City Council Poised to Pass ‘Home Rule’ Message for Sammy’s Law on Thursday
The City Council on Thursday is expected to send a long-awaited message to Albany to finally allow New York City to set its own speed limits below 25 miles per hour — a “home rule” resolution that will clear the way for state legislators to pass the life-saving measure.
The so-called “Sammy’s Law” — named after 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein, who was killed by a reckless driver in Brooklyn in 2013 — did not make it into the state budget this year despite the backing of both Gov. Hochul and the state Senate. Now, in order to pass via the normal legislative process, the 51-person Council must send the home rule message.
On Wednesday, Council Member Jen Gutierrez shared the news that it’s going to finally happen:
Wow. HUGE NEWS! We’re passing Sammy’s Law in the @NYCCouncil, clearing the way for Albany to *allow* NYC to lower our speed limits and save lives.
This is for my baby, this is for all of our kids, this is for Sammy Cohen-Eckstein and all who we’ve lost to traffic violence. pic.twitter.com/3VLJvwmS4k
— CM Jen Gutiérrez (@CMJenGutierrez) May 24, 2023
Activists took a victory lap.
“We are thrilled this bill is finally going to pass. There is momentum building for changes of safe roads, safe vehicles around the state, and that our leaders put in place the solutions that are proven to work,” said Amy Cohen, Sammy’s mother.
Cohen, city Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and nearly 100 other advocates trekked up to the State Capitol on Tuesday to meet with legislative leaders, including Assembly Member William Magnarelli (D-Syracuse), the chairman of the Transportation Committee, to lobby for the bill, which was introduced three years ago, on what would have been Sammy’s 20th birthday.
“The city’s ability to control the speed limits on its streets plays a crucial role in delivering traffic safety,” said Rodriguez.
And Magnarelli was supportive, saying only a home-rule message was needed.
We were in Albany yesterday with @NYC_SafeStreets @TransAlt & many allies, sharing the critical, life-or-death need for safe streets legislation in NYS. We know exactly what makes our streets safer for everyone. All that's left is to do it. It's up to you, NY! pic.twitter.com/JvB6B8lu4q
— Open Plans (@OpenPlans) May 24, 2023
The Committee on State and Federal Legislation is slated to pass the home rule message on Thursday at 10 a.m., in time for the full Council to rubber stamp it later that afternoon — with the support of Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Transportation Committee Chair Selvena Brooks-Powers, both of eastern Queens.
“Sammy Cohen Eckstein should still be with us today. So should countless other individuals who lost their lives to vehicles traveling at unsafe speeds. This is an important — and long overdue — step to making our streets safer for New Yorkers going about their daily lives,” said Council Member Shaun Abreu (D-Manhattan), who chairs the Committee on State and Federal Legislation, and called it an “honor” to pass the home rule message.
It was for a while unclear if either Adams and Brooks-Powers would sign onto the measure — Brooks-Powers only in the last few days added her name to a Gutiérrez resolution that was seen as a precursor to the home rule; and Adams has remained relatively mum on the issue.
“Advocates galvanized around this for a while now. Introducing the resolution helped kind of really realign all of those efforts,” said Gutiérrez, who told Streetsblog that she had been meeting frequently with colleagues, including Adams and Brooks-Powers. Neither responded to requests for comment.
I always say traffic safety is public safety.
I have sent a home rule message request to our @NYCCouncil partners, so NYC has the tools we need to keep New Yorkers safe on our streets.
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) May 24, 2023
And waiting on the Council’s support wasn’t the only snag to delay passing Sammy’s Law — last week, the bill was finally assigned to Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal (D-Upper West Side), after losing its main sponsor in the lower house, Assembly Member Dick Gottfried, who retired last year. State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D-West Side) is carrying the bill in the upper house.
Data show that the faster a car is moving, the more likely a crash will be fatal. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrians have an 80 percent chance of surviving being hit by a car traveling at 20 miles per hour, but only a 10 percent chance of surviving being hit by a car traveling at 40 miles per hour.
“Speed limits save lives — it’s as simple as that. For every additional mile per hour a driver adds on to their speed, the safety of pedestrians around them decreases. New York is long overdue for the implementation of Sammy’s Law, and we owe it to the pedestrians, cyclists, and New Yorkers of all backgrounds who use our streets to finally get it done,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn), a co-sponsor of the bill.
Passing through both the City Council and Albany will be historic, advocates say. Last year, the City Council failed to pass a home rule message; in 2021, the bill died in the Assembly after passing in the Senate; and this year, legislators have until the last day of session on June 8 to finally pass Sammy’s Law.
“We are very excited about that. We’re counting on the Assembly to deliver as promised as well,” said Cohen.