New York State budget to allow New York City to lower speed limits


Legislation moving control of New York City’s speed limits from the state to the city has been folded into the overdue state budget — in a long-sought win for street safety advocates — lawmakers said Thursday.

The measure would allow the city to set speed limits as low as 20 mph on most streets and as low as 10 mph on some streets, said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who has sponsored the legislation in the Assembly the past two years.

“It’s a great victory for all the families who’ve had a member tragically ripped from them through car crashes,” said Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat.

The insertion of the legislation, dubbed Sammy’s Law in honor of a 12-year-old killed by a driver in Brooklyn over a decade ago, was secured as lawmakers began to authorize portions of the budget on Thursday.

Gov. Hochul had pushed for the inclusion of Sammy’s Law in the budget, which was due April 1 and repeatedly pushed back as lawmakers negotiated the details. The final version of Sammy’s Law is on track to differ slightly from past drafts: Six-lane roads and one-way, three-lane roads outside Manhattan would remain at the current default city speed limit of 25 mph.

Last June, Sammy’s Law passed the state Senate in a 55-to-7 vote. But the measure ran aground in the Assembly. A year ago, activists launched a 99-hour hunger strike in support of the legislation.

After versions of the bill failed to pass the Legislature for three straight years, Hochul used the budget process to get the measure across the finish line.

The governor, a Democrat, cast the development as a success in her broader effort to empower local governments.

“A lot of these decisions shouldn’t be made in Albany,” Hochul, a former upstate town board member, told reporters in Manhattan.

Governor Kathy Hochul (Susan Watts/Office of Governor)
Gov. Kathy Hochul (Susan Watts/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

She said she was looking forward to signing the bill with the family of Sammy Cohen Eckstein, who was cut down by a van as he chased a soccer ball onto Prospect Park West in Park Slope in October 2013.

His mother, Amy Cohen, has been a driving force behind the measure.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, the Manhattan Democrat who has sponsored Sammy’s Law in his chamber, said the inclusion of the legislation in the budget was a “testament” to Cohen’s “fierce” advocacy.

“I’m just thrilled,” Cohen said. “It was a huge fight, and we’re just grateful to everyone who made it happen.”

A spokeswoman for Mayor Adams, Liz Garcia, said in a statement that City Hall was hopeful the measure would “prevent senseless tragedies while honoring the life of Sammy Cohen Eckstein.”

The city’s current default 25 mph speed limit was set in 2014, marking the first citywide reduction in a half-century. The 2014 shift was pushed by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and approved by the Legislature and former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

On Thursday, final elements of this year’s $237 billion New York State budget were still coming into focus.

As they blew past the yearly deadline for the spending plan, the governor and the Legislature hammered out an intricate housing deal aimed at securing tenant protections and spurring development through tax breaks.

Even as lawmakers approved budget legislation on Thursday, some policy elements in it remained under last-minute discussions, including a possible two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools — another priority for Hochul.

State Sen. John Liu, the Queens Democrat who is chairman of the New York City Education Committee, has said he expects the extension to land in the budget. But he said Thursday evening that the issue was not fully pinned down.

“There’s a couple of pins already in the ground,” Liu said, adding that the extension would include a measure preventing the city from reducing its funding for public schools.

Without an extension, mayoral control is due to expire at the end of June.

With Evan Simko-Bednarski and Cayla Bamberger 



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