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BREAKING: Assembly Fails to Pass Bill to Allow NYC to Set Speed Limits, But Will Return Later This Month

6:29 PM EDT on June 10, 2023

See you later? Carl Heastie gaveled out the Assembly on Saturday but the legislature will apparently return to Albany later this year. Two Families for Safe Streets members (from left), Amy Cohen and Fabiola Mendieta-Cuapio waged a hunger strike all week.

The fight, ugh, goes on.

Despite the overwhelming support of Gov. Hochul, the state Senate, Mayor Adams and the City Council, plus a nearly unprecedented hunger strike this week in Albany, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie refused to allow the lower house to vote on a life-saving bill to allow New York City to set its own speed limits — a bill that has the support of a majority of Assembly members.

Heastie ended the session on Saturday afternoon, but the Assembly will reconvene later this month to take up a considerable amount of unfinished business, including, possibly, giving New York City the power to lower its speed limits, also known as Sammy's Law.

It is unclear if Heastie, who has declined to comment on the bill even as two members of Families for Safe Streets held a hunger strike outside his office in the Capitol since Tuesday, will take up the legislation later this month.

During the last week of session, the measure gained enough support to have a strong majority of pledged "yes" votes, according to Transportation Alternatives, which polled the 150-member assembly. According to the group's tracker, 79 Democrats and 20 Republicans now support the measure.

Members of Families for Safe Streets screamed at Assembly members from the gallery — and were promptly removed.

The bill passed the state Senate earlier this week in a lopsided, 55-7, vote.

The week was a frustrating one for Amy Cohen, the Families for Safe Streets co-founder who has been starving herself at the Capitol — a hunger strike that reached 99 hours before the Assembly was gaveled into recess. Cohen's son, Sammy, who was killed by a driver in 2013, is the bill's namesake.

“Speaker Heastie has watched us travel to Albany time and time again, telling stories of the worst days of our lives, and yet he continues to ignore us even while we’re on hunger strike. We’re not asking for anything complicated or controversial. We’re just asking for the ability to choose our own speed limits in New York City," she said on Saturday. "The majority of New Yorkers – and the majority of Assembly members – agree that New Yorker City should set its own speed limits. There’s only one roadblock: Speaker Carl Heastie refusing to call a vote on a popular, life-saving bill.”

Unless the Assembly takes up the measure later this month, more Sammys will die, activists said.

"If they do not reconvene for a special session ... many more people like Sammy will die from their inaction," Cohen said. "We had 99 votes and did a hunger strike for 99 hours. It is outrageous."

Heastie's office only had a machine on Saturday. We left a message.

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