PARK SLOPE — The grieving family of the Park Slope boy who was hit and killed by a van on Prospect Park West pleaded for lower speed limits Tuesday night, saying their son would still be alive if the driver had been going slower.
Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein, the parents of 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein, gave the emotional speech at a public forum on pedestrian safety at United Methodist Church on Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street.
With feelings raw over the recent deaths of several children hit by cars across the city, activists organized the forum to urge action on a host of street safety initiatives. Among them is a campaign called "20's Plenty," which would cut the speed limit to 20 mph on city streets.
“It breaks my heart that we were not able to implement '20's Plenty' sooner, as it would have prevented Sammy’s death," stricken mom Amy Cohen said, with a sob in her throat. "Clearly more needs to be done now."
She made a similar heartfelt plea in late October in front of the City Council's transportation committee, reducing lawmakers to tears. After that, the council voted unanimously in favor of a bill to slow cars near schools.
But Cohen said more needs to be done, and urged the packed audience at Tuesday's forum to join her pressuring legislators in Albany.
"Were Sammy still alive, he would certainly want to know about this meeting, what was discussed and whether changes will be made," Cohen said. "We'd like to be able to tell him momentum is building, and there are people willing to fight," she added, sparking a round of applause.
Though it could take years for safe streets activists to achieve their goals, City Councilman Brad Lander said Park Slope residents have a track record of improving safety on dangerous city streets.
Some at Tuesday's meeting helped convince the city's Department of Transportation to make safety upgrades on accident-prone Fourth Avenue and at Bartel-Pritchard Square, Lander said. Local transportation advocates also point to the bike lane on Prospect Park West as a victory that was years in the making.
Lander asked the crowd, which included police from the 78th Precinct, to unite behind the issue.
"Obviously the death of Sammy Cohen Eckstein was a brutally painful call of attention," Lander said. "There's just so many more places where we have more work to do. If we take steps together, we can make it safer and bring those accidents down."