Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Speed limits

Déjà-Vu All Over Again: Assembly Balks on ‘Sammy’s Law,’ Bill Sponsor Silent

Even after lawmakers watered it down, the Assembly won't back it in the budget.

Photo: Kevin Duggan|

Advocates launched their lobbying push for Sammy’s Law and other safe streets legislation in Albany on Jan. 23.

State Assembly leaders declined to take up, as part of the budget process, a proposal to let New York City set its own speed limit — angering advocates still enraged by the lower chamber's failure to advance the measure last year.

The Assembly on Tuesday left out of its budget documents a proposal to allow the city to lower its speed limit from 25 to 20 miles per hour, even after the state Senate included the so-called Sammy’s Law in its fiscal plan position paper published the night before. Gov. Hochul backed the idea of passing the measure through the budget process, which she jumpstarted in January.

“We are very disappointed that the Assembly didn’t follow suit,” said Amy Cohen, the co-founder of Families for Safe Streets and the mother of Sammy Cohen Eckstein for whom the bill is named. “We will be fighting every day to make sure that it’s included in the final budget.”

Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said through a spokesman that he and his colleagues in the Assembly decided to follow its recent practice of keeping legislative policy out of the budget.

"The Assembly budget proposal does not include policy except in instances where there are fiscal impacts," Michael Whyland said in a statement.

The Assembly member carrying the bill in the lower chamber, Linda Rosenthal (D–Upper West Side), did not respond to repeated requests for comment by press time. 

Heastie’s chamber blocked Sammy’s Law last year as well, with the speaker claiming he did not have enough support from electeds representing more car-dependent parts of the city. But advocates said a majority of city Assembly members had supported the bill ... at least on paper.

Advocates couldn’t overcome the opposition despite notching support from Hochul, the state Senate, Mayor Adams, and the City Council, and in spite of a 100-day hunger strike by Cohen and fellow mother of a child killed in traffic violence, Fabiola Mendieta-Cuapio.

“It’s déjà-vu,” said Sara Lind, co-executive director at Open Plans (which shares a parent organization with Streetsblog). “There’s still time to lose the excuses and get this life-saving, and popular, bill in the budget and passed ASAP.”

The 2023 budget negotiations and legislative session marked one of the worst years for the livable streets movement. Advocates charged that more than a dozen Assembly members publicly backed Sammy’s Law, but secretly didn’t really support it — however their names never became public as Heastie declined to hold a vote on the proposal. 

This year will be different however, safe streets boosters say, because they boast a lengthy list of supporters. In addition, to win over whatever waning support there may be, the bill has been amended to bar speed limit reductions on roads outside of Manhattan with three or more lanes in each direction — roads where there is considerable speeding. The current proposal also calls for a six-month warning period for fines.

“We’re disappointed that the Assembly failed to join Gov. Hochul and the State Senate ... along with the more than 130 unions, hospitals, business leaders, and community-led organizations that recognize the urgent need for this common-sense legislation,” said Transportation Alternatives Deputy Executive Director Elizabeth Adams. “It’s beyond time for New York City to have the power to set its own speed limit.”

Advocates and victims of traffic violence trekked to Albany at the beginning of the new year to push lawmakers for Sammy’s Law, along with a package of bills for safer streets, including reauthorizing the city’s red-light camera program and expanding it, requiring complete street designs for road projects across the state and doubling complete streets funding, along with mandatory speed governors for motorists with 11 or more points on their licenses over 18 months. 

Advocates and politicians plan to rally in support of Sammy’s Law on the Upper West Side on Friday, March 15 at 10 a.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus, 122 Amsterdam Ave., at W. 65th Street. RSVP here.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

What to Say When Someone Claims ‘No One Bikes or Walks in Bad Weather’

Yes, sustainable modes are more vulnerable to bad weather. But that's why we should invest more in them — not less.

April 19, 2024

NYC Transit’s New Operations Chief Wants To Fight ‘Ghost Buses’

One-time transit advocate and current MTA Paratransit VP Chris Pangilinan will oversee bus and subway operations for the whole city.

April 19, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: Gimme Bus Shelter Edition

The days of the Landmarks Preservation Commission reviewing every proposed bus shelter in landmarked districts may be no more. Plus more news.

April 19, 2024

Deal Reached: Hochul Says ‘Sammy’s Law’ Will Pass

The bill, though imperfect, has been four years in the making.

April 18, 2024

Komanoff: A ‘Noise Tax’ Can Ground NYC Helicopters

A proposed $400 “noise tax” on “nonessential” flights is a start — and it will work.

April 18, 2024
See all posts