An open letter to Brooklyn CB6

Tonight, Brooklyn Community Board Six is holding a special session to discuss the proposed changes to Fourth Avenue. The Department of Transportation suggested a “road diet” after years of planning and months of public meetings.

Even though the Transportation Committee voted 14-1 in favor of these changes, the full board rejected them, 10-18, with 4 abstentions; the board then took the unusual step of criticizing DOT for its proposal. In the wake of the vote, Council Members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, who together represent CB6 in City Council, encouraged DOT to proceed with the changes.

If you are able to attend tonight’s meeting, I urge you to do so. It’s at 6:30 at the 78th Precinct Station House, 4th Floor.

Dear Chair Kummer and Brooklyn Community Board Six:

I commend the Board for calling this meeting. Our democratic process is strongest when its representatives are receptive to their constituents’ wishes; I’m proud to see this response to the public’s reaction to the Board’s June vote on this topic.

Over the past several years, this Board has made many responsible decisions relating to livable streets, most notably its support of the Prospect Park West bike lane. The proposal for Fourth Avenue mirrors those changes in many key ways. It arises from a need to rein in dangerous, reckless driving behavior on what could be described as a “speedway”. It seeks to make areas high in foot traffic safer for pedestrians. It is the result of a rigorous, community-based review process.

It also faces objections from a small, vocal minority scared of change. Certainly, it’s natural to fear the unknown. But a mother should not fear for her child’s safety on a route that has seen 52 severe injuries in a five-year span - especially not when we have techniques to substantially reduce those numbers without creating additional traffic burdens. DOT’s proposal does exactly that.

What concerns me most is that the Board’s rejection came not because of facts, but feelings. The worries regarding increased congestion, reduced local access, and traffic spillover onto side streets have not come to pass in other locations where similar changes have been made.

We rarely question a doctor’s medical advice, even if it runs counter to our gut instincts. Why would we do so with respect to the flow of traffic? The professionals in the Department of Transportation have spent years studying and applying the principles of urban design and movement. There is little reason to believe they overlooked anything here – particularly after the host of public meetings that have been held on this topic.

Seven schools lie along the stretch of Fourth Avenue under our Board’s jurisdiction. The layout of the R train platforms make crossing the street a necessity on one end of a commute for thousands in Park Slope and Gowanus. I trust the Board will continue to hold the safety of its citizens as its highest priority.

Keith Williams

Header: looking north on Fourth Avenue from 43rd Street in Sunset Park, April 2013.

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