Carlo Scissura, 40, is "passionate" about Fourth Avenue. Luckily, he's also the man at the helm of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's
Over coffee at , the popular cafe on Fourth and Carroll that's just what the avenue needs more of, the Brooklyn native laid out the grand plan for the "."
Scissura, senior advisor to Markowitz and until just recently his chief of staff (he plans to run for Brooklyn Borough President), wants to see more trees, diverse commercial establishments, pedestrians and much more. But he knows it will take some work. Making Fourth Avenue safe and accessible is one of the most important projects in Brooklyn, he said.
"Lots of people live here now," he said, referring to the many large condominium properties that have brought thousands of new residents to the avenue. "We need amenities."
So what needs to happen and how long will it take for action to begin?
Firstly, the boulevard, which stretches from "Atlantic Avenue to the Atlantic Ocean," should be renamed.
"It would be great for the council, the mayor and the community boards to rename Fourth Ave., he said. "We like Brooklyn Boulevard."
This winter, Markowitz proposed rezoning a large swath of Fourth Avenue to encourage more commercial activity, thus making the avenue more pedestrian-friendly. The "" will encourage mixed-use of new developments and prevent developers from lining the avenue with ugly street front ventilation shafts and parking garages that do nothing to foster neighborhood development and activity. New developments would be required to build either commercial or community facilities on ground floors, with parking entrances restricted to side streets.
"A lot of ugly buildings have gone up, and we want the ground floor exciting," said Scissura. "Instead of this blah structure, we should see trees. We should see strollers. We should see something!"
The plan is currently under review by the City Planning Commission. Pending their approval, the City Council will then vote on the rezoning. Scissura hopes the transformation will begin by this summer.
In the meantime, the Fourth Avenue Task Force is hard at work. Under Scissura's direction, four committees have been established, and three local forums are being planned for the coming months. Every elected official in the area, all the community boards and many civic groups are closely involved with the work of the task force.
The committees are headed up by invested locals. The transportation and traffic committee is led by Ryan Lynch of Community Board 7, the Times Plaza committee by John Dew of Community Board 2, the beautification, co-naming and street median committee by Michael Cairl of the Park Slope Civic Council and the historic preservation committee by Marty Maher from the Parks Department Brooklyn office.
Revamping Times Plaza, at the intersection of Flatbush, Fourth and Atlantic avenues, is a particularly pressing issue. What will happen at this site, located at one of the borough's busiest intersections just a stone's throw away from the Barclays Center, remains to be seen.
"Maybe chairs, or trees. I'm not sure yet," said Scissura.
Transportation and traffic is another vexing issue. The 6-lane avenue has been home to many accidents (see and ), and is known to be a speedway. While Scissura says there will always be a place for cars on the avenue, he suggested removing left turn lanes, and making the medians wider and safer for pedestrians.
"I think Fourth Avenue can become the blue print on the future of transportation in New York City," he said confidently. "This is a great opportunity. We have to get it right."
The general public has a big role to play in the redevelopment of Fourth Avenue, too. At the upcoming, yet to be announced forums, Scissura hopes people will bring their ideas and passion.
Scissura said the Fourth Avenue overhaul will likely take 10 years, and infrastructure improvements will most likely be necessary.
"I've lived here my whole life, and I think it should be a real shining star," he said.