A lot happened in 2016, but nothing more talked about than the presidential election and victory of Donald J. Trump. From the colorful and often contentious debates, to tweets and Wikileaks, this past year will go down in history. Let’s take a look back at some of the biggest stories that shaped New York and the world this past year.
2016 Presidential Election
In what was one of the most unconventional presidential elections in modern history, Donald J. Trump pulled off a shocking upset and beat Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8, 2016 to become the 45th president of the United States.
The contentious election had its fair share of scandals on both sides of the aisle. In July, more than 19,000 emails from Democratic party officials were leaked by the organization Wikileaks. The leak prompted a firestorm over hacked emails suggesting the Democratic National Committee favored Clinton during the primary, despite pledging neutrality. DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepped down after leak.
In early October, Trump was criticized after the release of a 2005 tape where the then-presidential candidate made lewd comments about women while on an “Access Hollywood” tour bus with host Billy Bush. The two were caught on a hot microphone discussing in lewd terms how Trump had attempted to “move on” an actress, who later made an appearance in the video.
Trump was also locked in a legal battle surrounding his educational institution, Trump University — with two class-action lawsuits filed by former students, as well as a third lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The suits were settled in late November.
Following the election, President Barack Obama and a bipartisan committee of U.S. Senators called for a CIA investigation into Russia’s influence on the presidential election. The CIA recently concluded with “high confidence” that Russia sought to influence the U.S. election on behalf of Trump, raising red flags among lawmakers concerned about the sanctity of the U.S. voting system and potentially straining relations at the start of Trump’s administration.
The 2016 election was also the first time a female was the presidential nominee of a major party.
In Local News:
Tribeca Crane Collapse
A massive 565-foot crane came crashing down onto Worth Street in Tribeca, killing one person and injuring three others during a windy morning on Feb. 5. The crane was being moved into a secure position when it fell, leaving a path of destruction that stretched across two city blocks. In December, officials determined the collapse was caused by a series of errors made by the crane operator.
The incident prompted new city legislation, banning the use of cranes in high-wind situations.
There were several other crane collapsed through 2016. In November, two workers were killed when a steel beam collapsed on a crane at a construction site in Queens. Two drivers were also injured after a crane came crashing down on the Tappan Zee Bridge in July. No one was killed in this incident.
Queens Jogger Murder
On Aug. 2, Karina Vetrano went for a run alone in a Queens park and never returned home. Later that night, her father found his 30-year-old daughter’s abused and bloodied body in the weeds in Spring Creek Park. Police said she was strangled and possibly sexually assaulted. After months of searching, and rewards offered in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for any information leading to an arrest, the brutal murder continues to grip the city as the year comes to a close without an arrest. Now, the Vetrano family is hoping that DNA evidence will help solve this tragic case.
Trump Tower Climber
All eyes were glued to the skies on Aug. 10 when Stephen Rogata, a Virginia man who wanted to meet Donald Trump, used suction cups to scale the outside of Trump Tower for three hours before being pulled through a removed glass window pane more than 20 stories above the street. Rogata was charged with endangerment and criminal trespassing in connection with the stunt that sparked a social media frenzy and brought traffic to a standstill in Midtown Manhattan.
Two former allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were convicted in the Bridgegate scandal three years after the infamous “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email made headlines across the nation. In November, Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni were found guilty of all counts in the plot to use traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge for political retaliation. They were convicted of scheming with another former Christie ally to punish a Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse Christie’s 2013 re-election. Christie denies wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime, but the case followed him like a dark cloud as he worked with Donald Trump on the presidential campaign trail. Baroni and Kelly are seeking to have their convictions thrown out.
Chelsea Bombing/Jersey Shore Explosion
On Saturday, Sept. 17, hours after a pipe bomb went off in a garbage pail along the route of a Marine Corps charity race in Seaside Park, an explosion in a dumpster by a busy intersection in Chelsea set off a chain of confusion and fear across New York City.
The explosion left 31 injured and was later deemed an intentional act of terror.
A homemade explosive device crafted from a pressure cooker was found in a bag on West 27th Street following the explosion, and a bag containing five pipe bombs was also found in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
After authorities launched a manhunt, suspected bomber Ahmad Khan Rahimi was captured on Sept. 19, when the owner of a bar reported someone asleep in his doorway. A police officer went to investigate and recognized the man as Rahimi, authorities said. Rahimi is accused of trying to kill police officers before they captured him. Officers Angel Padilla and Peter Hammer were injured in the shootout. Padilla was hit in the vest, while Hammer was struck by bullet fragments.
The 28-year-old Afghan-born U.S. citizen was arraigned from his hospital bed and pleaded not guilty to weapons and attempted murder charges. His first in-person court appearance was in late December.
It was just one of many terror attacks worldwide: Terrorists struck in Nice, Istanbul, Brussels and Berlin.
On March 22, 2016 bombings ripped apart the Brussels airport and a subway station near Maelbeek, killing dozens of people less than six months after the deadly attacks in Paris in November 2015. Belgian police detained four men in Brussels raids over the weekend following the attacks. One of them, Mohamed Abrini, was also charged in relation to the 2015 Paris attacks, prosecutors said.
On June 28, 2016, three suicide bombers blew themselves up rocking one of the world’s busiest airports in Istanbul, leaving at least 41 dead and wounding more than 270 others.
France was ravaged by its third attack in two years when a large white truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice on July 14, killing 84 people as it bore down on the crowd for more than a mile along the Riviera city’s famed seaside promenade.
On Dec. 19, at least 12 people were killed and at 48 others injured after a truck plowed into a crowded holiday market in the center of Berlin just days before Christmas. Following the attack, German authorities offered a reward of up to 100,000 euros ($105,000) for the arrest of Anis Amri, 24, a Tunisian man suspected of involvement in the attack.
NJ TRANSIT Hoboken Terminal Crash
On a rainy Thursday morning in September, a NJ TRANSIT train slammed into the bumper going twice the speed limit, barreling through the Lackawanna station in Hoboken, sending debris flying.
Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, was killed in the Sept. 29 crash and 100 people were injured. THE NTSB later determined that the train was traveling 8 mph while it heading towards the station, but sped up to 21 mph — more than twice the 10 mph speed limit — before hitting the bumper and slamming into the station.
The conductor, 48-year-old Thomas Gallagher, said he didn’t remember the crash. About a month later, his attorney said Gallagher suffered from severe sleep apnea that had not been diagnosed at the time of the crash.
Conjoined Twins Make Medical History
In a year of characterized by terror attacks and election anxiety, there was some good news. Jadon and Anias McDonald, now 15 months old, were conjoined twins who were attached at the head. They were separated in a 27-hour procedure at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx in October.
The procedure involved some 40 medical professionals. The procedure was prompted in part due to Anias’ deteriorating health, as he had breathing and vision issues, his mother Nicole McDonald said.
Twins conjoined at the head rarely survive past age two unless they’re separated, and the procedure has only been done 59 times since 1952. After the separation, the twins suffered infections and Anias developed seizures, which were controlled by medication.
Despite the challenges they faced, they were able to breathe on their own, eat and interact with their family and each other. Just nine weeks after they were separated, they were transferred from Montefiore to Bylthdale Children’s Hospital in Westchester for specialized rehabilitation care.
“We are so proud of the strength our boys show us every day as they progress,” Nicole McDonald said. “We knew recovery would take time, but we are all amazed by how well the boys are bouncing back,” said Dr. James Goodrich, who helped lead the surgical team.
AROUND THE WORLD
Brazil: The Spread Of Zika And The 2016 Summer Olympics
Nations across North America turned their attention towards the spread of the Zika virus — a mosquito-borne illness that is linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, in which a newborn’s head is unusually small and the brain may not develop properly.
Zika concerns caused some controversy with the 2016 Summer Olympics, which were held in Rio, Brazil — one of the areas hit hardest by the Zika outbreak. Before the events, some public experts called for the Olympics to be postponed or moved because of the Zika outbreak, warning the influx of visitors to Brazil will result in the avoidable birth of malformed babies.
In January, the first five cases in New York State were documented, with other outbreaks emerging in Miami and other area locations. As of Dec. 2016, 1,172 pregnant women in the states and Washington, D.C. were diagnosed with the virus, with 4,617 cases confirmed across the states in total.
Black Lives Matter Movement/Police-Involved Shootings
Escalating tensions across the country between the black community and police following the deaths of Philando Castile, Keith Lamont Scott, Joseph Mann, Gregory Gunn and locally Akai Gurley and Deborah Danner, among others, led to a series of riots, protests, and calls for reform from politicians and other activists across the nation through 2016.
On July, 11 police officers were shot, and five of them were killed in Dallas during protests against police brutality. The act was condemned by leaders of the Black Lives Matters movement. Several days later, Gavin Eugene Long, a 29-year-old black man from Kansas City, Missouri, opened fire on six police officers, killing three of them.
In August, Wisconsin’s governor put the National Guard on standby in case of another outbreak of violence in Milwaukee, after a deadly police shooting touched off a night of arson and rock-throwing in a mostly black neighborhood.
The emergence of police-involved incidents brought about a call to action for law enforcement officials to be equipped with body cameras. New York State and New Jersey have already taken steps to implement the program.
Shocking Celebrity Deaths
In 2016, we lost some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, but none perhaps more shocking than the untimely death of Prince. On April 21, the 57-year-old pop superstar was found dead inside his Paisley Park mansion in Minnesota. An autopsy later revealed the “purple one” died from a fentanyl overdose. Tributes poured in from all over the world, including a moving tribute from the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem and from the casts of Broadway musicals ‘The Color Purple,’ and ‘Hamilton.’
The world also lost legendary musician David Bowie on January, 10 in NYC, who died after an 18-month battle with cancer. Tributes poured in for Bowie, with politicians, clerics, actors and an astronaut offering their recollections of the late musician.
Pulse Nightclub Shooting
Omar Mateen, wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun, opened fire inside a crowded Orlando LGBT nightclub in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, before being killed in a gunfight with SWAT officers. The attack left at least 50 people dead, making it the worst mass shooting in American history.
Mateen called 911 dispatchers about 20 minutes into the attack, pledging allegiance to ISIS and mentioning the Boston Marathon bombers, officials said. He also allegedly pledged allegiance on Facebook to the leader of the Islamic State group prior to the attack, and, in his final post, warned “in the next few days you will see attacks from the Islamic state in the USA.”
Mateen, 29, was from Port St. Lucie, Florida, but was born in New York to Afghan parents.
The shooting prompted vigils around the world, as international leaders condemned the attack.
In New York City a vigil was held at the historic Stonewall Inn in the West Village. Broadway stars released “Broadway for Orlando,” that saw all proceeds go to the victims of the massacre. Pop singer Christina Aguilera also penned a song in support of the victims.
The incident also sparked a discussion about the accessibility of assault rifles in the United States — an issue first thrust into the spotlight following the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2012.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All! The Pokémon Go Craze
The summer of 2016 saw a decades-old Nintendo hit come to life. After its mobile release on July 6, Pokémon Go players traveled between virtual reality and real life as they walked around the physical world trying to capture, battle and train digital creatures on their smartphones.
In the pursuit to catch ’em all, some players lost weight and others made new friends. But it wasn’t all fun and games. There were robberies, injuries and other incidents that prompted police across the nation — and the world — to warn players to be careful and pay attention.
It’s been a hard year for Anthony Weiner, who became infamous after resigning from Congress in 2011 due to a sexting scandal. “Weiner,” a documentary about his disastrous 2013 mayoral comeback attempt, debuted in May and thrust him back in the spotlight.
In August, reports of further sexting behavior appeared, including photos of Weiner in his underwear with his young son by his side. The new scandal prompted his wife Huma Abedin to announce their separation and Weiner to delete his Twitter account.
In September, the NYPD and other authorities opened an investigation after a 15-year-old girl claimed in a published report that Weiner sent her sexually explicit messages, even though she made it clear she was underage.
Weiner was once again in the spotlight toward the end of the presidential election: The FBI reviewed Hillary Clinton emails they recovered from Huma Abedin’s computer because of their investigation into Weiner.
And finally in December, Weiner was slapped with nearly $65,000 in fines by the New York City Campaign Finance Board for violations made during his 2013 mayoral bid.
Cuba: Death of Fidel Castro, Obama Visit, Travel From US
Cuba had a lot of firsts and one notable last. In March, President Barack Obama made a historic visit to Havana, becoming the first US president in office to visit the Caribbean island since Calvin Coolidge did so in 1928.
The Obama Administration also lifted limits on cargo ship travel between the U.S. and Cuba and eased U.S. and Cuban researchers’ ability to conduct joint medical research. The measures were contained in a package of relatively small-scale regulatory changes meant to ease U.S. trade with Cuba.
In November, JetBlue’s first scheduled commercial flight from New York to Havana in more than 50 years took off from John F. Kennedy Airport on Nov. 28 — three days after the death of Fidel Castro.
On November 25, Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro died at age 90. Castro’s reign over the island-nation 90 miles from Florida was marked by the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling U.S. trade embargo as well as dozens — possibly hundreds — of assassination plots, died 10 years after ill health forced him to hand power over to his brother Raul.
Within half an hour of the Cuban government’s announcement of his death, cheers were heard in Miami’s Little Havana. Thousands of people banged pots, waved Cuban flags and whooped in jubilation. “Cuba si! Castro no!” they chanted, while others screamed “Cuba libre!” In Cuba, a nine-day period of mourning was put into place, leading up to the leader’s funeral.
The dead number in the hundreds of thousands and the displaced number in the millions since the battle for Syria’s largest city began in 2012. Civilians under attack after a short-lived cease fire took to social media to describe the horrors of their war-torn city and some to say their final goodbyes.
A new diplomatic push at the United Nations in December aimed at getting the civilians and rebels out of eastern Aleppo as well as bringing international monitors into the area in an effort to avoid “mass atrocities” in that and other besieged areas.
In December, New Yorkers gathered outside of the Russian Mission in Manhattan to protest the condemnation of “genocidal attacks from the regime and its allies, Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah.”
Whether to accept Syrian refugees into the Unites States became a key battle point in the presidential election and a hot button issue in New Jersey, which took in more refugees this year than in years prior. Gov. Chris Christie has reiterated his opposition to accepting refugees.
In perhaps one of the most shocking celebrity breakups of the year, Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from actor Brad Pitt in September. Though together for 12 years, the couple wed in 2014. They have six children together: Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, and twins Knox and Vivienne.
Jolie sought full physical custody of the children and a child abuse investigation into Pitt ensued after an alleged incident took place between Pitt and the couple’s 15-year-old son took place on a private plane in September — the day before Jolie filed for divorce. Pitt was later cleared by the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services.