Forth on Fourth Survey Results and News

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The future of Fourth Avenue is a hot topic lately and the Civic Council has been in the thick of discussions about it.

• On Tuesday, January 14,  PSCC’s committee, Forth on Fourth Avenue (FOFA), teamed up with eight community partners to host a forum; “A New Look at 4th Avenue: Action Planning for a New Administration’, held in the Old Stone House with a standing-room-only audience of people who live, work and travel in the 4th Avenue corridor. After an introduction by PSCC President Michael Cairl, and event outlines by FOFA, New York City Council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin spent over an hour and a half listening and responding to community concerns and ideas expressed in responses to a FOFA survey, completed by almost 400 people, and by attendees at the meeting. Likened to a “New England town meeting”, the energetic audience prioritized the issues of an active, welcoming street streetscape, pedestrian safety, “greening”, and affordable housing. In lively exchanges, attendees suggested ideas ranging from adopting inclusionary zoning, to creating “Safe Routes” for children walking to the schools along 4th Avenue, to trying to bring more of the dollars that flow into NYC during the Marathon to the route that makes up a quarter of the runner’s path.

FOFA has prepared a summary of the findings from the meeting, which includes an overview, an analysis of responses to the 4th Avenue survey, a summary of discussions at the meeting, and a list of affiliations given by survey respondents. That report can be found further below and can be downloaded. It is intended as a resource for our community partners and hopefully as a springboard for future action.

• On January 31, FOFA members were invited to a legislative breakfast sponsored by the Old Stone House, and FOFA member Grace Freedman, outlined an idea for an “Arts Corridor” between 3rd and 4th Avenue.

• On Sunday, February 1, a lead article in the Real Estate section of The New York Times, A Brooklyn Artery in Transition”, took a look at real estate development along the “ragtag stretch of Fourth Avenue that borders Park Slope and Gowanus/Boerum Hill”. The article concluded with an interview of the FOFA co-chairs, SJ Avery and Elise Selinger, who discussed both their own experiences living near 4th Avenue, and highlighted many of the concerns raised at the Old Stone House meeting.

• Most recently, on February 4, Craig Hammerman (District Manager, Community Board 6), Grace Freedman (Park Slope Civic Council/FOFA), and Jason Crew (owner, Sheep Station) appeared on “BK Live”, produced by BRICartsmedia, to discuss the changes in place for 4th Ave. (See program clip HERE)

Next steps for FOFA include expanding work with the growing coalition of groups focused on activity in the Fourth Avenue corridor and developing action priorities based on the meeting at the Old Stone House. FOFA meets at 7:45 am on the second Tuesday of the month in the conference room of our Fifth Avenue Committee partner (621 DeGraw Street) and all are welcome. For more information, contact fofa@parkslopeciviccouncil.org.

Final Report to the Community on “A New Look at Fourth Avenue: Action Planning for a New Administration”

BACKGROUND

On January 14, 2014, the Park Slope Civic Council’s Forth on Fourth Avenue Committee (FOFA) hosted a public meeting at the Old Stone House to discuss concerns about and suggestions for the stretch of Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue between Pacific Street and the Prospect Expressway. The meeting was preceded by distribution of an on-line survey intended to gauge attitudes about recent changes on Fourth Avenue and identify areas of needed improvement. Seven community organizations (Boerum Hill Association, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Fifth Avenue Committee, Gowanus Alliance, Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Park Slope Neighbors, and the Park Slope Safety Partnership) partnered with FOFA to promote the meeting and the survey. City Council members Stephen Levin and Brad Lander, whose districts include part of the stretch of Fourth Avenue under review, were invited to attend and make remarks about Fourth Avenue and the potential for positive changes in a new, self-described “progressive” NYC government.

FOFA organizers Elise Selinger, Josh Levin, Ken Kramer, Grace Freedman, SJ Avery and David Gurin, with Council Members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin. (Missing from photo Judy Janda and Joe Ciccone) photo by Ken Kramer

FOFA organizers Elise Selinger, Josh Levin, Ken Kramer, Grace Freedman, SJ Avery and David Gurin, with Council Members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin. (Missing from photo Judy Janda and Joe Ciccone)
photo by Ken Kramer

Over 75 people came to what was a “standing room only” event, favorably described by several attendees as being like “a New England Town Meeting”. They represented the diversity of concerned stakeholders along the avenue: residents, business owners, property owners, representatives from Community Boards 6 and 7, the Department of Transportation, and staffers from the offices of Assembly member Joan Millman, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, and Borough President Eric Adams. Partner community organizations were invited to bring descriptive program material and used the downstairs area of the Old Stone House to engage with interested attendees.

A summary report of survey findings was distributed to all participants. The survey included a section where respondents could address specific questions to Council members – those questions were sent to Council members Levin and Lander prior to the meeting. Both Council members were very generous with their time, both addressing previously submitted questions and staying to answer all of the questions raised at the meeting.

Pedestrian safety, greening efforts and encouragement of an active/welcoming street life were survey- identified leading priorities for future Fourth Avenue work, but significant numbers of survey respondents and meeting attendees expressed concerns about affordable housing, flooding, sanitation, landmarks and preservation, schools, and promoting mixed use development on Fourth Avenue.

SUMMARY MATERIALS

At the meeting, FOFA promised to provide a final summary of survey responses (the on-line survey was kept open until the end of January), a summary of topics discussed at the meeting (including action items accepted by the Council members), and other data that could be useful to participants. It is our hope that this data will be helpful in program development for us and our partners. While cautioning that the survey was not a “scientific” one, in terms of distribution or cross tabulation of responses, we believe that it is representative of community concerns and encourage the broad use of the event-related reports. All final materials have been submitted to partner organizations and Council members Lander and Levin.

The following summaries are attached and part of this report.

Final Survey Summary Report
List of associations as self-described by survey respondents Summary of Meeting Discussions

We have also included some photos from the event.

If you are interested in helping to work on any of the issues identified, you’re invited to come to FOFA meetings, which are held on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:45am at 621 Degraw Street or to e-mail fofa@parkslopeciviccouncil.org to join our e- mail list and stay involved.

We also suggest that you contact our partner organizations for more opportunities to work on specific projects that interest you.

Boerum Hill Association

Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce

Fifth Avenue Committee

Fifth Avenue Committee photo by Ken Kramer

Fifth Avenue Committee
photo by Ken Kramer

 

Gowanus Alliance

Gowanus Canal Conservancy

Gowanus Canal Conservancy photo by Ken Kramer

Gowanus Canal Conservancy
photo by Ken Kramer

 

Park Slope Civic Council

Park Slope Neighbors

Park Slope Safety Partnership

Park Slope Safety Partnership photo by Ken Kramer

Park Slope Safety Partnership
photo by Ken Kramer

 

Thanks again to all who helped make this a very successful event, with a special mention to Old Stone House, which provided the perfect venue for the meeting.  A downloadable PDF of this Overview section is available HERE

 

FINAL RESULTS FROM ONLINE SURVEY, JANUARY 14, 2014

In preparation for a meeting on January 14, 2014 with Councilmembers Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, Forth on Fourth Avenue (FOFA) hosted an online survey to gauge concerns and to generate ideas and questions for next steps to improve 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. While the results are not scientific or strictly representative, we received over 390 responses, many with in-depth written comments. We feel the results offer important feedback from the community about how we can move forward on 4th Avenue together.

The first question in the survey was open-ended: Have you noticed any changes to 4th Avenue (good or bad) over the past four years? If so, please describe your observations (Q1). Nearly every respondent answered this question and many added additional concerns or more details. Next, respondents were asked to check off concerns for 4th Ave from a list of 9 choices (Q2), and then pick a top priority (Q4) among those choices. The graphs below represent the answers to questions 2 & 4.

Top Areas of Concern

(over 70% survey respondents checked as a concern (Q2), and also were top 3 concerns in Q4) 

●  Greening (trees, median planters and open space)

●  Pedestrian Safety

●  Promoting Active & Welcoming Street Life

Additional Areas of Concern (approx. 35%-50% of respondents checked as a concern (Q2))

●  Promoting Street Level Retail and Mixed Use Business Development

●  Affordable Housing

●  Sanitation/Clean Streets

●  Landmarks/Preservation

Flooding and Schools also areas of concern, selected by over 20% of respondents each.

A third of the respondents added more detail or additional concerns to the “Other” category. 

Graph1

 

Graph2

 

 

Top Key Words (from open-ended responses)

● Ugly

● Green/Tree

●  Traffic related words, including safety

●  Bikes/Bike Lanes

Summary observations from open-ended responses and other comments.

Many reported seeing positive changes on 4th Ave in the past few years, but reviews for the avenue are still decidedly mixed. In open-ended comments, the most mentioned concerns included:

Traffic and Pedestrian Safety. The vast majority had positive comments for recent street design changes, though a very small number are dissatisfied with those changes. Among the complaints were double-parking, traffic flow (too fast), lack of traffic enforcement and requests for additional traffic signals at specific intersections (5th St/4th Ave, near school crossings). Many respondents felt much more need to be done to improve pedestrian safety.

Development. The most common complaint in this topic was the construction of several 12 story buildings (luxury condos) coupled with the inability to better regulate street level retail and affordable housing. Many voiced concerns of being priced out of the neighborhood.

Beautification/Active Street Life/Retail: One of the most frequent key words was ugly, but trees and greening were suggested solutions mentioned independently by respondents over 50 times. Many reported frustration over vacant lots and store fronts, developers tearing down viable business and “holding” them, lack of services, and lack of real street level retail as opposed to medical offices. Fourth Avenue is still viewed as unpleasant to walk on for a many reasons, including lack of destinations, poor lighting, uneven sidewalk, dirty streets, and dangerous conditions caused by traffic.

Fast Survey Facts:

Who: 390 respondents to online survey

When: This report reflects responses from 12/28/13 to 1/30/14; majority of responses were in first two weeks of availability, prior to Jan 14, 2014 public meeting.

Affiliations: Only a third of the respondents identified affiliations. Of those who did, respondents named over 40 different organizations representing block associations, schools, community and civic groups, community gardeners, social service organizations, businesses, landlords and residents.

Questions: Over 100 specific questions were directed to Councilmembers Lander and Levin, which were forwarded in full to their offices.

Outreach: Partners were asked to share the survey widely and post in e-newsletters and on Facebook/Twitter feeds. Also posted to local email groups, FOFA and Park Slope Civic Council mailing lists with additional outreach by the offices of Brad Lander and Stephen Levin and Community Board 6.

Partners: Boerum Hill Association, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Fifth Avenue Committee, Gowanus Alliance, Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Park Slope Neighbors and the Park Slope Safety Partnership.

Final report will be available to partners and posted on the Park Slope Civic Council website (parkslopeciviccouncil.org). Comments and questions welcome; please contact us at fofa@parkslopecivicocuncil.org. A downloadable PDF of the Survey Results section is available HERE.

 

MEETING SUMMARY

The purpose of the meeting was to explore ideas for changes in policy and how our 
local city council members can, acting both as our representatives and as part of a 
larger body, help move City agencies to implement policies based on community-
identified needs on Fourth Avenue.

Councilmembers Stephen Levin and Brad Lander each spoke briefly at the beginning of 
the meeting and came prepared with answers to questions that came up in the survey. 
Their frank observations and candid responses contributed greatly to the positive tone
 of the meeting.

Council Member Brad Lander photo by Ken Kramer

Council Member Brad Lander
photo by Ken Kramer

Discussion Notes by Topic

For review purposes, issues discussed at the meeting are organized along general topic 
areas (not chronologically when they were raised in the meeting). Italics are used to 
indicate areas where Council members agreed to follow up on specific issues.

Pedestrian Safety and Traffic Changes

Despite general satisfaction with the DOT traffic calming project completed this past fall,
 several attendees voiced ongoing concern about pedestrian safety, speeding and enforcement.

Councilmember Levin noted that enforcement is a key component and encouraged 
residents to get involved with their local precincts. During his opening remarks, he also 
suggested that state and federal support be tapped for capital funding to make Fourth 
Avenue road changes permanent.

Councilmember Lander invited attendees to pause for a moment to tweet support for
#VisionZero (which was done).

A suggestion was made that Fourth Avenue be added to Mayor DeBlasio’s list of fifty 
traffic intersections/corridor to be reviewed under Vision Zero and both council members
agreed to follow-up.

In response to concerns about walking-to-school hazards (created by businesses along 
Fourth Avenue extending activities into the sidewalks, as well as intersections where 
there is consistent failure to yield to pedestrians) Councilmember Lander agreed to
 follow up with parent groups and explore with DOT how to develop “Safety Routes” to 
schools that look at the Fourth Avenue corridor rather than the area around a specific 
school. This plan builds on work he has begun with parents at a local school.

An attendee from Community Board 7 stated that there are new signs directing truck
 traffic to Fourth Avenue and suggested that the Council members find out if there are
 changes planned for Fourth Avenue as it may relate to the BQE. Councilman Lander 
indicated that in his experience, getting information from the Federal Highway 
Administration was, at best, difficult, but he would pursue the question.

In reference to comments about continued congestion at the north end of Fourth, both
 Council members referenced the (Sam Schwartz) congestion pricing proposal related to
 the free bridges, and suggested that people unfamiliar with it read it, noting that they will 
be following the progress of the plan in the Council and in Albany.

In response to a question about the impact of recent DOT changes on Fourth, Chris 
Hrones (DOT) noted that the project will be evaluated at the end of one year, in order to 
allow adequate time to observe changes.

Flooding and Green Infrastructure

In response to comments about street flooding issues, Councilmember Lander
 reminded the audience that money has been allocated for a DEP High Level Storm
Sewer project on 3rd Avenue. Because of the unclear start date (probably two years out)
 he expressed interest in “taking another look” as DEP starts to prepare plans for phase
 two and seeing if the project can be moved up. Lander also referenced current work his
 office was doing on the “Bridging Gowanus” project and urged people to get involved
 with it.

Additionally, Lander observed that Park Slope is part of the Gowanus watershed and is 
one of the first pilot zones for the DOT green infrastructure plan which called for
 bioswales, street trees and green roofs. For example, there is a proposal on the table 
now to redo Fourth Street next to the Old Stone House with permeable pavement.

One attendee raised a general concern about the age of infrastructure along Fourth
 Avenue, including the current housing stock and the subway, and asked if resources
 were available for support of infrastructure.

Another question was asked about keeping the storm sewer grates clean, as a way of 
avoiding flooding. The Councilmembers observed that there is a scheduled
 maintenance program for grates and perhaps it could be reviewed in high flooding 
areas.

On the topic of subways, Councilmember Lander explained that the delay in completing
 the 4th Avenue and 9th Street station is due to the fact that contractor for the job 
defaulted in the spring and, while the MTA continued to negotiate with him for some
time, they are now attempting to complete the remaining work by communicating 
directly with his subcontractors. The MTA’s construction management group estimates
 that there is two months of work remaining which, by the time new agreements are in
 place, should be completed by July of this year.

With respect to the question of greening and improvements in roadways with a subway,
 an attendee suggested that it would be worthwhile to take a close look at the recent
 changes on Houston Street as an example of coordination between city agencies as 
well as the MTA. These changes on Houston Street included the renovation of the 
Broadway-Lafayette station, new water tunnel and planted medians. Both Councilmembers
said they could contact their Council counter-part to explore how this was done.

FOFA has already started to put planters in the medians and we are looking forward to 
the new sidewalk trees and tree guards that are coming this year.

Landmarks/Preservation

The status of two local “landmark” worthy buildings, the Pacific Branch library and the
 Church of the Redeemer, both scheduled for sale and demolition was discussed.
 Councilmember Levin has supported efforts to have the Church of the Redeemer 
landmarked and repurposed. According to Levin, conversations with the Diocese have 
not been positive but the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has a stated
 appetite to landmark the Church. The outcome remains uncertain.

The Pacific Branch Library was formerly in Levin’s district (who supported landmarking) 
but due to City Council redistricting changes, the library is now in Lander’s district.
 Councilmember Lander observed that public officials were, in the past, “lousy stewards 
of the library systems”, but he is hopeful that under the new DeBlasio administration 
that stewardship will improve. He said he is eager to save the Pacific Street branch but 
does not believe landmarking will be a panacea. Instead, he felt that BPL needs a
comprehensive plan to address the system’s current and future needs. He stated he is 
not supporting demolition, but is not tied to the real estate footprint of the Pacific
 Branch.

He acknowledged that his position on the library is not popular with the local community. 
A comment from the audience on the success of renovating the landmarked Brooklyn
Museum as a model for the Pacific Branch received enthusiastic applause.
 Councilmember Lander responded (and Levin agreed) and said that both sides have 
been defensive and the conversation is stalemated. Lander wants to see all parties 
back at the table.

Affordable Housing

In their opening remarks, both council members identified the loss of affordable housing
 as one of the biggest challenges city-wide. Councilmember Levin

Council Member Stephen Levin responds to question photo by Ken Kramer

Council Member Stephen Levin responds to question
photo by Ken Kramer

observed that Fourth 
Avenue was a “missed opportunity for comprehensive community-based zoning” and
 expressed a willingness to go back with this new administration to explore Fourth 
Avenue improvements through various zoning mechanisms. Councilmember Lander
 also commented on rezoning under the development pressures of the Bloomberg 
administration and proposed going back and exploring a mandatory inclusionary 
housing rezoning, retroactively to Fourth Avenue. This type of zoning functions as a 
disincentive to demolish rent stabilized units in an up-zoned area and also requires 20%
of all new units to be affordable.

Several attendees spoke specifically to the problem of being “priced out and pushed 
out” of the Fourth Avenue corridor.

Given a broad negative reaction to the architectural consequences of the Fourth 
Avenue up-zoning, the Councilmembers were asked if the City Council Land Use
committee could conduct a study on the economic/housing consequences of the up-
zoning of Fourth Avenue. Elizabeth Ernish from the Borough President’s office
 responded and suggested that their Land Use office might be able to conduct such a 
study. (FOFA will follow up.)

Active/Welcoming Street Life

Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman, observing that the Marathon
brings millions of dollars into the City and that a quarter of the race is run through 
Brooklyn, suggested that the Councilmembers initiate a conversation with New York 
Road Runners to find a way to harness some of this economic infusion in our 
neighborhood. The Councilmembers agreed to write a joint letter to New York Road 
Runners.

Councilmember Levin answered a question about the status of the vacant KFC site on
Warren Street and agreed to follow up with the Department of Buildings to identify the
 current owners. He noted that he is working on a bill to incentivize owners of sites that 
are not in use or vacant to allow temporary uses such as a community gardens or
 possibly “pop-up” stores.

One attendee raised a concern that while there has been an increase in commercial
 activity at the north end of Fourth Avenue, the majority of the new businesses were bars.

An artist observed that there is a rich arts community in Gowanus and demand for 
space to showcase their work (speaking to the issue of vacant storefronts). There was a 
brief follow-up discussion about connecting with arts organizations, such as Arts
 Gowanus and the Bay Ridge BID’s Street Art Walk (SAW) program.  A downloadable PDF of this Meeting Summary section is available HERE

                                                                                       

Affiliations listed by “A New Look at 4th Avenue” survey respondents

(Of 390 respondents, one-third self-described as belonging to one or more of the following associations.)

Survey Question: If you identify with any local organizations, civic groups, block associations or businesses near the 4th Avenue corridor, please list them below.

Block Associations

4th Street Block Association

8th Street Block Association (3rd/4thAve)

10th St. Block Association

12th Street Block Association (3rd/4thAve)

17th Street Block Association

27th Street Block Association

56th Street Block Association

5th Street Block Association

Bergen Street (4th/5th ) Street Block Association

Carroll Street Block Association

Carroll Street Neighbors (4th/5thAve)

East Pacific Street Block Association

Fifth Street Slope Association

Lincoln Place Block Association (6th/7thAve)

President St Block Association

St Marks Place Block Association (4th/5thAve)

St Marks Place Block Association (3rd/4thAve)

Third St. Block Association (7th/ 8thAve)

Union Street Block Association

 

Business-focused Organizations and Affiliations

Court Street Merchants Association

Gowanus Alliance

Old American Can Factory

Several Business Owners on 3rd and 4th Aves

Patrons of Businesses on 3rd and 4th Aves

 

Community Gardens

Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear’s Garden

Warren/St. Marks Community Garden

 

Community Organizations/Coalitions

Arts Gowanus

BANG Land Trust

Boerum Hill Association

Brooklyn Academy of Music

Brooklyn Art Space

Brooklyn Preservation Council

Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association

CHIPS

Citizens Defending Libraries

Fifth Avenue Committee

Forth on Fourth Avenue, Committee of PSCC

Friends of Douglass/Greene Park

Gowanus Artists

Gowanus Canal Conservancy

Gowanus Community Advisory Group

Old Stone House & Washington Park

Park Slope Civic Council (PSCC)

Park Slope CSA (Union Street Garden at 4th Ave)

Park Slope Neighbors

Park Slope Safety Partnership

 

Local Government

72nd Precinct Community Council

Brooklyn Borough Hall’s Fourth Avenue Task Force

Community Board 6

Community Board 7

 

Parent Groups/School Affiliations

BoCoCa Parents

Park Slope Parents

PS 118 Parent

PS 124

PS 372 PTA

PS 133 PTA

PS 282 PTO

Staff at MS 51

 

Religious Institutions

Park Slope United Methodist Church

St. Augustine Church (including Helping Hands Food Pantry

A downloadable PDF of this List of Affiliations is available HERE.

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