April was an exciting month for FOFA (Forth on Fourth Avenue) committee members and for all Park Slope residents who walk, bike or drive on 4th Avenue, between Atlantic and 15th Street.
● The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) released a project evaluation of the Safety Plan for this stretch of road, showing a remarkable 61% decline in pedestrian injuries since new safety measures were put in place.
● The MTA began making street level improvements at the 4th Ave/9th St transit station, with more to come.
Fourth Avenue Safety Plan –
FOFA takes considerable pride in our partnership with DOT on the development of the safety plan and believe our efforts to implement the plan are well rewarded by the terrific news contained in the recently released DOT document, “Fourth Avenue: Atlantic Avenue-15th Street, Project Evaluation and Next Phases”, which can be read its entirety here.
Reduced speeding, fewer collisions, and a significant reduction in injuries reflect a realization of the hopes many of us had while working for over three years on 4th Avenue safety.
The emergence of FOFA as a full committee of the Civic Council coincided with renewed interest in improvements to the avenue, starting with Marty Markowitz’s Fourth Avenue Task Force in 2011, which became a platform for discussions with DOT about 4th Avenue improvements in the following years. We participated in Fourth Avenue Task Force meetings outside of the Park Slope area and we sponsored a well-attended January 2013 pre-planning session in anticipation of the DOT workshop on the Park Slope section of Fourth Avenue. We worked hard to boost attendance at that February 2013 meeting, where close to 100 people turned out to discuss safety concerns – a far greater number than had turned out in other neighborhoods. We subsequently publicized the April 9 workshop where the Safety Plan was unveiled, and urged our neighbors to both attend the workshop and comment on the plan on the DOT website. When the safety proposal was initially voted down by Community Board 6, we worked with other groups as well as local Councilmembers Brad Lander and Stephen Levin to revisit it. At a July 2013 special Board meeting, where the Board eventually reversed its decision, FOFA provided comprehensive testimony giving evidence about the extensive community discussion of the DOT proposal and the strength of support for it.
Since the adoption of the Safety Plan, FOFA has continued to meet with DOT to discuss median development (including some experimentation with sub irrigation planters on the median) and explore options for securing maintenance partners to help assure the success of planted medians.
4th Ave/9th St Transit Hub
There is also good news about street level improvements at the 4th Ave/9th St transit hub. Following the January Civic Council meeting with MTA officials, initiated by the November 2013 “Pop-up” demonstration by FOFA and 7 community partners, the MTA and the DOT took part in a
walk-through of the station with community representatives, who pointed out concerns about lighting, step safety, and signage.
At that time, the MTA announced that in response to community suggestions there would be a temporary art installation to add vibrancy to the station during the one-year period before the stores under the station bridge are expected to open. The MTA will solicit invitations for artwork (on vinyl) to be installed in the windows of the new shops, behind the newly installed shop entrances and gates. (See below.)
Abby Subak, of Arts Gowanus, has subsequently worked with MTA Arts and Design staff to assure that the invitation will include local artists.
Since the walk through, the MTA has painted and retread the entrance to the subway, reoriented the place finding map in the west entrance (to accurately reflect where a passenger is when leaving the station and has doubled the lighting at the interior entrances. (See photos above.) They have agreed to look at the possibility of enhancing lighting under the bridge outside of the station and have agreed to install a sign on the inside of the western entrance, warning that Manhattan bound “R” trains should be accessed from the other side of the street. DOT representatives on the walk has also advised us that their plans for upgraded lighting at street corners (part of Vision Zero) should help with underpass visibility.
Although the proposal for a permanent art installation at the station was not a participatory budget “winner,” FOFA was encouraged by the willingness of the MTA to accommodate a community-driven request for art work, which is a first for the MTA. The improvements at the station do not resolve the larger capital issues of handicapped access or functional bathrooms, but do reflect a significant change from those days (not too long ago) where it was very difficult to get any information about the station from the MTA, much less have community involvement in discussions about improvements.
And the daffodils are back!
No report on the Spring state of 4th Avenue would be complete without mentioned the welcome presence of daffodils in tree beds, which have been planted for over two seasons by FOFA. After an especially harsh and lingering winter, they bring color to the street – and are a passive safety measure, signaling the presence of people in the neighborhood, and encouraging the growth of healthy trees. The tree guards that FOFA was able to secure along 4th Avenue add to that message, as welled as providing visual interest and tree protection.
– Grace Freedman and SJ Avery, Co-chairs FOFA