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Navigating Transportation Safety: Mayor Adams’ Key Remarks at Governor Hochul’s Budget Announcement

NYC Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Hochul joined forces to announce the implementation of Sammy’s Law, aimed at reducing traffic-related fatalities and injuries. The law empowers the city to lower speed limits, enhancing pedestrian safety. This significant milestone was achieved through the relentless advocacy of Families for Safe Streets and bipartisan support from state lawmakers.

Moderator: Good afternoon. Before we begin today’s program, there are a few guests in the audience we’d like to acknowledge. 

Assemblymember Stefani Zinerman, Assemblymember Brian Cunningham, Assemblymember Manny De Los Santos, Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson, Assemblymember Bobby Carroll, Assemblymember Tony Simone, and New York City DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. 

Please welcome New York State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Co-founder of Families for Safe Streets Amy Cohen. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and now please welcome the 57th governor of the great State of New York, Governor Kathy Hochul.

Governor Kathy Hochul: Thank you, everyone. Good morning. Oh, what an amazing crowd this is. This is really inspiring to know that so many people came together to say no more, no more. 

We’re here today because too many children have been hit and killed by cars speeding through our city streets. We’ve seen too many tears shed, families shattered, communities traumatized by too many preventable crashes and accidents. Today we celebrate, if there can be a celebration amidst all this sadness and memory, but we will celebrate in honor of Sammy. Celebrate the passage and the signing of Sammy’s Law.

This will empower the City of New York to do what I think they should have had the power to do all along, and that’s just a personal commentary on what I believe communities should have the power to do, but New York City will be able to take back its streets, make sure that, what that means? We’re taking back the streets, making them safer for people, slowing down drivers and saving lives. 

Too many families have lost kids to this violence. It is traffic violence, it’s violence, it’s a violent scene, and they fought so hard right here in Brooklyn to make this reality. I’m so honored to have so many of them here today. 

First of all, our Mayor Eric Adams, thank you for being a champion of Sammy’s Law, Mr. Mayor. Thank you, thank you. En route is one of the sponsors, Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, Senator Andrew Gounardes, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Assemblymember Tony Simone, and our Brooklyn District Attorney Gonzalez is here. Did I miss any of our great elected officials? If not, speak now or forever hold your peace. 

All right, all right, all right. First of all, we also have incredible advocates, people who never thought to be bonded together in tragedy, but realized that they could suffer alone or mobilize together, and what power they harnessed among other people who had that similar experience, that most unnatural of all occurrences, a child passing before the parents. 

That’s not the natural way of life. That’s why this hitch is so hard. It’s a gut-wrenching kick in the stomach that lasts forever. They were joined together, these activists, Families for Safe Streets, Transportation  Alternatives. God bless every one of you who’s standing up and being there. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Our principal, Jack Chan, MS-51, a sight. Sammy’s school, Sammy’s school. The teachers and others who knew him a decade ago and all of our partners in the state legislature recognize, but there’s no one who fought harder than the indomitable Amy Cohen. Amy Cohen. Without her, none of us would be here today. Please stand up for Amy Cohen. Please stand up. 

She is the mother of Sammy Cohen Eckstein. That’s right, never give up. That’s what they’ll be saying about Amy forever. She never gave up. Sammy’s mom, who was killed just steps from his home, he was 12 years old. We gather at this school because this was Sammy’s school. This was the place where he had friends and teachers, embraced life, hang out with his friends, play some soccer. 

This is hard for everybody who’s ever had a child. You’re a mom, you have a baby, put the baby in your arms, it begins a lifelong love affair with this little person who relies on you for everything. Have that baby stolen away, turns your life upside down. All the people behind me who channeled their own pain into this advocacy and what Amy did founding this great organization, Families for Safe Streets, because she knew she was not alone. She’d heard from other voices. She pulled them together. 

This group has championed vital legislation meant to protect people on our streets. Other pieces of legislation, but also including this Sammy’s Law. She watched time and time again, she’d go plea her case in our state’s capital. She kept marching, meetings, rallies, hunger strike. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to put a spotlight on how we have the power, if we only use it, to make our streets safer and question why. Why does it take a decade of effort? 

Until this year, when we said “Yes,” Amy, “Yes” to all the parents, “Yes” to all the advocates, we will get it done in our state budget and we did. We got it done. We owe her and my partners in government who champion this a debt of gratitude.

Last year 101 New Yorkers were killed by cars on city streets. Hundreds more were injured. Every statistic is a life, a story. Someone who now has left an empty chair at the table in their family, in the classroom. A mother who won’t see kids graduate college, a child who never grows up and realizes their dreams. 

Do you know what we realized in this advocacy effort? It didn’t have to happen. These accidents are preventable. It’s been proven over and over again. When you reduce the speed limits, pedestrian crashes leading to serious injuries and death go way down. It just changes everything. 

New York City under this law will now have the power to lower the speed limit from 25 miles an hour to 20 miles an hour on residential streets. That five miles an hour makes a difference between life and death. 20 to 15 near schools and senior centers and other slow zones should never have taken so long and I spent 14 years myself in local government. 

My view of the world is, local government should be making these decisions. You should not have to go all the way to Albany. You should just be able to go to your mayor and your city council like they do all over the state. I was a former councilmember. I didn’t have to go to Albany for all these things. Sometimes we did, sometimes we didn’t. I want to empower the localities.

We have enough to work on. We have a lot on our plate. Oh, Senator’s here. Linda’s here too. I acknowledged them, but these are our sponsors: Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Linda Rosenthal. I want to recognize them again.

Local leaders and their transportation know the areas. They know the problem intersections and they know where crashes are most likely to happen. Giving them control is what I’d say is common sense. I use that phrase a lot because I don’t see enough of it. It’s a new concept in some places, but not with us. We get it. We understand and that’s how you make communities safer. 

I want to close with this. It’s not hard to be an advocate when you go to explain your cause, or go to a rally or talk to someone or talk to a reporter. It naturally reopens the wounds. It gets raw again. You wonder, “Will my heart ever be bonded back together or is it going to keep getting ripped apart?” It takes strength. 

A strength that perhaps is within every mother, every father who’s lost a child but sometimes retreat into yourself. You go a little tighter like this. Not these people behind me. They opened up. They found others. They found the depth of courage that was required to keep willingly exposing themselves to this internal pain to champion something to save other people’s lives. 

That, to me, is extraordinary. Extraordinary what they did. It takes heart. It takes courage. It takes passion and it takes love of their child that they lost but love of strangers, children who they’ve never met who as a result of their efforts will be able to keep playing on the playground, going to schools, graduate because of what these extraordinary people did. 

This is a triumph. A triumph for all of you who never gave up, never surrendered and fought for the lives of others. You may never know who they are but I want the world to know it’s because of all of you. Thank you. 

With that, let me bring up another strong supporter of Sammy’s Law, our mayor, Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you governor, and we were coming in backstage and Amy stated I know that I have been a pain in the rear and governor said no you have been a parent and it is unimaginable as I reflect over my twenty-something year old son Jordan, my only child and how much you pour in and invest in your children. 

To receive the devastation that they were lost prematurely to something that is avoidable. It is something that you never leave and I think the governor was just so correct in her assessment that PTSD remains even when you hear a car screech, anytime you watch a movie where there’s a car accident, anytime you read a story, birthdays, holidays, anything that reminds you of your child you relive it over and over again. 

Years ago when I was a state senator we started a campaign of decreasing the speed limit with some of the advocates then, and little did we know that the people who stand behind us, Families for Safe Streets, they stated that we’re going to turn our pain into purpose. We’re going to become dogmatic about this issue because all streets are not the same. 

We should not have speed limits within the entire city based on the makeup of one’s of one belief of one’s philosophy and it’s not only this, so much more has been done. The advocacy around speed cameras around schools, clear facts and stats that show these speed cameras work. 

It’s the partnership of the state lawmakers that the Governor mentioned that shows how we can make these changes and it is communities, advocates, government coming together to find how do we continue to move a complex city like New York City forward. This is a real victory for Sammy’s, for Susan’s, for all of our children in the city that want to move these our cities to a safe place, and hat off to the DOT, Ydanis Rodriguez, who was an advocate for so many years around this issue.

Last year we were the safest around pedestrian crashes. This year’s a rocky start. Far too many people are driving too fast in our city and we have removed over 50,000 ghost cars, illegal bikes, illegal scooters and other apparatus because many of those who are speeding are driving and using forms of transportation that are illegal. The Police Department will continue to do the necessary enforcement. 

We can’t get this done without a governor that’s willing to hear, feel and respond to the pain of people and she has done this over and over again. The partnership that this governor has shown to the City of New York with these lawmakers, and how they deliver for this city is really commendable. Governor, just thank you so much for making this happen. 

Many people didn’t think this day was possible but Amy and those behind me did. The leaders there, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Carl Heastie and the entire lawmakers, these two legislators that co-sponsored the bill because you can’t get it done in one house. A divided house won’t produce the legislative victories. They brought the Senate and the Assembly together and was able to get this bill because they responded to the needs of the people of the city. Thank you so much for doing this. 

This bill will improve safety. It will have those slowed down. That’s a huge deal when you compare it with some of the other issues that we have put in place. Stopping from passing school buses, stopping from making reckless turns on our corners. When you do an analysis, these traffic crashes and you see they’re preventable, they’re avoidable.

If we take the necessary steps to do so, and this is one, we cannot rest on our success here because there are more areas that we want to focus on. I really want to thank the family in 2013. I remember standing here after that crash and with the family members and the commitment of those local electors. Some are not in office but they still advocated to move forward. 

Here a young man, 12 years old. 12 years old. Think about that. 12 years old. Some of the faces here, some of these family members, they may not be 12, they may be 70, they may be 80, 21, 22. Pain does not dissipate merely because the years move forward. 

When you see these pieces of legislation, it’s responding directly to the needs of family and what they’re asking for. Amy’s advocacy was an advocacy that was heard across this entire city. Lowering speed limits is a proven way to get us at the level of safety that we deserve. It’s crystal clear the evidence. Whoever’s pushing back on cameras around schools, lowering speed limits, all of those entities.

If you are going against slowing New Yorkers down, you are going against slowing the results of stopping these tragedies from taking place. You can’t have it both ways. Slow down New Yorkers and then we can slow down the deaths that we’re seeing. 

This law allows us to reduce speeds from 25 to 20. Not only does it prevent the fatalities, but it also prevent the level of injuries. This is a smart decision, a smart way to do it. From 15 to 10 miles per hour in special slow zones, including around schools. 

That’s not all. Lower speeds mean a smaller chance of getting into a crash in the first place. You can make the decisions. There’s no way you going in the city that you need to be speeding through the city to get there. You can get to where you have to go if you are not speeding in a direction that you are doing. Lower speeds benefit New Yorkers across the five boroughs. 

From day one of this administration, this is what we focus on. We knew it. What the commissioner is doing by adding traffic violence statistics is part of CompStats now. Just as we analyze robbery, burglaries, homicides, grand larcenies, we’re now analyzing our traffic stats as well. 

As a captain, I was in charge in the sixth precinct of traffic stats. I know how important it is to analyze that data and identify the places you’re having a problem. We also made a historical deployment of 24-7 speed cameras on our streets, achieving a more than 70 percent decrease in overall speed and violation in the areas where the cameras are located. 

I really want to thank Senator Gounardes who really pushed this through up in Albany and how important it was. Doubling the pace of intersection safety improvements from 1,000 to 2,000 intersections a year, and these improvements extended sidewalks. 

Reprograming traffic signals to give pedestrians a head start and a historic commitment to daylighting 1,000 locations each year. This is what this group has advocated for and we’re delivering on. I signed an executive order where two incidents that hit traffic safety agents, school crossing guards, and we realized these trucks and large vehicles must have safety equipment attached to it. 

There’s no reason that you cannot see or get a warning or beep to let that someone’s crossing the street. Some of these cases are horrific and you should have been notified. Technology must catch up to safety and we’re going to make that sure that’s happening and that’s what that executive order is about. 

Again, I just want to thank Deputy Mayor Joshi, our team at City Hall, the governor, all of you who have been part of this amazing initiative. We can make our streets safe. I advocated for it as a state senator, we fought for it as the borough president, and now partnering with the governor and the state lawmakers, we have taken another step towards safer streets. Thank you very much. Thank you. 

I have the honor and pleasure of bringing in the woman who really took this on a shoulder. It comes from the legendary response that we have always done in our city of how we respond and bottle our pain and turn it into purpose. That’s what Amy did and I cannot thank her enough. The day we met her during this time, I knew we were going to see changes in Albany. Please give it up for Amy Cohen.

Amy Cohen, Co-Founder, Families for Safe Streets: Thank you. Thank you for all coming to commemorate the signing of this important bill. One of the last times I was here at MS-51 was almost exactly six years ago when Governor Hochul, then lieutenant governor, stood with us to protect the speed safety camera program that had just been turned off. 

This is a joyous but bittersweet moment. It’s not easy being here in Sammy’s old school, seeing so many of you who were his age when he died. I know we have a class here from MS-51. For me, it’s as if time has stood still for a decade. It still shocks me that instead of being in eighth grade, like many of you here today, Sammy would be 23 years old right now. He’d have finished MS-51, gone on to high school, and graduated from college already. He’d likely be trying to make the world a better place. 

In my efforts to pass Sammy’s Law, I met with many young staff at the New York State Legislature and in the organizations of our community partners, and I often thought, he would have really liked that job. Sammy was fierce and determined. Just a few weeks before he died, he was the youngest one to complete a hundred-mile century bicycle ride. 

For one of his last school assignments here at MS-51, he was required to write a paper about his name. I bet they still do that assignment, right? He researched and analyzed every part of Samuel Cohen Eckstein and was so reflective and insightful. I’ve shared his words before, but want to read you just a few lines to give you a sense of who he was, what potential he could have had, and why, as a natural introvert, I pushed myself to fight for change in his name. 

This is Sammy. “My name was chosen because it sounded like happiness, but that happiness put an invisible weight on my shoulders, the weight of leadership. I am Samuel, the one who God heard. Cohen, the one who with my family and ancestors led a religion. Eckstein, the one cornerstone among thousands, the one corner that has to support everybody while withstanding pain and sorrow. I like my name. I just can’t imagine myself as a Jacob or a Luca. I am Sam. That’s just who I am.” 

It’s funny, I’ll say, I didn’t know he had changed his name. To me, he was still Sammy. “I used to prefer Sammy, but now it sounds too young and childish. Sam is more substantial. It’s a name that sounds like stubborn impartiality and neutrality. That is who I really am, somebody who is like a moon to the earth. I am Sam. I am like a lake. I am pure and simple, but if you look in the right places, you can find a lot beneath my surface.” 

Like many of us in Families for Safe Streets, I always thought I could create an invisible shield around my family to keep them safe, but I’ve come to learn that protective shield for our loved ones is really a communal responsibility and requires laws and policies that address the systemic causes of traffic violence. Laws like the one we are here today celebrating. 

It’s been a long fight, but not a lonely one, because this bill is not just for Sammy. It’s not just Sammy’s Law. It’s Giovanni’s Law, and Ali’s Law, and [Neuqua’s] Law, and Henry’s Law. It’s for every child, parent, spouse, and loved one killed by a reckless driver, and now it will finally be law in New York State. 

So many may now know Sammy’s name only because his life was cut short, and with this legislation, I hope we can learn more children’s names because of their accomplishments, their personalities, and their spirit, not their final moments. 

We would never be here today without the leadership of Governor Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Heastie, our wonderful bill sponsors, who I can’t thank enough, Senator Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Mayor Adams, Commissioner Rodriguez, Speaker Adams, and so many elected officials in the New York State Legislature and City Council, as well as their staff, and the innumerable agency officials who work tirelessly to help us see through this bill. 

This would also never have been possible without the hundreds of FSS members who poured out their hearts at vigils, rallies, trips to Albany, hunger strikes, my hunger striking partner here, and more. Please, to my FSS family, hold your photos high and be recognized. 

A huge thanks also to the 130 organizations who signed on in support, including, but not limited to, AARP, the UFT, Local 372, the Crossing Guards Union, the Chinese Planning Council, the Hip Hop Youth Summit, Consumer Reports, Greater New York Hospital Association, and so many more. Thanks also to the TA activists who joined us in our efforts. 

Last but not least, I am so grateful for the incredible staff at Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives. Just want to say their names. Thank you to Tom, Dahlia, Alexis, Anna, Bobby, Danny, Elizabeth, Alexa, Jacob, Nina, Shawn, Laura, Kathy, and the entire passionate, hard-working crew. Thank you all.

Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal. 

State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal: Thank you so much. I’m State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, one of the sponsors of Sammy’s Law. 

First, let me thank Governor Hochul. Can we give her another round of applause? Not only did Governor Hochul support Sammy’s Law, as all the advocates know, but she put it in her executive budget, not once but twice, and we are so grateful for your efforts in that regard. 

Mayor Adams and your team, including Transportation Commissioner Rodriguez, this has been truly a team effort, and you’ve been an essential part of it, so thank you from the bottom of our hearts. 

My colleagues from the Assembly and the Senate, of course, Senator Gounardes and the Assembly champion, Linda Rosenthal, who played three-dimensional chess with her colleagues to get this bill passed, and did it so successfully. At the end of the day, it truly is about the advocates, and we all know that. 

I just have to repeat this oft-mentioned quote, but I think sums up what everyone behind me and in front of us has done. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Amy, you, and every parent, family member, and friend here, advocating for safer streets and Sammy’s Law, have indeed changed the world. Thank you.

Moderator: Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. 

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal: Hi everyone. I’m Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. I represent parts of the Upper West Side and Hell’s Kitchen, and I’m overjoyed to finally have all of us together to celebrate this achievement. 

There were times throughout the years where it seemed like this day would never come, but with the dedicated partners in this fight, I knew that we could do it, and I promised Amy that we would do it. 

I must say that many of my colleagues played a big role in getting this done, and the ones who are here, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, Assemblymember Manny De Los Santos, Assemblymember Stefani Zinerman, Assemblymember Bobby Carroll, and Assemblymember Harvey Epstein is who I spot, and they were among the many who helped and fought for this because it was so worth fighting for. 

I want to thank Governor Hochul for including Sammy’s Law in your budget, and for standing up for street safety, and for protection of people. I want to thank the entire Families for Safe Streets coalition, and most of all, I want to thank Amy Cohen for her tireless and steadfast leadership in advocating for this legislation. 

I have this button with Sammy’s picture on it that I put in my drawer on the floor of the Assembly, and I thought, it’s going to be here for a long time because it’s so difficult to get this done. After last year, we thought we’d pulled out all the stops, but we hadn’t. 

Amy and Families for Safe Streets and TA pulled out this huge coalition, and I said to them, you can now set up a lobbying firm because you can get anything done. Working together with my colleague, Senator Brad Hoylman, I knew we would not fail, and I’m glad we got here to celebrate, to pause, to remember all of those people who were killed in traffic violence, and to say we will not forget you. 

Anytime someone mentions the lower speed limit, we’re going to think of all those who inspired this law. I also want to thank the mayor, the commissioner, Sammy’s grandma, Joan Dean, who lives on the Upper West Side, and all the families who lost loved ones in senseless tragedies. It’s really been an honor working with all of you, and I’m proud to have been part of this struggle that ended successfully. 

Your destination will be there, no matter how slow you go. The question is, will you be there? If you go 20 miles per hour, the chances are great that you will. Thank you all.

Moderator: Please remain seated while we sign the bill. 

May 9, 2024 New York City Hall

AI Critique: Analyzing the Mayor’s Speech for Flaws

  1. Lack of Specifics: The statement lacks concrete details about the specific measures being implemented under Sammy’s Law. Without clear information on the strategies and resources allocated to improve transportation safety, it’s challenging to assess the effectiveness of the initiative.
  2. Focus on Legislation Over Implementation: While the announcement celebrates the passage of Sammy’s Law, there’s limited discussion about the practical steps taken to enforce the new regulations and ensure compliance. Without robust enforcement mechanisms and public education campaigns, the impact of the legislation may be limited.
  3. Limited Acknowledgment of Challenges: The statement portrays the passage of Sammy’s Law as a major victory without adequately acknowledging the ongoing challenges and obstacles in achieving transportation safety goals. Addressing issues such as traffic congestion, infrastructure deficiencies, and driver behavior requires a comprehensive approach beyond legislative changes.
  4. Absence of Stakeholder Perspectives: The statement primarily features remarks from government officials and advocacy groups, with limited input from other stakeholders such as transportation experts, urban planners, and community members. A more inclusive approach that incorporates diverse perspectives could lead to more holistic solutions and greater community buy-in.

Soutces: Midtown Tribune news NYC.gov
Big New York news BigNY.com

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