Manhattan lawmaker seeks to drop NYC’s speed limit below 25 mph

Brad Hoylman, seen here in 2017.
Jeff Bachner

By Mark Hallum

Manhattan state Senator Brad Hoylman want to make it even harder for cars to speed by lowering the bar for what constitutes as speeding with a new bill dedicated to Samuel Cohen Eckstein, 12, who was killed by a driver on Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West in 2013.

Known as “Sammy’s Law,” the legislation introduced in Albany on Monday would repeal an earlier law mandating that speed limits in the five boroughs cannot be lower than 25 MPH or lower than 15 MPH in school zones, according to Hoylman.

Eckstein would have been 20 years old on Tuesday.

“As the New York City body count from traffic fatalities grows to a six-year high, it makes absolutely no sense that Albany won’t let the City lower its speed limit,” Hoylman said. “Sammy’s Law will give New York City the power to lower speed limits in a way that is tailored to neighborhoods’ actual safety needs. Reducing traffic speed is not only critical due to the rising number of traffic fatalities, but also because of increased car use, bike ridership and outdoor dining and shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Eckstein’s grandmother, Joan Dean, a member of Families for Safe Streets, believes that even small differences in the way people drive could make a difference in the city where advocates are looking to the next mayor to aggressively build on what Mayor Bill de Blasio set in motion with Vision Zero in 2013.

“Our family knows all too well that speed kills. Going just a little slower can be the difference between life and death, particularly for those walking and biking on our streets,” Dean said. “My 12-year-old grandson Sammy was killed by a reckless driver who was rushing to get to work. A year later, a 5-year-old boy was hit crossing the street in the same exact location. But the other boy survived because the speed limit had been lowered by 5 mph.”

Amy Cohen, founder of Families for Safe Streets, participated in a November 2019 rally seeking to put traffic safety on the front burner of presidential platforms and on the priority for the House of Representatives. A photo of her son Sammy Cohen Eckstein is held by Stephanie Mansfield.File photo/Todd Maisel

According to Hoylman’s office, authorization by the state legislature for the city to reduce speed limits contributed to a 36% decrease in pedestrian fatalities. An average of about 12% pedestrians struck by cars going 25 MPH could be fatal, and for each mile per hour increase, the likelihood of survival decreases by about three percentage points, Hoylman pointed out in a release.

During a Tuesday transportation panel on street safety, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris said he believed the speed limit should be lowered from 25 MPH on many streets down to 20 MPH, a repeat of a statement from him regarding “Sammy’s Law.”

“Sammy’s Law would save lives on city streets for generations to come. By allowing lower speed limits it recognizes that the safety and wellbeing of New Yorkers is more important than anything else.” Harris said in a statement.