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Locals and Officials to Brainstorm Improvements for Gritty Fourth Avenue

By Leslie Albrecht | January 14, 2014 11:36am
 The Park Slope Civic Council is hosting a discussion on the future of Fourth Avenue.
Locals and Officials to Brainstorm Improvements for Gritty Fourth Avenue
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PARK SLOPE — Fourth Avenue is an "unwelcoming" thoroughfare with a lifeless streetscape, and new luxury highrises aren't doing much to improve it.

Those are a few of the gripes local residents shared in a recent survey about Fourth Avenue, the gritty, industrial stretch on the western edge of tree-lined Park Slope where several residential towers have sprung up in recent years.

The Park Slope Civic Council will present the survey results at a Tuesday meeting where locals and elected officials will brainstorm an action plan for improving Fourth Avenue.

City Council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin are scheduled to present their visions for the avenue's future, and residents, business owners and community groups will share their top priorities for the busy street.

Fourth Avenue has traditionally been a bit of a no man's land between Gowanus, Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, meaning that few residents or community groups would step forward to try to improve it, said S.J. Avery, a member of the Park Slope Civic Council's Forth on Fourth committee, a group that's been working to upgrade the avenue.

But Avery said the time is right to push for improvements, because the arrival of the de Blasio Administration will hopefully usher in an era of progressive city planning policies.

Advocates are hoping for action on a number of fronts, some of which came up in the survey responses. The survey showed that locals are worried about Fourth Avenue's lack of trees, flooding, street trash, pedestrian safety and speeding cars, and high rents at the new residential buildings springing up on the avenue, Avery said.

"We see buildings that are touting themselves as luxury highrises, but there's really no discussion about affordable housing," Avery said.

Though the new buildings are required to have ground-floor commercial tenants facing the street, most are occupied by doctor's offices or other businesses that do little to generate foot traffic and enliven the streetscape, Avery noted.

The Civic Council has been trying to recruit residents of those highrises to help with improving the avenue, but they can be harder to reach than business owners who are at street level, Avery said.

The Park Slope Civic Council's Forth on Fourth Committee has been working for the past two years to make improvements on the avenue, mainly by planting trees.

Avery said there's plenty more work to do, but it will take broad community support to make major change happen.

"The only way [Fourth Avenue] is going to be improved is if folks begin to take ownership of it," Avery said.

The Park Slope Civic Council's meeting on Fourth Avenue is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday Jan. 14 at the Old Stone House, 336 Third Street.