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Speed limits

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

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

New York City will finally be able to lower its own speed limits for the first time in a decade, as state leaders are slated to pass the so-called Sammy’s Law in the upcoming budget on Friday, according to Gov. Hochul — but the hard-fought rule change will exempt some of the most dangerous roads in the outer boroughs.

Sammy’s Law — named after 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein, who was killed by a driver steps from his Brooklyn home in 2013 — will allow New York City to reduce its maximum speed limit from 25 to 20 miles per hour.

“I cannot wait to hug Sammy’s family and we’ll do an official signing with that, with a lot of tears I’m sure, but knowing that their advocacy resulted in a real win in his name," Hochul said at a press conference on Thursday.

The last time the city was able to reduce its regulations was in 2014 from 30 miles per hour. 

“Lower speed limits save lives and we’re so thrilled it’s finally going to pass in the budget,” Amy Cohen, Sammy’s mom and co-founder of the advocacy group Families for Safe Streets, told Streetsblog. 

The final bill has not yet been published, but the latest version of legislation from February would bar the city from lowering the speed limit on roads with three or more travel lanes outside of Manhattan. The city will have to give communities 60 days of warning before dropping the speed limit on any street.

Sammy Cohen Eckstein's image was part of a montage of notes demanding the passage of Sammy's Law way back in 2018.Photo: Families for Safe Streets

Cohen believes the latest published bill is the version that will be before lawmakers when they vote on the budget on Friday. And she noted that even with the arterials carveout, the passage marks a victory.

“It is not perfect, but it is a step forward,” she told Streetsblog. “More needs to be done. We are going to continue to fight for safe streets.”

Amy Cohen (left) and Fabiola Mendieta-Cuapio at the end of last year's unsuccessful hunger strike.

Cohen and her fellow activists repeatedly traveled to Albany to lobby state lawmakers over the past four years, including an unprecedented hunger strike in 2023, but their push ran up against opposition in the state Assembly. 

On Thursday, the governor said she expects lawmakers to approve the $273 billion on Friday. Because Sammy's Law is in the budget, it will be difficult to determine if lawmakers who vote no on the budget are doing so because they oppose Sammy's Law.

Fellow advocates agreed that the bill was a win for the safe streets movement. 

“This is a huge victory for New Yorkers. It's true that the best scenario is one where Sammy's Law applies to every roadway, no matter the size. But including it in the budget is groundbreaking and hard fought,” said Sara Lind, co-executive director of Open Plans (which shares a parent company with Streetsblog). “The average New Yorker likely won't realize the change at all but they'll be walking along dramatically safer streets.”

Mayor Adams's office also celebrated the law, saying they worked with advocates to allow them to set speed limits in "thoughtful, targeted ways," according to a City Hall spokesperson.

"No family should have to suffer through the loss of a loved one due to traffic violence, and the Adams administration has consistently advocated for Sammy’s Law because New York City needs the tools to keep everyone safe on our streets," said Liz Garcia in a statement.

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