Preparing for a Safer Fourth Avenue

More than 25 people joined together at a recent planning session hosted by FOFA — the Park Slope Civic Council’s Forth on Fourth Avenue Committee — to help prepare for the upcoming Fourth Avenue Safety Visioning Workshop and build a better community.

Attendees of the FOFA planning session gather around the GIS map to identify key issues.

Attendees of the FOFA planning session identify key issues on a map of the Fourth Avenue corridor.

Attendees at the Jan. 23 session came from all parts of the Fourth Avenue corridor between Pacific Street and the Prospect Expressway. They represented the diversity of concerned stakeholders along the avenue: residents; business owners; property owners; and staffers from the offices of Assemblymember Joan Millman, Councilmember Brad Lander, and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery.

Participants were advised that the purpose of the planning session was not only to prepare for the workshop — set for Feb. 12, and hosted by the city’s Department of Transportation, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the Fourth Avenue Task Force — but also to think broadly about improvements to the streetscape, some of which may be beyond the scope of DOT’s work. After introductions, people split into two groups — those whose main interests lie north of Third Street, and those who are south.

One group moved to a conference table and worked interactively on a large GIS map with colored stickers and markers to identify specific problem areas and important features on Fourth Avenue, such as particularly hazardous intersections, double-parking sites, commercial driveways/curb cuts, extreme road conditions, greening opportunities, flooding prone sections, and historical landmarks. The other group gathered around a large easel pad to list and discuss “big picture” items along the corridor, using the headings of “Problems/Issues” and “Suggestions/Wish List.” After about 45 minutes, the two groups changed places and focus.

(The GIS map, shown at right, was created by Pratt Institute students Jeff Sun and Acacia Dupierre.)

Common problem themes in both work groups included:

  • Fourth Avenue is hostile/dangerous to pedestrians
    • General speeding
    • Poor speed transitions from highway to roadway, particularly coming off the Prospect Expressway, along 15th, Ninth, Eighth, Degraw, and Baltic Streets.
    • Narrow median refuge
    • Extended curb cuts, especially next to gas stations and other drive-throughs (poor distinction between car and pedestrian right of way)
    • Many double-parking sites
    • No school safety plans
    • Avenue can be hard to cross, especially with children
    • Dangerous left turn signals (cars that “have light” turn quickly to beat traffic)
    • Corners with high density of multimode transit, i.e., bikes/buses/subways/pedestrian, particularly at Dean, Bergen, Union, and Ninth Streets
  • Fourth Avenue feels dirty/gritty/uninviting
    • “Lifeless corridor” between 13th Street and the Prospect Expressway
    • Street walls and vacant lots
    • Trash, noise, and poor lighting near the Ninth Street subway station
    • Avenue is not pedestrian friendly, especially in school zones
    • Absence of greenery

Suggestions and wish list for both groups included

  • Public recognition that the Fourth Avenue corridor is a neighborhood, that people live here
  • Need to create a sense of place that is distinctive to Fourth Avenue (uniform signs, tree guards, light fixtures, other streetscape features)
  • Traffic safety plans for all school zones and school signage
  • Wider, planted medians
  • Benches
  • More trash bins and pick-up
  • Improved lighting
  • Elevator at Ninth Street subway station
  • Longer left-hand turn signals, delayed green lights
  • Traffic calming (fewer lanes)
  • Bioswales, trees, tree beds, and tree guards
  • Loading zones/short-term parking
  • Separated bike lane

“We are encouraged by the attendance, energy, and enthusiasm at this meeting,” said FOFA co-chairs SJ Avery and Elise Selinger. The planning session was just the first step, they added; “everyone should attend the upcoming Fourth Avenue Safety Visioning Workshop” on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m. in St. Thomas Aquinas Church’s Parish Hall (the basement), 249 Ninth St. (at Fourth Avenue).

If you have any questions about the planning session, or the work of FOFA, e-mail