Tuesday, March 2, 2010

All About 4th

This Thursday March 4th at 7pm, The Park Slope Civic Council plans to sponsor a forum, “The Future of Fourth Avenue,” at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Park Slope.

Panelists will include Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6; Ethan Kent, vice president of the Project for Public Spaces; Ryan Lynch, senior planner with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign; David Sweeny, developer; and Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of the United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park (UPROSE).

All about Fifth caught up with organizer Michael Cairl, Civic Council Trustee and Chair of its Livable Streets Committee, to get some added insight into the event.

All About Fifth: Michael, thanks for talking to us. What was the impetus behind hosting this event?

Cairl: Every March, the Park Slope Civic Council hosts a forum on a topic of interest to the community. The redevelopment of 4th Avenue that is underway, the arrival of new people in the community, and the imminent start of construction at Atlantic Yards, all place pressures on a street that has been seen primarily as a traffic funnel. So this is a major challenge for the Civic Council and its Livable Streets Committee. There couldn't be a better time to "take the temperature of the community" about what 4th Avenue is and could be.

All About Fifth: The informal borders of Park Slope seem to constantly shift. Where does the Park Slope Civic Council draw the neighborhood's boundaries?

Cairl: The answer depends on whom you ask. Everyone would agree on Flatbush Avenue as the northern boundary and Prospect Park as the eastern boundary. Is the southern boundary 15th Street (the boundary between Community Boards 6 and 7) or the Prospect Expressway? I don't know. And on the west, is it 4th Avenue, 3rd Avenue, or the Gowanus Canal? I don't know that either. We're not map mavens and we're not interested in turf battles. We would be delighted if one of the outcomes of this Forum were the formation of a civic organization in Gowanus, and we would offer our assistance in getting such a group started.

All About Fifth: The challenges seem more clear-- but what do you think some of the biggest opportunities will be for 4th Avenue in the future?

Cairl: There is a tremendous opportunity for the communities along 4th Avenue to work together toward common goals. 4th Avenue from 65th Street to Flatbush Avenue has a lot of common attributes and challenges, and we are much more likely to realize a community-based vision for 4th Avenue by working together. Personally, I would like to see good housing available across the income spectrum, more public space, encouragement of business, and more transit options on the street and below it. This is not a picture of pie-in-the-sky; civic and business organizations are on the ground that could help make this vision happen. 4th Avenue affords ample scope to realize these opportunities and get the vision right.

All About Fifth: How does this initiative fit in with the Park Slope Civic Council's programs and mission for the next decade?

Cairl: This year's forum clearly demonstrates the Park Slope Civic Council's way forward in the years to come. As part of its Livable Streets initiative, the Civic Council has pushed for traffic and transit improvements, and improved safety, along 4th Avenue. One, a safer crossing of 4th Avenue at Union Street, is in place. Another would re-open a long-closed subway entrance on the east (uphill) side of 4th Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets and help revitalize that side of the avenue. But our larger mission includes building a strong, diverse, and involved community and actively engaging all residents; working with local businesses to encourage economic vitality; and reaching out to organizations in Park Slope and in other communities to work together on matters that affect us all.

Interview conducted by Rebeccah Welch

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