Terror, Trump, a Giraffe: A Look Back at the Top 20 Local News Stories of 2017

A look back at some of the most compelling tri-state news events and photos from 2017.

21 photos
1/21
NBC 4 New York/AP/Getty
2/21
AP

The state of the region’s transit infrastructure was brought front and center following a string of major incidents involving subway and commuter trains. An Amtrak train derailed at Penn Station in March, then, less than two weeks later, a NJ Transit train derailed at the station after hitting a piece of wood. In the coming months, stalled trains, failing rail signals, track problems and power outages would lead to massive delays and service issues; a report on LIRR delays found they were the worst in 10 years. Desperate straphangers tried to break out of a sweltering, powerless subway car in early June. Weeks later, dozens of people were hurt when an A train derailed in Harlem. The next day, Gov. Cuomo declared an MTA state of emergency. Two weeks later, Amtrak began a two-month-long overhaul of the tracks below Penn Station, an effort Cuomo famously predicted would be a “summer of hell” for displaced commuters. The overhaul wasn’t as bad as predicted, but led to widespread service changes for hundreds of thousands of people.

3/21
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Opioid related deaths have been rapidly climbing in the tri-state and across the nation, prompting President Trump to declare a public health emergency. About 64,000 people died from overdoses in 2016 in the U.S. In New York City alone that year, 1,075 people died of overdoses from opioids. Officials blamed the surge in deaths on potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl that are much stronger than heroin alone and which drug traffickers are increasingly producing in clandestine labs. There have been a number of big synthetics busts across the tri-state in recent months, including one sting that netted enough fentanyl to kill 32 million people. The I-Team and Telemundo 47 Investiga looked at the devastating impact of the epidemic on tri-state families.

4/21
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A 29-year-old Paterson man was accused of mowing people down on a riverfront bike path near the World Trade Center on Halloween, killing eight people and injuring a dozen others in the deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since Sept. 11, 2001. Authorities said Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov made statements after his arrest about his allegiance to the Islamic State group, which later took credit for the attack. Among those killed were five Argentinian friends, a Belgian mother, a New Jersey project manager and a New York software developer. Saipov pleaded not guilty when he was charged in a Manhattan federal court in November. He faces federal terrorism charges that could qualify him for the death penalty.

5/21
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Protests against President Trump and his policies were widespread throughout the year. The first major one was in February, when thousands protested at Kennedy Airport and Battery Park after the president announced a travel ban. Dozens were arrested in protests across the Brooklyn Bridge and at Trump Tower after the administration announced it was ending the DACA program. Perhaps the largest rally was the Women’s March in January, which saw some 400,000 people turn out. Thousands also protested about: Planned Parenthood; President’s Day; LGBTQ rights; a U.S. airstrike in Syria; immigrant rights; Trump’s tax returns; climate change; Jerusalem; and the treatment of women. In one protest, bodega owners shut their stores and immigrants walked off the job for “A Day Without Immigrants.” Statues, monuments and streets honoring controversial figures like Confederate generals and Christopher Columbus were the target of a number of protests in the wake of deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. De Blasio appointed a commission to review the statues and monuments.

6/21
AP

A 26-year-old Bronx man was accused of intentionally mowing down pedestrians on a Times Square sidewalk, killing one and injuring 22 others in a rampage on May 18. Richard Rojas allegedly made a U-turn on Seventh Avenue at 42nd Street and started speeding down the sidewalk for about three-and-a-half blocks, mowing down pedestrians before crashing into a traffic pole. After his arrest he told investigators that he was high on PCP and wanted to “kill them all,” authorities say. The crash killed an 18-year-old woman visiting from Michigan and led to calls to further restrict cars from the Crossroads of the World.

7/21
Drew Angerer/Getty Images, File

A Bangladeshi immigrant from Brooklyn was accused of detonating a pipe bomb strapped to his body in a pedestrian tunnel linking two busy subway stations near Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Prosecutors say 27-year-old Akayed Ullah was on a mission to punish the U.S. for attacking the Islamic State group and that he planned the Dec. 11 bombing for several weeks. Ullah had apparently hoped to die, taking as many innocent people as he could with him, prosecutors said. In the end, he was the only person injured. Such an attack was long-feared by New Yorkers and renewed focus was put on how to best secure the city’s vast public transit system. In October, 29-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahimi was convicted of planting two pressure-cooker bombs on New York City streets in September 2016. One of the bombs injured dozens of people when it went off on a Chelsea street. Rahimi faces life in prison. 

8/21
AP

Life in the leafy Long Island suburbs was shaken by violence by the MS-13 gang, brutal attacks that officials say have left more than 25 people dead since 2016. Many of the victims were teenaged Latinos targeted by MS-13 members hoping to increase their stature in the gang through executions. The victims’ mutilated bodies were found in forested areas and fields. Authorities said this fall that more than a dozen people were missing. The violence attracted the attention of federal authorities. Both President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Long Island with promises to help law enforcement stem the violence, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a “blitz attack” on the gang. Local authorities say they’ve arrested hundreds of MS-13 members and their associates; dozens of them have been charged federal crimes or face deportation.

9/21
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Matt Lauer, a morning news mainstay for more than two decades, was terminated from NBC News after a colleague reported inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace, co-anchor Savannah Guthrie announced as an episode of “Today” opened in late November. Lauer said he was "truly sorry" in a statement a day later. Lauer’s swift downfall was one of many in the latter half of the year sparked by allegations of sexual misconduct. Powerful men in news, entertainment, politics and elsewhere resigned or were disciplined as hundreds of men and women shared their stories of harassment and assault as part of a #MeToo movement. The Metropolitan Opera suspended legendary classical music conductor James Levine amid allegations. Days after Lauer was terminated, “Today” revealed Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2017 to be the “silence breakers” who came forward.

10/21
AP

Tri-state residents stepped up to support Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island nation, leaving millions without water, power and other essentials. New York, which is home to the U.S. mainland’s biggest Puerto Rican community, committed hundreds of workers and organized aid ranging from rescue helicopters to field rations. Gov. Cuomo announced a recovery effort and said the state would send 1,000 water filters. The outreach was immense: Thousands of Puerto Ricans were airlifted to New York; hundreds of utility workers and rescuers went down to help; NYU said it would take in dozens of students; and hundreds of homeless dogs and cats were transported for adoption. Celebrities also stepped up: Jennifer Lopez pledged $1 million; the Black Eyed Peas and other musicians encouraged their fans to donate; and New Yorker Lin-Manuel Miranda became one of the most outspoken voices of the recovery effort.

11/21
NBC New York

An NYPD officer and 48-year-old mother of three was shot and killed by a man as she sat in a police command vehicle in the Bronx on the morning of July 5. Miosotis Familia was the first female NYPD officer to die in the line of duty since 9/11. Police say she was shot by 34-year-old Alexander Bonds, who was killed by police a short time later. NYPD Chief Robert Boyce blamed Bonds’ “hatred of police” for the death of Familia. Bonds had apparently decried the mistreatment of people by police on social media. Police said he was taken for psychiatric treatment days before the shooting. The NYPD said it planned to retrofit NYPD command vehicles and buses with ballistic glass in the wake of Familia’s death.

12/21
NBC New York

A 14-year EMS veteran and mother of five was killed after a man ran her over with her stolen ambulance on the evening of March 16. The suspect – 25-year-old Jose Gonzalez – had been riding on the back of 44-year-old Yadira Arroyo’s ambulance, authorities say, and when she pulled over and got out to confront him, he hopped in the driver’s seat and backed over her before crashing the ambulance moments later. Gonzalez pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges. He was seen smirking in the courtroom and questions about his physical and mental health have been raised. Toxicology tests revealed PCP and marijuana in his system.

13/21
AP

A doctor wielding an assault rifle stormed Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center Friday, gunning down at least seven people before taking his own life on the afternoon of June 30. Authorities say Dr. Henry Michael Bello, a 45-year-old family medicine doctor formerly employed at the hospital, was wearing a white lab coat as he shot doctors, residents and medical students on the 16th and 17th floor of the building. One doctor, Tracy Sin-Yee Tam, died. Bello was looking to kill the doctor he blamed for forcing him to resign amid sexual harassment allegations two years earlier, but Tam was there instead. Bello was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound with an AR-15 nearby. Witnesses described a horrific scene; one patient said he saw a doctor covered in blood crying, “Why? Why? Why?”

14/21
NBC New York

Despite a surging number of cases of Lyme disease (tens of thousands of people were diagnosed with the disease just this summer) there’s bitter disagreement in the medical community over who actually has the disease – and how to treat it. Amid warring medical opinions and funding controversy, the I-Team investigated why the medical and government response to this public health crisis is still in disarray -- as patients pay the price. People afflicted with the devastating disease spoke out about their experiences, including a woman who takes more than 70 pills a day and a teen girl overtaken by sudden, crippling anxiety.

15/21
NBC New York

NBC 4 New York senior correspondent Gabe Pressman, a New York icon and pioneering reporter whose local broadcast career spanned more than six decades, died on June 23 at the age of 93. Credited with being the first television reporter in New York and inventing the craft of man on the street reporting, Pressman called NBC 4 New York home for more than half a century. New Yorkers embraced Pressman over his 60-plus years on television, and the public outpouring of memories and condolences was immediate and heartfelt. Mayor de Blasio tweeted condolences, calling Pressman "a New York City treasure" who mentored "countless reporters." A prolific reporter, Pressman won many major awards throughout his career, including 11 Emmy Awards, and met some of the 20th century’s biggest names, including Elvis, Fidel Castro, Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles and Martin Luther King Jr.

16/21
TELENOTICIAS

Almost four decades after first-grader Etan Patz set out for school and ended up at the heart of one of America's most influential missing-child cases, a former store clerk convicted of killing him was sentenced in April to at least 25 years in prison. Pedro Hernandez’s sentencing was the culmination of a long quest to hold someone criminally accountable in the 6-year-old’s death. He was found guilty of second-degree murder in February. A key issue during deliberations was the 2012 surprise confession Hernandez made as federal agents digging up a New York City basement in search of the boy's remains thrust the case back into the national spotlight, jurors said. Hernandez was a teenager working at a convenience shop in Patz's Manhattan neighborhood when the boy vanished in 1979. Hernandez’s lawyers say he’s mentally ill and that his confession was false. They have vowed to appeal his conviction. Patz's remains have never been found.

17/21
NBC New York

A Bronx high schooler who told reporters he'd been picked on stabbed and killed one of his classmates and wounded another during a class on Sept. 27, police said. Abel Cedeno, 18, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and other charges in the stabbing that left Matthew McCree, 15, dead and Ariane Laboy, 16, critically injured. Authorities say Cedeno walked into a third-period history class at Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation and stabbed the two with a switchblade as other students watched in horror. In the wake of the stabbing, officials rolled out a series of initiatives to fight what they called an epidemic of bullying. It was the first homicide on New York City school grounds since 2014, when a fight between two 14-year-old boys ended with one stabbed to death in the Bronx. The last time someone was killed inside a school was at least 20 years ago.

18/21
Getty Images

The federal bribery trial of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez ended in a mistrial in November when the jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked on all charges against the New Jersey politician and a wealthy donor. Prosecutors haven’t said whether they plan to retry the lawmaker. The inconclusive end to the 2½-month trial could leave the charges hanging over Menendez as he gears up for an expected run for re-election next year to the Senate, where the Republicans hold a slim edge and the Democrats need every vote they can get. Menendez, 63, was accused of using his political influence to help Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen in exchange for luxury vacations, rides on a private jet, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. The defense argued the gifts were not bribes but tokens of friendship between two close friends. Menendez blasted investigators for bringing the case against him in the first place and is seeking to have the charges dismissed.

19/21
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A former political blogger and high school classmate of Gov. Chris Christie's who masterminded the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closing scheme in a misguided political vendetta was sentenced in July to three years of probation, the likely final act in a scandal that swallowed Christie's presidential hopes and contributed to his political decline. David Wildstein’s testimony helped convict former Christie staffer Bridget Kelly and Wildstein's former supervisor, ex-Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni. The three were charged with closing access lanes to the bridge, among the busiest in the world, during a week in September 2013 to cause massive gridlock in Fort Lee, whose Democratic mayor had declined to endorse the Republican governor's re-election. In March, Kelly and Baroni were sentenced to 18 months and two years in prison, respectively. Christie was not charged with any wrongdoing in the federal case.

20/21
NBC New York

A giraffe at an Upstate zoo became a worldwide sensation after a live stream of her pregnancy went viral and earned her millions of fans. April teased her millions of global adorers for weeks, showing signs of near-but-not-quite labor and otherwise enchanting her audience with cute right-at-the-camera gazes and nuzzling with her much younger but handsome 5-year-old beau, Oliver. April's pregnancy was vaulted into global headlines in late February after YouTube briefly yanked the Animal Adventure Park’s live stream following complaints by animal activists that it violated the site's policies concerning "nudity and sexual content." Thousands upon thousands of commenters voiced their frustration on Facebook and YouTube, and the stream was restored within an hour or so. After months of waiting, April gave birth to a baby boy on April 15 in Harpursville, New York as 1.2 million people watched online. The calf was named Tajiri, Swahili for “hope.”

21/21
NBC New York

A giraffe at an Upstate zoo became a worldwide sensation after a live stream of her pregnancy went viral and earned her millions of fans. April teased her millions of global adorers for weeks, showing signs of near-but-not-quite labor and otherwise enchanting her audience with cute right-at-the-camera gazes and nuzzling with her much younger but handsome 5-year-old beau, Oliver. April's pregnancy was vaulted into global headlines in late February after YouTube briefly yanked the Animal Adventure Park’s live stream following complaints by animal activists that it violated the site's policies concerning "nudity and sexual content." Thousands upon thousands of commenters voiced their frustration on Facebook and YouTube, and the stream was restored within an hour or so. After months of waiting, April gave birth to a baby boy on April 15 in Harpursville, New York as 1.2 million people watched online. The calf was named Tajiri, Swahili for “hope.”

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