Fourth Ave overhaul tough but doable
Mar 09, 2010 | 2925 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Re-imagining a green, vibrant Fourth Avenue takes some serious vision, because the thoroughfare is anything but pleasant. It remains unclear if the community groups who gathered recently to discuss improvement plans for the strip have the resources to follow through with their plan.

Still, its fun to dream, isn't it? We'll take a spruced-up Fourth Avenue over the current one any day.

The avenue is, at once, a disaster for pedestrians and cyclists, and a driver's paradise.

Drivers headed to Park Slope or further south into Brooklyn exit the Brooklyn Queens Expressway into heavy downtown traffic, salivating at the chance to reach Fourth Avenue's three-lane mini-highway. Traffic can be bad there too, but very often. For the most part, cars and trucks fly down the strip with ease. After all, that's what Fourth Avenue was designed for.

On the other hand, if you prefer walking or riding a bicycle, steer clear of Fourth Avenue at all costs. Its ugly, noise, and with the exception of a cluster of bars and department stores relatively boring. The raised concrete median is treeless and gray. In short, for many people living between Park Slope and Fort Greene, Fourth Avenue is one long eyesore.

(Farther south, it becomes a more popular shopping destination, but the Park Slope Civic Council, which hosted the meeting to discuss Fourth Avenue's future, seemed most worried with its northern portion).

Clearly, much could be done to change the strip for the better. But short of a complete and total overhaul were any of the proposed changes plausible? And how do you balance the needs of drivers with those of pedestrians and cyclists?

The second question will largely determine the first. Space on the avenue is limited. Anything that's done to give non-drivers more space could take valuable real estate away from drivers. Through truck routes in New York are not a dime a dozen. If truckers feel that their motor-way is under attack, they won't sit by quietly.

As for aesthetic and business improvements, good luck. The median is way too narrow to turn into a real parkway with benches and trees. Who wants to sit there, staring at an ugly high-rise luxury building, while trucks zoom past at uncomfortably close quarters?

Its not that all this can't be done- its just that it will take hard work and realistic planning. The meeting was the first step in the right direction. As groups continue thinking about this, they might consider the modest, but successful, transformation of Vanderbilt Avenue as an example to work from.

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