Queens lawmaker joins rally for traffic safety measures following tragic death of 8-Year-old boy in East Elmhurst

State Senator Jessica Ramos rallies with colleagues and safe streets advocates ahead of the budget deadline urging passage of Sammy’s Law to address the surge in traffic violence in Queens.
Photo courtesy of Transportation Alternatives

State Sen. Jessica Ramos, joined by other elected officials and safe streets advocates, rallied Friday to demand the NYS Assembly include Sammy’s Law and other traffic safety measures in the final state budget—just two days after 8-year-old Bayron Palomino Arroyo was struck and killed in her district while walking with his mother and brother in East Elmhurst. 

The rally was held Friday at Martin Luther King High School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a school attended by another child who was killed in a crash. Jayden McLaurin, 16, who was a student at the school, was fatally struck by a driver in Astoria last April.

More than half of the children killed in traffic crashes over the past two years were killed in Queens.

“There have been eight child fatalities in the last five months, three of them in Queens,” Ramos told the crowd. “Queens has had 18 [traffic-related] fatalities so far in 2024.”

After the youngster was killed Wednesday in East Elmhurst by a pickup truck driver from Flushing, Ramos noted that the boy was the 750th person — and the 34th child — killed in Queens in traffic crashes since the launch of Vision Zero in 2014.

“We are a city, not a suburb. I implore drivers to move through my community with that in mind. I fight so hard for improved public transit because there are too many cars on the road, particularly SUVs and pickup trucks that do not allow for full visibility in city streets,” Ramos said. “Having too many cars on our streets causes traffic and road rage, which is a recipe for disaster.”

Ramos called for the passage of her bill to implement scramble crosswalks around schools and Sammy’s Law, which would allow municipalities across the state—such as New York City—to set their own speed limits.

“We need to have a serious conversation about who is awarded the great responsibility of driving in our neighborhoods,” Ramos said.

“It is clear that drivers should be retested frequently, as too many deaths have been the result of a failure to yield to pedestrians crossing the street.”

Sammy’s Law is named for Sammy Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year-old boy who was struck and killed by a speeding driver in Brooklyn in 2013. Since his death, more than 2,400 people, including 108 children, have been victims of street carnage across the city.

“This is really a city-wide issue and that is why we need to pass Sammy’s Law because whether it is in Astoria or in Midwood, we need to better manage speed limits on our streets,” Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas said. “I thank Families for Safe Streets for continuing to raise the importance of this legislation and look forward to advocating for its passage in the Assembly immediately upon returning to Albany next month.”

It’s been proven that lower speed limits in cities save lives. In New York City, the speed limit was lowered to 25 mph in 2014— following the passage of state law—and within a year of the change, traffic fatalities fell by more than 25% and pedestrian fatalities fell by more than 25%.

“Slower speeds save lives,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “Passing Sammy’s Law would allow New York City to set its own lower speed limits and enable it to make its busy streets safer for all who use them. That’s why I join with our many government and community partners in urging that Sammy’s Law be adopted as part of this year’s state budget.”

The rally at McLaurin’s high school occurred after Council Member Julie Won held a street co-naming ceremony on Mar. 9 at the Ravenswood Houses where he lived, before he was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding a Citi Bike on 21st Street in Astoria.

“Jayden will always be remembered as the light of his community, a leader among his friends, and someone always willing to lend a hand,” Won said. “One child’s death from traffic violence is too many. I will continue to advocate for safer streets with his mother Porscha, his family, and neighbors in Ravenswood Houses so that no more parents have to mourn the loss of their children.”

Council Member Julie Won with Poscha McLaurin after a street near her home at the Ravenswood Houses was co-named in honor of her son Jayden, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Astoria last April. Photo courtesy of Julie Won’s office

The corner of 35th Avenue and 21st Street was co-named Jayden McLaurin Way in honor of the youngster who had a passion for basketball–having played for several community and school teams including the Boys & Girls Club (CM3), Team Pro Reps, I.S. 204 and the 114th Precinct team for Saturday Night Lights. McLaurin also played on the JV squad at MLK HS where he was a sophomore studying law advocacy and community justice hoping to become a lawyer or realtor.

“Yesterday would have been my son Jaydin’s 17th birthday,” his mother Porscha McLaurin said. “While my family and I are honored that the street he grew up on will now share his name, we would give anything to have him back with us where he should be, celebrating the beautiful, kind, gracious man that he was becoming.”

Photo courtesy of Julie Won’s office

His mother is now a member of Families for Safe Streets, the advocacy group that helped organize Friday’s rally at MLK High School.

“Jayden was a loving son, grandson, brother, nephew, cousin and friend,” she said. “His death has absolutely devastated our entire family. I miss him so much and feel the pain of his loss every single day.”