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On January 15, a US Airways Flight 1549 lost power and splash landed safely in the Hudson River. With no major injuries, pilot Chesley Sullenberger was hailed as a hero as it turned out that a bird strike of Canada geeseâleading the city to kill off geese near airports.
With Hillary Clinton on track to be Secretary of State, the ball was in Governor Paterson's court to appoint a new junior Senator. Carolina Kennedy appeared to be the frontrunner, but then dropped out of the race leading to Paterson's staff to spin the story and even spread rumors.
President Obama was inaugurated and the nation swooned. And when Obama and First Lady Michelle headed to NYC for a date night at Blue Hill and a Broadway show in May, the city went into a frenzy.Obama's new history making status as the first black president has created some controversies. One unfortunate idea, though, was the "Drunken Negro Face" cookie. And when Post cartoonist Sean Delnoas decided to mix President Obama's stimulus package with the killing of a chimp that had mauled a Connecticut woman, it caused upset many and News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch even apologized.
Governor Paterson ended up appointing Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, a "blue dog Democrat," to take Clinton's Senate seat. While her upstate appeal pleased some, others were unhappy about her gun control stance. Some Democrats discussed running against her next year, but the White House has warned against doing so. And now the Republicans need to find a challengerâRudy Giuliani dropped out after considering a Senate run for a little while.
The long-running mystery of the maple syrup smellâpast smellings include October 2005, March 2006, November 2006, November 2007, May 2008, January 5, 2009 and January 30âwas solved when Mayor Bloomberg (!) held a press conference to announce that the smell was from... New Jersey...a food additives plant. The Office of Emergency Management even made this snazzy smell map.
Thanks to its huge deficit (and less funding from the state and city), the MTA threatened and approved a 25% fare hike and service cuts early in the year. The State Legislature managed to agree on a bailout, which included a 10% fare hike and taxi surcharge, in May. But then this month, the MTA approved more doomsday service cuts because of more shortfalls.
On a sunny April day, New Yorkers and a fair amount of people in NJ were alarmed when a large plane flew towards Lower Manhattan. It turned out it was one of the Boeing 747s that act as Air Force Oneâapparently the White House wanted to update its photograph of the plane over NYC! It was, of course, a terribleidea (a really bad one and the White House staffer who okayed the mission was fired. And the photos are just okay.
In April Governor Paterson announced that he would propose gay marriage legislation this year, which he did. Of course, it got stalled by the State Senate until December, where it wasvoted down.
After stunning the world by admitting his successful investment firm was actually a $60+ billion Ponzi scheme, Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty to eleven criminal charges on March 12. In June, he was sentenced to 150 years in prison. The U.S. Marshals put his Upper East Side penthouse and Montauk beach home, as well as a Palm Beach estate, on the market to raise money for victimsâeven his Mets jacket and watches were auctioned off. His wife Ruth Madoff has to take the subway now and his sons, brother and niece are being sued for $199 million ill-gotten gains
The economy was more stable this year, but things weren't entirely rosyâand that's why populist rage towards big banks and other companies bailed out by the government still simmered. Protesters toured the homes of AIG employees who received huge bonusesâAIG even took its name off a Manhattan building, to sidestep the angryâwhich totaled close to $500 billion. And even though the government asked for the money back, some executives just quit and kept the cash.In the meantime, Merrill Lynch had extravagant bonuses ($3.6 billion worth!) which Bank of America accelerated to pay, to the disgust of many. And Goldman Sach announced better than ever profit as its top execs defended its riches in $16.7 billion bonuses rather unsuccessfully.
After years of planning, The High Line, the park on the old elevated railroad above the Meatpacking District, finally opened, giving New Yorkers a new oasis to explore and enjoy.
With the resignation of Cardinal Edward Egan, the Vatican appointed Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan to head the New York Archdiocese. Dolan was welcomed in an elaborate ritual and is now blogging
Off-duty police officer Omar Edwards, who was chasing a man breaking into his car in Harlem, was fatally shot by a fellow cop on May 28. The incident raised questions about whether Edwards was shot because he was black (Rep. Rangel said President Obama shouldn't run around Harlem unidentified). No criminal charges were filed.
Michael Jackson's sudden death shocked the country. In New York, where he and his brothers made a splash at the Apollo Theater, people mourned his death in a number of tributes. The Reverend Al Sharpton told the pop icon's kids there's "nothing strange about your daddy" and defended his legacy.
The State Senate was thrown into disarray when two Democrats, Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada Jr., joined the Republicans to seize control. Helped by billionaire Tom Golisano, the confusion basically stalled the government for weeks. Monserrate went back to the Democrats but Espada held tight until he became Senate Majority Leader for the Democrats.
Many of the American swine flu cases that were diagnosed at the beginning of the pandemic were in New York City, where the hardest hit seemed to be those attending and working in schools, leading to the city to close certain schools. Vice President Joe Biden said to avoid planes and trains but Mayor Bloomberg said taking the subway was okay (just practice good hygiene!). There were fatalities, discussion of underlying conditions and, most recently, weekend clinics to get free vaccines.
NYC authorities always consider the to be a top terrorist target, and there were foiled plots: In May, four men were stopped before allegedly trying to blow up Bronx synagogues and attack a base, and in September, a former NYC resident who moved to Denver was accused of plotting a subway bomb attack. Criticism mounted when President Obama announced that Guantanamo Bay prisoners-9/11 plotters, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would be tried in federal court in Manhattan. And then there was the non-terror but totally stupid incident of a high school student setting off a crude bomb outside an Upper East Side Starbucks.
Mourners made the pilgrimage to Ground Zero for the eighth year in a row to pay their respects to victims killed in the September 11 attacks. Development-wise, progress was steady in its slowness (the last column did make it back) and a makeshift preview site was created across the street. But there was talk of scrapping some of the towers amid squabbling over money and timelines. But, hey, Freedom Tower is now officially 1 World Trade Center and there's a Subway sandwich shop on site for construction crews.
Three things that happened to Mayor Bloomberg this year: Got bit by groundhog, got annoyed enough to call a reporter a disgrace, and spent over $100 million on his ultimately successful (but by a smaller than expected margin) mayoral run.
Nine people, three in a private plane and six on a tour helicopter, were killed over the Hudson River when the two aircraft crashed. It turned out that air traffic controller at Teterboro was distracted (joking about a dead cat) and the incident prompted changes to Hudson River airspace rules.
Student uprisings from the local colleges were in vogue: NYU students occupied the student center, New School students repeatedly protested their school and the cops.
A Harlem shop owner fired upon four men who were trying to rob his store. Charles Augusto, 72, was upset about needing to use his old shotgun and said, "I haven't done anything wrong. I'm sitting here minding my own business and they come in with guns...I don't feel like a hero. I would have felt like a hero if I could have talked that kid into going home." The police said Augusto had a right to defend himself and no charges were filed.
Governor Paterson had a bad year: From things in his controlâlike his misplayed Senate appointmentâ to things out of his controlâlike the state's hurting economyâthe "accidental" governor's approval ratings plummeted as Attorney General Andrew Cuomo looked like a more viable 2010 Democratic candidate for governor. Paterson claimed that the White House told him not to run next year, only to deny it. Other things of note: He appointed a lieutenant governor and he was parodied by Saturday Night Live again.
Sonia Sotomayor, a Bronx native, was nominated by President Obama to the Supreme Court, noting her compelling story and bringing pride to the city. In spite of her "Wise Latina" remark (and being branded a reverse racist, Sotomayor was confirmed and became the third female and first Hispanic justice.
The Department of Health continued to warn about New Yorkers their diets, notably with ads equating soda to liquid fat (there's video too!), and other vices, like the disturbing smoking ads and graphic anti-smoking signs.
A stunning take down of politicians occurred across the river, when the feds charged dozens of people in a major corruption scheme in NJ.
Libyan leader Moammer Gadhafi roared back into the New York frame of mind when two things happened: First, Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was released from Scottish prison on compassionate grounds. With many of the victims from NY and NJ, there was a chorus of unhappiness over the decisionâand the apparent hero's welcome al-Megrahi received in Tripoli.Then Gadhafi made his way to speak at the United Nations General Assembly for the first time in September. Not only was his couldn't take it, he caused a hubbub in NJ and NY over where to place his elaborate Bedouin tent!
While gun violence is nothing new in the cityâjust last month, a Times Square peddler who allegedly aimed his MAC 10 (but it jammed) was killed by a copâ there were also a series of disturbing incidents where people were hit by stray bullets. A Little Leaguer miraculously survived being hit in the head by a stray bullet (he was struck before a game). A Bronx mom was fatally caught in the crossfire while heading to a laundermat a Bronx grandmother died after a bullet entered her living room. A Bronx high school student was shot in the head, allegedly by a 16-year-old because he was handed the gun by his older friends who already had records. Then a Harlem grandmother, carrying groceries to a sick friend, was hit.And in a coda to accidentally shooting himself with his own gun last year, former Giants star Plaxico Burress decided to plead guilty to criminal possession of a weapon and serve two years in prison. He said the midtown club knew he had a gun but admitted, "Like I said, I got myself into a situation and, you know, I gotta deal with the consequences for it."
Big real estate projects got green lights, red lights, and bad news. The long-gestating Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn appeared to shake off its many lawsuits when the NY State Court of Appeals allowed the use of eminent domain to seize land in downtown Brooklyn. However, a state court found that Columbia University's use of eminent domain for its sprawling Manhattanville project was unconstitutional and even laughable. And a court found that Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, which developer Tishman Speyer bought for $5.4 billion in 2006, had its rents illegally raised while Tishman received tax breaks; now there's talk that Tishman may default on the property.
Pitched battles were fought for street space this year. Though the DOT reached its goal of adding 200 more miles of bike lanes, bicyclists have been upset at motorists who block the lanes with impunity. Clowns rallied to liberate the bike lanes from vehicular oppression, while in Williamsburg, the Kent and Bedford Avenue bike lanes sparked an inferno of controversy. Some in the predominantly Hasidic South Williamsburg neighborhood succeeded in pressuring the city to remove part of the Bedford bike lane, prompting direct action protests, and a topless bike ride that wasn't. Someday this bike lane war's gonna end, but with more cyclists than ever commuting by bike (and finally being allowed to bring their wheels inside offices), we expect it to rage on in 2010.
Alleged drunk driving became a hot topic after a suburban NY mom drove the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway, killing herself, daughter, three nieces and three men in another carâwhile allegedly drunk and high. Her husband denied his wife was an alcoholic or used drugs. NYC recently streamlined its DWI testing practices after a series of high-profile incidents where suspected drunk drivers refused to submit to testsâsuch as an off-duty cop who fatally struck a woman in Brooklyn and a off-duty detective who fatally struck a woman in the Bronx.
High society went to court when Anthony Marshall, the only son of late philanthropist Brooke Astor, was tried on numerous charges related to accusations that he stole from his mother's fortune. The case emerged when Marshall's son claimed his father was mishandling Astor's care in 2006, and after a months-long trial this year, Marshall was found guilty of grand larceny.
There were too many stories about animal cruelty and abuse, but one incident that struck a tragic note was that of Oreo, a young pit bull mix. She was allegedly thrown off a six-story Brooklyn building by her owner. Her legs were shattered and the ASPCA, which charged the owner, worked to rehabilitate herâuntil announcing three months later that she would be euthanized because she was deemed impossible to control. The ASPCA was blamed and defended as a law was proposed to allow rescue groups help save aggressive animals from euthanasia.
And let us not forget some of the other stories that sparked enriching, erudite discussions amongst Gothamist commenters. Though they may not have been big news compared to landing a plane in the frickin' Hudson, sometimes it's the little things that count, like a rat getting stuck in the sidewalk. Or video of a bike thief getting beaten up. Or the Sad Panda. And what about the Brazlian ad agency which pitched a tasteless 9/11 ad campaign? And that one time worshipers at a mosque across the street from The Breslin tried to get the bar relocated, only to have co-owner Ken Friedman tell them, "This is the United States of America and weâll do whatever the fuck we want." That's rightâand that's why we're enjoying our shark fin soup in a red, white, and blue bowl while dreaming of more mammatus clouds!