From local political sex scandals to international stories that hit us here at home, the past year proved to be anything but quiet. We have a new pope, a new mayor-elect and more time to enjoy those large, sugary drinks. Here are our picks for the 13 biggest news stories from 2013, in order of when they occurred.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo Announces Sweeping New Gun Control
In January, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the strictest gun control law in the country into effect. The law toughened restrictions on military-style rifles and high-capacity semiautomatic handguns, and was the first new gun control law to be passed in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. The National Rifle Association quickly responded to the legislation, saying the “gun control schemes” would have “no impact on public safety and crime.” A month after the law was passed, it was modified so certain weapons could be used on the sets of television shows and movies being shot in New York. “We spend a lot of money in the state bringing movie production here, post production here. So obviously we would want to facilitate that,” Cuomo said.
Judge Knocks Down Bloomberg’s Ban On Large, Sugary Drinks
A Manhattan Supreme Court judge decided to nix a portion-control regulation just days before it was set to go into effect last March. The ban would have stopped New Yorkers from being able to buy super-sized sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts. Judge Milton Tingling ruled that the city may not enforce the new regulation, which he called both “capricious” and “arbitrary,” because it applied to some, but not all establishments. Mayor Bloomberg, champion of the so-called “sugary drink ban,” adamantly disagreed with the ruling. “We were very confident this morning. We think the judge is totally in error in the way he interpreted the law,” Bloomberg said. Months later, an appellate court upheld Tingling’s ruling.
Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio Becomes Pope Francis
When Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope on March 13, he chose the papal name Francis and became the first pontiff from the Americas in more than a millennium. He also became the first Pope from outside Europe. As it turns out, Pope Francis is a leader of many “firsts.” He’s the first pope to pose for a “selfie,” and he made headlines in September after saying the Church was “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and birth control. It’s our guess few saw the change Pope Francis would quickly bring to the Catholic Church. In 2013, Pope Francis would be credited with a boom in Sunday Mass attendance and even in Catholic school enrollment. In fact, his impact would be so great, TIME Magazine would name Pope Francis the Person of the Year for 2013, beating out Edward Snowden and Miley Cyrus.
Boston Marathon Bombing & Suspect Capture
Following an intense manhunt that caused chaos in Massachusetts and riveted the rest of the nation, law enforcement captured the second Boston Marathon bombing suspect less than a week after the April 15 attacks, which killed three people and left dozens injured. The capture came at the end of a tense Friday that began with his 26-year-old brother and accomplice, Tamerlan, dying in a gun battle with police. Here in New York, vigils were held across the city to honor victims of the bombings. In November, the New York City Marathon paid tribute to the victims by adding a yellow line next to finish line of the event, aside the traditional blue line which guides runners through the race. Yellow and blue are the colors of the Boston Athletic Association.
The Death Of Actor James Gandolfini
Photos: Remembering James Gandolfini
Flags flew at half-staff in New Jersey for ‘Sopranos’ star James Gandolfini after the Garden State native suffered a heart attack and died on June 13, while he was vacationing in Rome. He was 51. Tributes popped up across New Jersey after his untimely death. Many residents were heartbroken over the loss of the actor, who was born in Westwood, raised in Park Ridge and attended Rutgers University. People in Park Ridge remembered Gandolfini as a regular kid who played basketball and came from humble beginnings, the son of a building maintenance chief at a Catholic school and a high school lunch lady. Gandolfini left the bulk of his estimated $70 million estate to his 13-year-old son and infant daughter. The late “Sopranos” star also left millions to his wife and relatives.
Trayvon Martin Verdict & Reaction
The July 13 verdict of Trayvon Martin sparked much discussion about race relations and garnered strong reactions from people across the country. After a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of manslaughter for fatally shooting 17-year-old Martin, rallies and protests were held across the nation. Supporters of Martin’s family who had gathered outside the courthouse yelled out “No! No!” Here in New York, Al Sharpton was joined by Jay Z, Beyonce and Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, at a rally outside NYPD headquarters a week after the verdict came down. Sharpton’s National Action Network hosted the event, which was attended by hundreds of supporters. The same organization planned similar rallies in 100 cities to press for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
Anthony Weiner Caught In (Another) Sexting Scandal
While many New Yorkers thought he had no place in the race, Anthony Weiner set out to become the city’s Democratic mayoral candidate — despite his salacious, sexting past. But on July 23, his primary campaign took a serious hit when a woman claimed that she exchanged lewd photos and had explicit phone conversations with Weiner — who went by the screen name and alter ego ‘Carlos Danger‘ — after the scandal that led him to resign from Congress in 2011. Weinergate 2.0 ensued. There were feisty outbursts from the disgraced politician, directed at both media figures and city residents. Gov. Andrew Cuomo came out against Weiner. His wife, Huma Abedin, faced backlash for standing by her man, though she was nowhere to be seen in September, when Weiner conceded the primary race.
Manhattan Motorcycle Road Rage Incident
A YouTube video of a disturbing confrontation between an SUV driver and group of motorcyclists on the West Side Highway captivated the country and led to numerous arrests last fall. The video surfaced the week of Sept. 30. It was taken from a camera mounted on a biker’s helmet, and shows an attack on an SUV and the beating of its driver. Alexian Lien, 33, was celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife, Rosalyn Ng, and their 2-year-old daughter just before the incident occurred. Police said the family was driving on the West Side Highway when they were surrounded by the large group of bikers. After the group of motorcyclists approached his car, they began to dent it with their helmets. Lien then hit the gas, driving over three of the bikers. One of the bikers, Edwin “Jay” Mieses, was paralyzed by the accident. The bikers are then seen chasing the Range Rover through Manhattan, when traffic forces the car to slow down. That’s when a biker can be seen running up to the SUV and yanking open the driver’s side door as Lien again guns the engine in an attempt to get away, knocking over a bike as it speeds off. Lien received stitches for cuts to his face. He will not face any charges, authorities said.
The One Year Anniversary Of Superstorm Sandy
Candles and flashlights lit up the shore when survivors of Superstorm Sandy paid their respects to what was lost when the storm roared ashore on Oct. 29, 2012. To mark Sandy’s anniversary, residents of coastal neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey that suffered some of the worst flooding honored that terrible day in ways both public and private. Rebuilding has been a nightmare for some of those in the hardest hit areas. A year later, neighborhoods and businesses are bouncing back, but many are still grappling with the reality that this could happen again. Some people are still homeless. The anniversary of the storm brought moments of hope and happiness, as well. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo kicked off what was billed as a “Sandy Resiliency Tour” in lower Manhattan on the storm’s anniversary, and folks across the Tri-State turned the day into a a day of service.
Bill De Blasio Defeats Joe Lhota In New York City Mayor’s Race
It what was never much of a close race, New York City Public Advocate Bill De Blasio defeated former MTA chairman Joe Lhota in the race for mayor with a landslide win on Nov. 5. De Blasio had campaigned on promises of being a champion for the middle class, giving his word to create programs which will deliver universal pre-kindergarten and free after-school programs to middle schoolers. He aims to pay for those programs with a tax hike on wealthy New Yorkers. De Blasio’s election was also seen by many as a mandate against stop-and-frisk, the controversial policy. Mayor Bloomberg has consistently defended stop-and-frisk as a constitutional practice which has helped lower New York City’s crime rate. With De Blasio’s election, community leaders and elected officials demanded Bloomberg drop his appeal of Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling.
The Knockout Game
Dubbed the “Knockout Game,” there is nothing fun about the string of violent attacks taking place across the country — including several in our area. In fact, the chilling phenomenon has now gone global, with unsuspecting victims walking and then being randomly sucker-punched to the ground. There have been several so-called “knockout” or “polar bear” assaults in the Crown Heights and Midwood sections of Brooklyn alone since October and the “game” has been blamed for numerous other assaults and at least one death. In Sept., two 13-year-olds were charged with the beating death of Ralph Eric Santiago, 46, a homeless man in Hoboken. The alternate name “polar bearing” comes from the fact that the victims are white. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has expressed some doubts about whether the knockout game is real or an urban myth. It’s likely not a myth to its victims, some of which are shown in online videos from various cities show young suspects randomly punching innocent victims.
Metro-North Train Derails, Kills 4
It wasn’t the best year for Metro-North. Dozens were injured after a major derailment in Connecticut last May after two trains collided just east of the Fairfield Metro Station. In September, power problems paralyzed the New Haven line and caused backups and last commuter headaches. However, these incidents paled in comparison to the derailment on Sunday, Dec. 1, which killed four passengers and injured dozens more. The commuter train from Poughkeepsie left the tracks with a sudden, violent shudder and roll along the curve at Spuyten Duyvil, where the speed limit drops from 70 mph down to 30. All of the train’s seven cars and its locomotive came off the curved track about 100 feet north of the nearby station around 7:20 a.m., officials said. One car came to rest feet from the Harlem River. The NTSB later said the train was going 82 mph along the 30 mph curve. A union official said the train’s engineer, William Rockefeller said nodded off before the crash.
Newtown Marks One Year Since The Sandy Hook Shootings
Church bells tolled 26 times at St. Rose of Lima church in Newtown on Dec. 14, to mark the first anniversary of the massacre which killed 20 children and six educators. No formal memorials were held in honor of the victims, as to avoid drawing media attention to the Connecticut town. Instead, Gov. Dan Malloy encouraged citizens to perform an act of kindness as a tribute to those that lost their lives. In the year since the shooting, schools and public places around the nation have put in place new security measures and the discussion about gun control hasn’t stopped. Family members of the victims continue to campaign for stricter gun laws.