Moving Fourth Forward

Development along Fourth Avenue is in a state of flux right now. The reprieve in new construction along the thoroughfare due to the contraction of financial markets has handed our community a golden opportunity to reflect and take action, and tie new development into a well-thought-out plan for the avenue’s future.

FORTHonFourth, a subcommittee of the Livable Streets Committee, seeks out opportunities to get involved now, at this inflection point of growth along the avenue, and help contribute to its future. Stemming from the Council’s successful 2010 community forum on “The Future of Fourth Avenue,” ours is a grassroots working group with a diverse mix of people who live near, work on, commute or travel on, or invest in Park Slope’s portion of the avenue.

Our mission is to promote prosperity, safety, and greater vitality along Fourth Avenue. Early on, we established several objectives to guide us in our efforts:

  • Improve safety and seek a greener, cleaner streetscape and a more vibrant pedestrian experience along Fourth Avenue.
  • Enhance the aesthetics and strengthen the relationship of the buildings on the avenue with street-level activity.
  • Promote greater economic vitality for retail and commercial businesses.
  • Improve the quality of life for pedestrians, cyclists, commuters, drivers, and residents.
  • Advocate for a greater diversity of housing options on or near Fourth Avenue.

In early meetings, group participants identified five primary areas that would inform our discussions: green space, streetscape, real-estate development, zoning, and land use; parking, traffic, biking, and pedestrian safety, including public transportation involving mta subway and bus; retail, commercial, and small business; housing and schooling; and sewage, drainage, water treatment, and other public utilities.

Even though we now focus on the avenue from Prospect Avenue to Flatbush, we intend to coordinate as much as possible with other community groups and civic organizations.

One example of a recent early success for our group is the petitioning of the city’s Department of City Planning to address the zoning regulations now in place along Fourth that have allowed for oversized, poorly planned, and in­appropriately designed residential developments. Many of these structures feature air vents or grates, parking lots, empty or blank walls, or residential apartments at street level instead of colorful, community-enriching retail shops, restaurants, cafes, stores, or other needed service outlets.

This June, after several meetings and much discussion with City Planning, the department proposed a zoning amendment that will require developers to include street-level retail frontage in their plans, among other improvements. These proposals already have passed three community boards that front Fourth Avenue, and the City Council will vote on them soon. Details can be found at nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/fourth/index.shtml.

Our group is actively participating in another exciting project: the new Brooklyn Borough President’s Fourth Avenue Task Force, which will focus on furthering and even buttressing our efforts to effect positive change along the avenue. The Task force will initially have five primary focus groups:

  • Plant sidewalk trees along the avenue’s entire length, from Flatbush Avenue to Shore Road.
  • Design use of newly expanded Times Plaza at the intersection of Fourth, Atlantic, and Flatbush Avenues.
  • Ensure safety for all users.
  • Enhance subway median vents with artwork/plantings.
  • Explore the co-naming of Fourth Avenue.

This project clearly dovetails very nicely with our own efforts. More information is available at brooklyn-usa.org/press/2011/aug10b_MA.htm.

FORTHonFourth meets the third Thursday of every month at 8 a.m. at the Brooklyn Lyceum, 227 Fourth Ave. (corner of President Street). Meetings are open to all residents, community members, business owners, real-estate developers, Fourth Avenue commuters, and any other stakeholders. We also communicate via internal message board almost daily.

Feel free to get involved! Reach out to us anytime at fofa@parkslopeciviccouncil.org!

— Josh Levy chairs the FORTHonFourth group.

Photo: David Herman

from the Fall 2011 Civic News

 

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