Tom Murphy's point: yes, many people are disappointed with the 5th Ave bike lane but especially cyclists!! It isn't safe because it isn't protected. Many bikers are already riding on 4th--the reason for the DOT's change of heart--bikers see it as safer than 5th because despite the high speed, fewer people are doing short term parking on 4th and there is a lot more free space and out of traffic. They are riding in the extra wide parking lane (that currently encourages double parking) or along the median strip which without a bike lane is slated to be built out and filled in with concrete anyway. There is not a car lane being taken away. And Tom Murphy there are houses of worship along Tillary Street, 1st Ave, 2nd Ave, 8th Ave, 9th Ave and 6th Ave in Manhattan--busy avenues that have benefitted in everyway from the installation of protected bike lanes configured in exactly the same way as the proposed 4th ave plan. You can tell your pastor that many of his parishioners might save on transportation and be able to put a little bit more in the collection plate on Sundays.

In terms of pedestrian safety, bike lanes have a proven traffic calming effect. And while the median wont be as wide as originally planned the distance that pedestrians will have to cross will remain essentially the same. Currently the greatest danger to pedestrians are cars turning onto side streets; the bike lane will help to calm turning traffic.
May 19, 2017, 1:37 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First of all, I wasn't here all day yesterday, so whoever made that comment was clearly an imposter, and I have a feeling I know who did it. Nevertheless, I feel that no further bike lanes such as the one shown here should be done especially when bicycle commuters in NYC are only about 0.8% of them according to the US Census Bureau, which is something most bike zealots will never admit to. More importantly, major thoroughfares such as 4th Avenue shouldn't have them especially since commercial vehicles have to use them, and they can't go on side streets for numerous reasons. Let's not forget a recent report on CBS 2 News on claiming that many of the bike lanes hardly go used and have resulted in increased traffic of other vehicles, but places such as Transportation Alternatives and Streetsblog will never admit to that, and will even try to fudge data to make the results go in their favor. Trying to claim that the bike lanes were heavily supported does make me raise the issue on if the support was really homegrown or if a bunch of bike zealots just came over to make it look that way. One other thing, saying that a website such as Streetsblog supports to make the claim doesn't hold any validity especially since it's a website dedicated to fan boys of such. This is like someone trying to say Pokémon is better than Digimon by using a website that is dedicated to Pokémon, plus I don't use sites dedicated to Digimon on saying that it's better.
May 19, 2017, 4:23 pm
Am Goodridge from Crown heights/prospect heights says:
The point is CB7 & CB12 needs to have offset bike lanes Instead of bloomberg'$ Manhattan style protected bike lanes & bike share Which may take away parking spots that carowners lives in the neighborhood & gentrifying their communities. #rideyourownbike #nobikeshare
May 20, 2017, 7:39 am
Jorge from Sunset Park says:
Neighbors are completely missing the point of this proposal. This bike lane is a safety proposal for an existing and growing mode of transportation. I have children that ride their bike to the park and for their sports. They need these protected lanes for their safety. Stop the selfish, distorted opposition and give me and my kids a break.
May 21, 2017, 8:30 am
TOM MURPHY from Sunset Park says:
Going to ad hominem attacks only negates the validity of other points.

We are agreed the 5th Avenue shared bike lane solution is not the 'vision' promised by NYC DOT please remember 3rd Avenue is a good alternate, better than 4th. At ten lanes wide certainly is enough to accommodate parking, four travel lanes and two protected bike lanes(up against the median)with two lanes of new parallel parking between the though-traffic and the PBL. It won't interfere with commercial businesses at the curb.

Of course, the underside of the Expressway must be painted white, not pea green, to reflect lighting onto the roadway making it really safer. I want everyone to have a healthy ride too.
May 21, 2017, 11:07 pm
Resident from Brooklyn says:
Ad hominem attacks. Like the way you berated the woman from DOT at the 4th Avenue meeting in Park Slope? Tom, you're a mean old man clinging to parking. Go away.
May 22, 2017, 10:33 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First of all, I feel that it's the bike zealots here that are doing the ad hominem attacks, not the other way around. I just disagree on having bike lanes on any major thoroughfares. Now that I think about it, why should just about every street have a bike lane despite a recent report from CBS 2 that they are hardly ever used? If you still don't believe me then watch that news video I linked about a week ago again before claiming that it's just fake news. Personally, I feel that if cyclists just followed the traffic laws, they would be alright and there would be no need for special bike lanes, but so many bike zealots will disagree because according to them, following the rules will make them part of the very system they are trying to get away from.
May 23, 2017, 3:39 pm

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