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Hunger Strike Day 2: Gov. Hochul is ‘Sympathetic,’ But Won’t Pressure Heastie on Sammy’s Law

The governor expressed sympathy for the mothers who are holding a hunger strike to protest the Assembly’s inaction on Sammy’s Law — but she declined to condemn the body's leader, Speaker Carl Heastie.

4:38 PM EDT on June 7, 2023

Hunger strikers (from left) Amy Cohen, Lizi Rahman, Fabiola Mendieta-Cuapio continue their battle to get the state Assembly to pass Sammy’s Law. Photo: Families for Safe Streets

ALBANY — Not my problem.

Gov. Hochul on Wednesday expressed her sympathy for the mothers who are holding a hunger strike to protest the Assembly’s inaction on Sammy’s Law — but she declined to condemn the body's leader, Speaker Carl Heastie, who has refused to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“Now this is a very compelling and sympathetic issue, and as a mother I know how hard this is for individuals," Hochul told Streetsblog in Albany on Wednesday, "but I will defer to the Speaker to see what occurs in the next few days. He has his reasons, so I’m not going to comment, or speculate, on what his rationale is.” (Heastie has not returned multiple requests for comment.)

Hochul has previously expressed support for Sammy's Law, which would allow New York City to set its speed limits below 25 miles per hour. The bill also has the support of the state Senate, where it passed with little dissent on Tuesday, Mayor Adams, and the City Council, which overwhelmingly passed a "home rule" resolution last month — something it failed to do in the past.

One of the striking mothers, Amy Cohen, said she and her fellow moms Lizi Rahman and Fabiola Mendieta-Cuapio stopped Heastie on Wednesday morning outside the lower chamber, but he declined to comment.

“No response, but we showed our photos, and told him we demanded a vote. If people have concerns, they need to go on record,” said Cohen, whose 12-year-old son Sammy Cohen Eckstein was killed by a reckless driver in Brooklyn in 2013, and for whom the bill is named after.

Aside from Heastie, the bill has picked up support from at least seven new Assembly members since the group of grieving moms stopped eating. Thanks to expressions of support from Assembly members Yudelka Tapia (D-Bronx), Al Taylor (D-Bronx), Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn (D-Flatbush), and Brian Cunningham (D-Crown Heights), the bill now has the support of a majority of New York City members of the Assembly.

Cohen says she’s feeling hopeful that legislators will pass Sammy’s Law before packing up and heading home for the summer at the end of this week.

“We’re feeling optimistic," she said. "Any other outcome is unconscionable."

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