The transformation of Fourth Avenue into the as Borough President Marty Markowitz has said, is in your hands.
Markowitz’s , chaired by his , held its second town hall meeting on Thursday night at St. Michael’s Church, on 43rd Street just off Fourth Avenue, to hear community suggestions on specific changes they would like to see made on the notorious 6.2-mile speedway, known as a racetrack for drivers to quickly get from one neighborhood to another.
The agenda of the task force is to transform the six lane street, which is ranked the third most dangerous road in Brooklyn, from a barren strip speckled with parking garages, auto mechanics and bleak walls to an avenue Brooklyn can be proud.
The strip is slated to have a with bustling businesses, manicured, tree-lined mediums and other major changes depending on the community’s wants and needs.
“The task force was created to oversee and facilitate a community driven transformation of Fourth Avenue,” Scissura said during the meeting to a room of about 75 community members from Park Slope, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge. “The actual changes will not be what I want, not what Marty wants, not what the elected officials want, but what the community wants—our job is just to make it happen.”
Created by Markowitz in August 2011, the task force had its , and has successfully to the speedway from Pacific Street to 24th Street.
After a PowerPoint presentation of the changes already slated for the avenue, including the $2 million refurbishing of the Fourth Avenue-Ninth Street subway station, which will be completed within the year, the meeting opened into a public forum where community members shared their suggestions.
Joaquin Brito, a Sunset Park resident, said he thinks the avenue’s width needs to be compressed through neckdowns, that way pedestrians have a shorter distance to cross.
“The street’s mediums are the thinnest parts of the avenue. I am afraid of driving past people standing on the medium, the wind from a passing car may knock them over. The mediums need to be wider,” Brito said, who is a 20-year-old UPROSE volunteer, a Sunset Park-based nonprofit.
As he pointed to a picture of a Sunset Park intersection, he said fear rules the lives of Fourth Avenue’s pedestrians.
“As a young kid crossing Fourth Avenue I was scared. I was scared as hell everyday,” he said. “Even now, I am petrified to cross the street.”
A Park Slope resident, Josefina Sanfeliú, echoed that fear.
“I am in absolute terror while I cross Fourth Avenue,” said Sanfeliú of Ninth Street’s intersection. “There are multiple ways to get hit by a car, pedestrians should not have to run.”
Although the Department of Transportation from Pacific Street to 65th Street this past summer, Joanne Zhao, a Sunset Park resident, said there is still not enough time for pedestrians to safely cross.
“I have counted how long the light stays red before the countdown clocks start, it is about 15 to 20 seconds,” Zhao said. “A lot of kids and senior citizens live along the avenue, including my grandma, and I know they have trouble crossing before the light turns green.”
In September 2009, Markowitz partnered with NYU Wagner Graduate School to formulate a detailed, 84-page vision plan for the corridor. It was not a report of how the avenue will look like, but rather what the “traffic chute” could look like.
But a Park Slope resident, Ellen Freudenheim, the editor of Brooklyn About.com, sais she was not impressed with the report.
“I read that report and it is chalk full of typos. The ideas were pedestrian and unimaginative…it was a student piece of work,” Freudenheim said, who suggested the vision plan be given to professional Brooklyn-based architects and city planners. “We are talking about a major once-in-a-life-time piece of development that is going to affect a major artery. Why get third best?”
Freudenheim also said that increased public transportation was missing from the plan.
“If we are creating a corridor that pulls people into Brooklyn from Staten Island to the Barclays Center, we need a bus to go up and down Fourth Avenue to alleviate traffic and bring residents and visitors to restaurants,” she suggested.
Elizabeth Yeampierre, the executive director of UPROSE, said that a successful transformation needs to keep the communities in mind the many different social, cultural and economic demographics the avenue transverses.
“I am not interested in helping tourists visit Brooklyn. This transformation needs to support the mom-and-pop shops that are the economic backbone of our neighborhoods,” Yeampierre said.
Near the end of the meeting Scissura said that an “action plan,” which will spell out the next few projects, will be released this summer. He also said that another round of town hall meetings with Community Boards 2, 6, 7 and 10 will meet from September to December 2012.
While opening the meeting, Scissura defined what the new Fourth Avenue will become.
“Brooklyn Boulevard will be a livable street that stretches more than six miles and engages residents and visitors and has visible, social and economic opportunities,” Scissura said. “The goal is to create a signature street in Brooklyn that has a defined sense of place, embodies cultural and local identities and accommodates multiple forms of transportation.”
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