New York City’s Top 15 News Stories Of 2015

December 22, 2015 9:00 AM

Donald Trump is running for president — for real; the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is legal; the Mets almost won the World Series; and a pair of upstate New York inmates escaped a maximum-security prison launching a manhunt that spanned multiple states and captured the attention of New Yorkers everywhere — these are just a few of our picks for the biggest news stories to hit the New York metropolitan area in 2015. Read on for these stories and much more.

Police Vs. Mayor Bill de Blasio

NYPD protest raise

NYPD officers with PBA protest over arbitrator’s 1 percent raise (credit: CBS2)

From backlash over comments made during the Black Lives Matter protests, to the deaths of two NYPD officers and anger over a 1 percent pay raise, it’s no secret that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD have not seen eye-to-eye on much this year. Following in the shadow of a rocky relationship in his first year as mayor, de Blasio stuck to his guns early in 2015 when police union leaders accused him of not supporting the NYPD during the Eric Garner case, saying he wouldn’t apologize for comments he previously made. Much of the NYPD’s constant, low-level frustration with the mayor reached a crescendo in May when NYPD officer Brian Moore was fatally shot in the face by an armed suspect during a traffic stop in Queens, and again in October when NYPD officer Randolph Holder was shot and killed while pursuing a suspect in East Harlem. To cap off a year that was not much unlike his first, members of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association staged a protest outside of Gracie Mansion in November over an arbitrator’s proposed 1 percent pay hike for many of the NYPD’s rank-and-file officers. Before the arbitrator’s ruling was made final, PBA President Patrick Lynch promised that if approved, de Blasio would feel the anger of the police force of New York City. And the NYPD is not alone in its gripes with the mayor. Over the past year an apparent feud has grown between de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo with jabs coming from both sides despite both politicians being in the same isle.

Valhalla Metro-North Crash

Investigators on the scene of the Metro-North train crash in Valhalla, NY on Feb. 4, 2014. (credit: CBS2)

Investigators on the scene of the Metro-North train crash in Valhalla, New York on Feb. 4, 2014 (credit: CBS2)

A fiery collision between an SUV and a Metro-North train in Valhalla, New York claimed the lives of six people in February — the deadliest collision in Metro-North history. On Feb. 3, the Harlem Line train crashed into a Mercedes SUV at a grade crossing, sparking an explosion and fire that burned out the first car of the train. An initial report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the SUV was partially stopped on the railroad tracks when the railroad crossing gates moved to the closed position. Investigators said the driver was in the danger zone inside railroad crossing gates for about half a minute before the train hit. Following the crash, lawmakers called on the the Federal Railroad Administration to investigate ways to make rail crossings safer.

Hillary Clinton Email Scandal

Former Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, October 22, 2015. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A New York Times report in March revealed that former secretary of state — and current 2016 presidential candidate — Hillary Rodham Clinton had conducted all of her official business using a personal email address during her four years at the State Department. Facing calls for transparency, Clinton turned over about 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department that she sent and received using a homebrew server set up at her New York home. This at a time when Clinton’s support in the early Democratic contests had declined against a rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). In late August, the State Department released roughly 7,000 pages of Clinton’s emails — including about 150 emails that were censored because they contain information that is now deemed classified. But it wasn’t until early September that Clinton apologized for the arrangement she had made with the State Department. Initially Clinton had said an apology wasn’t necessary because what she did was “allowed” by the State Department.

East Village Explosion

A debris-strewn street seen amid the site of a seven-alarm fire that caused the collapse of two buildings and damage to two other buildings a day after the blaze took place on March 27, 2015 in New York City. At least two people are missing and over a dozen injured. (Photo by Nancy Borowick-Pool/Getty Images)

A debris-strewn street following a gas explosion in the East Village (credit: Nancy Borowick-Pool/Getty Images)

On March 26, a gas explosion ripped apart four buildings on Second Avenue at East Seventh Street in the East Village, killing two people and injuring more than a dozen others. The explosion and resulting fire tore through 119, 121, 123 and 125 Second Ave., which are a mix of residential and commercial units. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the facade of the 121 building was blown clear across the street. FDNY video showed the 123 building completely collapsing to the ground. It wasn’t until March 29 that two bodies were found in the buildings’ rubble. The destruction also left dozens of residents homeless, prompting relief efforts from the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City as well as several fundraising endeavors.

NYC Mass Transit Issues And Failing Infrastructure

Collapse of bench wall and derailment of 2216 G CRS/CHU (operating motor 2902) north of Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. at approximately 22:39 on Wed., September 10, 2015. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Collapse of bench wall and derailment of a G train north of Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. on Sept. 10, 2015 (credit: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)

If you use mass transit to commute to and from New York City, there is a strong likelihood you did a lot of huffing, puffing and eye-rolling this year. From signal problems, to overhead wire problems, to a minor train derailment — the ride for New York City’s commuters has not been easy in 2015. Straphangers on the No. 7 line faced issues with constant delays and service disruptions. In March, disgruntled commuters in Queens held a rally, demanding better service. New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer said he organized the rally after being overwhelmed with complaints about a line he called a disaster. Riders complained that platforms are overcrowded and trains have been breaking down or bypassing stations for months.

Meanwhile, the peak of high heat this summer apparently did a number on Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT’s infrastructure, causing days and days of delays and service suspensions and prompting local lawmakers to call for more infrastructure spending. As infrastructure issues continued into early fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Gov. Chris Christie wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking for the federal government to pay for half of the cost for a new Hudson River rail tunnel.

In September, folks on a Church Avenue-bound G train had a ride they’ll never forget after the front two wheels on the first car derailed about 700 feet from the station. Transit officials said the train came into contact with a deteriorated section of a bench wall next to the track, causing debris to fall onto the track and come into contact with the first axle of the train. After evacuating about 150 people on the train, service was suspended overnight and through most of the following day, snarling daily commutes for straphangers.

Late Night TV Shake-Ups

David Letterman on the last "Late Show" on Wednesday, May 20. (Credit: Worldwide Pants/CBS2)

David Letterman on the last “Late Show” on May 20 (Credit: Worldwide Pants/CBS2)

After 22 years of hosting “The Late Show” and a total of 33 years in late night television, David Letterman signed off as the longest reigning late night host in television history last May. A roster of stars turned out to give Letterman a sendoff for the ages, including Alec Baldwin, Barbara Walters, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Peyton Manning, Tina Fey, and the very first guest on both Letterman’s NBC “Late Night” show in 1982 and the CBS “Late Show” in 1993 – Bill Murray. Letterman passed the torch on to Stephen Colbert, who debuted a revamped “The Late Show” on Sept. 8. After playing the role of conservative pundit on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” for nine years, audiences at the newly renovated Ed Sullivan Theatre — and at home — can finally get a taste of who the real Stephen Colbert is. But Letterman wasn’t the only television show host to bow out in 2015. In August, Jon Stewart said a final farewell after 16 years on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

Call Me Caitlyn

Caitlyn Jenner makes debut in Vanity Fair (Credit: Annie Leibovitz exclusively for Vanity Fair).

Caitlyn Jenner makes debut in Vanity Fair (credit: Annie Leibovitz exclusively for Vanity Fair)

In June, then-Bruce Jenner made waves across the United States and beyond as he graced the cover of Vanity Fair magazine with with the title, “Call me Caitlyn.” Jenner posed for famed photographer Annie Leibovitz weeks after telling Diane Sawyer he was transitioning to a woman. Social media blew up in reaction to the photo, and it wasn’t long before Caitlyn Jenner reached a Twitter following of over 1 million. In fact, Guinness World Records announced Jenner had set a new record for fastest time to reach 1 million followers on Twitter — a total of 4 hours and 3 minutes. Jenner’s transformation was received well for the most part, and ESPN gave the former Olympic athlete the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at this year’s ESPY Awards. But others struggle with Jenner’s new identity, seeing the former athlete in an entirely different light. In November, the widower of a fallen 9/11 hero, who was posthumously named as one of Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year in 2001, FedExed the award back to Glamour in response to Jenner’s 2015 nomination.

Upstate New York Prison Break

Richard Matt and David Sweat

Richard Matt and David Sweat (credit: CBS2)

Two highly dangerous convicted murders make a daring escape from a maximum-security New York state prison and lead police on a multi-state chase that lasts weeks, only to end with one fatally shot and the other surrendering. No, this isn’t the plot of the next big CBS crime drama, it was real life for New Yorkers. It all started on June 6 when Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, were unaccounted for during a 5:30 a.m. bed check at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. The pair escaped through a hole in the back of their adjoined cells that they created using power tools they were not supposed to have access to. After three weeks of eluding authorities, Matt was shot and killed by a member of the U.S. Border Patrol. Sweat, though, remained on the loose until his capture near the Canadian border two days later, ending what Gov. Andrew Cuomo called a “nightmare.” Sweat pleaded guilty in November to federal charges related to the breakout. The female prison worker who provided the tools was sentenced in September to up to seven years in prison for her involvement in the elaborate escape.

Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential Campaign

Donald Trump addresses supporters during a campaign rally in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 23, 2015. (credit: Ty Wright/Getty Images)

Donald Trump addresses supporters during a campaign rally in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 23, 2015 (credit: Ty Wright/Getty Images)

If we told you in 2014 that the leading Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election would be billionaire celebrity businessman Donald Trump, would you have believed us? Trump started his campaign off in mid-June with a controversial bang after making inflammatory remarks about Mexican immigrants. The Donald’s campaign has virtually dominated election coverage ever since. Trump led in the polls early, securing himself a top spot in the nation’s first televised GOP debate in early August. Despite several controversial statements and rhetoric that could polarize the GOP vote in 2016, Trump has garnered a strong following through his no nonsense, speak-your-mind attitude as other Republican candidates struggle to keep up. So much so, that the presidential hopeful was even given the opportunity to host “Saturday Night Live,” — an offer that has only ever been given to one other presidential candidate amid a campaign. So will Trump be on the Republican ticket in 2016? We won’t venture a guess, but we will be watching.

Mass Shootings Across The U.S.

 San Bernadino Sheriff officers walk along Mountain View Avenue in pursuit of suspects involved in the shooting at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

San Bernadino Sheriff officers walk along Mountain View Avenue in pursuit of suspects involved in the shooting at the Inland Regional Center on Dec. 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. (Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

San Bernardino, California; Charleston, South Carolina; Lafayette, Louisiana; Rosenburg, Oregon; Colorado Springs, Colorado — if you were to consider these places on a map, you would guess they have little in common. But in 2015 these towns and cities were all rocked by mass shootings that claimed numerous lives, forever linking them together in the minds of many. In the face of continued gun violence across America, President Barack Obama and other officials have urged Congress to enact stricter gun laws, but those calls have consistently been met with resistance from gun control opponents.

Gay Marriage Legalized

The White House is lightened in the rainbow colors in Washington on June 26. 2015. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House is lit in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a nationwide right (credit: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. … [The challengers] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. And with that, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the country on June 26. President Barack Obama hailed the court’s 5-4 ruling as “a victory for America.” Gay and lesbian couples could already marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The ruling meant the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, had to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage. Gay rights supporters cheered, danced and wept outside the court after the decision, which put an exclamation point on breathtaking changes in the nation’s social norms. Spontaneous celebrations were echoed in New York City, where the LGBTQ community was gearing up for its annual Pride parade. Two days after the ruling, more than 2 million people watched as over 22,000 marched in a declaration of their new freedom.

Legionnaires’ Disease Rocks The Bronx

(credit: CBS2)

File photo — Legionella growth (credit: CBS2)

A disease relatively unknown to many in New York City before this summer claimed the lives of 12 people in the South Bronx over the course of several weeks. In mid-July New York City health officials were trying to get to the bottom of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease. Thirty-one cases had been reported between July 10 and July 29 — that number ballooning to 128 cases before the outbreak was declared to be over in August. Legionnaires’ Disease can usually be traced to places favorable to Legionella growth such as cooling towers, hot water tanks, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers and condensers in large air conditioning systems. It cannot be spread through human contact. Health officials pinpointed the rooftop cooling tower at the historic Opera House Hotel as the source of the deadly outbreak, but not before public outcry and calls from local lawmakers for more regulations on cooling towers in the city. The New York City council then approved sweeping legislation aimed at preventing another outbreak.

James Blake Tackled By NYPD Officer

An NYPD officer is seen arresting James Blake on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. (credit: NYPD)

An NYPD officer is seen arresting James Blake on Sept. 9, 2015 (credit: NYPD)

Imagine standing outside of a New York City hotel when you notice a man charging at you full speed, only to tackle you to the ground and handcuff you, seemingly for no reason. That’s exactly what happened to tennis professional James Blake on Sept. 9 in what the NYPD said was a case of mistaken identity. But Blake called it a case of excessive force by the police officer and demanded an investigation and an apology from the NYPD. A day later, surveillance video of the incident was released, showing Blake standing in a blue shirt just outside of the Grand Hyatt Hotel when suddenly an undercover cop in plain clothes runs up to him, pulls him to the ground, and secures his hands behind his back to handcuff him. Blake was only released by police after a retired officer recognized the former Olympian who once ranked fourth in the world. The officer’s handling of the arrest became the center of an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation. Mayor Bill de Blasio publicly apologized to the former tennis star, saying Blake shouldn’t have been treated that way. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton also apologized to Blake. The Civilian Complaint Review Board ultimately substantiated Blake’s excessive use of force claim and recommended discipline for the officer. The Internal Affairs Bureau investigation is ongoing.

Popemania: Pope Francis Visits New York City

Pope Francis Celebrates Mass At MSG

Pope Francis enters Madison Square Garden to celebrate Mass on Sept. 25, 2015 in New York City (credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Between Sept. 24 and Sept. 26, millions of people flooded the streets of New York City armed with their cellphone cameras, hoping for a glimpse, not of a famous rockstar, but of Pope Francis. The pope’s first visit to the Big Apple was arguably one of the biggest events for New York City in 2015. The pope’s schedule was so jam-packed in his two-day visit — with an evening prayer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a visit and address to the United Nations General Assembly, a multi-religious service at 9/11 Memorial and Museum, a visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, a historic procession through Central Park, and a Mass at Madison Square Garden — it’s amazing he had any time to sleep or even eat. One of the biggest challenges for New York City was keeping a pope who is known for spontaneously greeting his followers safe and secure during his visit. Business boomed for many in the city while the pope was in town, with pope memorabilia flying off the shelves. And after capturing the hearts of New Yorkers, Pope Francis was given a New York City municipal ID card, making him an official New Yorker.

Mets Make It To World Series, But Fall To Royals

World Series - Kansas City Royals v New York Mets - Game Four

Daniel Murphy #28 of the New York Mets reacts after losing to the Kansas City Royals by a score of 5-3 in Game 4 of the World Series at Citi Field on Oct. 31, 2015 (Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

“Close, but no cigar” is the phrase that comes to mind when thinking of the New York Mets’ World Series run this year — though we’re sure some Mets fans have other phrases they’d prefer to use instead. The Amazins’ amazed sports fans far and wide as they cruised into the playoffs for the first time in nine years, and stunned non-believers after sweeping the Cubs to become NLCS champions and moving on to go up against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. But for many fans, the dream for the team’s first championship in 29 years quickly turned into a nightmare. The Royals dominated the Mets, winning the championship series in just five games. Though with a die-hard fan base, it wasn’t long before folks were expressing their high hopes for clinching the championship next year.