It’s hard to imagine a street in more dire need of a safety upgrade than Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Lined with schools, senior centers, subway stations, churches and stores — and situated in one of the city’s top walk-to-work neighborhoods — the street is a magnet for pedestrians of all ages. It’s also a speedway for motorists. Now it looks like this part of Fourth Avenue will get a safety-minded makeover as soon as this fall.
With six lanes of moving traffic, plus left-turn bays, Fourth Avenue is wide and dangerous to cross. From 2006 to 2011, seven people were killed while walking on the stretch between 65th Street and 15th Street. Dozens more were seriously injured. Pressure to reduce the death toll has been mounting in recent years, and Borough President Marty Markowitz’s Fourth Avenue Task Force has helped raise the profile of the street’s shortcomings and its potential.
Earlier this week, NYC DOT staff presented a package of safety improvements [PDF] for this two-and-a-half mile section to Brooklyn Community Board 7′s Fourth Avenue working group. The recommendations would essentially slim the street down from six lanes to four lanes and add pedestrian space in the median using low-cost materials like paint, epoxy, and gravel.
DOT has been holding workshops on Fourth Avenue with CB 7 and local organizations since last year, and the recommendations were well-received by the working group. “These workshops with the DOT have been very good, and they’ve listened to us,” said CB 7 chair Fred Xuereb.
Currently, outside of rush hour, most motorists speed on the wide expanse of Fourth Avenue, and in the evening the figure is as high as 80 percent of southbound drivers, according to DOT. By expanding medians (some of which are now only a meager two-feet wide), adding left turn restrictions and slimming down the right-of-way for traffic, the project would shorten crossing distances, reduce conflicts between pedestrians and motorists, and at least partially remedy the street’s out-of-control speeding problem.