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Top 21 Long Island News Stories of 2021

Man flips a block changing 2021 to 2022. New year beginning. Holidays and Christmas. Trends and changes in the World. Build plans and goals. New normal. Summing work done.
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LI ROLE IN CAPITOL RIOT

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A mob of supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump fight with members of law enforcement at a door they broke open as they storm the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., Jan. 6, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo/File Photo

At least four people with Long Island ties have been accused of participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol that left five dead, including a police officer, while storming the building while Congress was voting to certify President Joe Biden’s electoral college win over former President Donald Trump.

LI DUO ACCUSED OF HELPING EPSTEIN

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L: U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019. New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout via REUTERS. R: FILE PHOTO: Little St. James Island, one of the properties of financier Jeffrey Epstein, is seen in an aerial view near Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands July 21, 2019. REUTERS/Marco Bello

Two Long Islanders who are the executors of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s $634 million estate used a New York-based immigration attorney while forcing marriages on some of the late financier’s alleged international sex trafficking ring victims, federal authorities alleged in February, calling the duo “indispensable captains” in the criminal enterprise.

RECREATIONAL POT LEGALIZED

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An employee holds a jar of marijuana on sale at the Greenstone Provisions after it became legal in the state to sell recreational marijuana to customers over 21 years old in Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S., December 3, 2019. Picture taken December 3, 2019. REUTERS/Matthew Hatcher

State lawmakers legalized in March the growing, consuming, and possession of recreational marijuana possession, but gave towns, villages, and cities until New Year’s Eve to opt out of allowing sales. More than 80% of Long Island localities opted out of allowing pot shops or cannabis cafes in their communities.

SINGAS TAPPED FOR NY’S TOP COURT

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Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

In May, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo nominated then-Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas to fill a vacancy on the New York State Court of Appeals. The state Senate confirmed her appointment in June.

LANDMARK OPIOID TRIAL opioid epidemic

June marked the start of a five-month-long trial in which Nassau and Suffolk counties and New York Attorney General Letitia James sued drug manufacturers, marking the first time governments’ claims over the nationwide opioid crisis have gone before a jury. Most defendants settled except Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which a jury found liable.

WANTAGH OLYMPIAN BRINGS HOME SILVER

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Jul 28, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Andrew Capobianco and Michael Hixon (USA) pose with their silver medals after the men’s 3m springboard synchronized diving competition during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Grace Hollars-USA TODAY Sports

A diver from Wantagh earned a silver medal in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics’ men’s 3-meter synchronized springboard event in July. Andrew Capobianco, 21, and his diving partner Michael Hixon, 27, placed second for Team USA behind China’s gold medalists Wang Zongyuan and Xie Siyi.

BARNEY THE BULL

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Barney the Bull is headed to a farm in New Jersey to live out his days. Courtesy Suffolk SPCA.

Also in July, Barney the Bull captured Long Island’s attention when it was on the loose in the eastern Suffolk for two months before being captured in September.

CORRUPTION GONE WILD

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File Photo: Ex-Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota

This year proved to be a banner year for public officials being arrested, convicted, sentenced, or censured for wrongdoing. Various Nassau and Suffolk police officers and NYPD cops from LI faced charges for dealing drugs, kickback schemes, and trying to hire a hitman. Numerous village court justices were sanctioned by the state for various misdeeds. And a former deputy Nassau executive and the ex-Suffolk DA were sentenced to federal prison, along with the latter’s former corruption bureau chief.

IDA FLOODS

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Cars navigate a flooded highway, as local media reported the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida bringing drenching rain and the threat of flash floods and tornadoes to parts of the northern mid-Atlantic, in the Queens borough of New York City, U.S., September 2, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Tropical Depression Ida, the overnight storm that produced record inches of rainfall in parts of the North Shore, where about three inches of rain fell in a one-hour timeframe — and five inches total — in September.

CUOMO SCANDAL

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A farewell speech by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is broadcast live on a screen in Times Square on his final day in office in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Multiple LI ties emerged from the biggest story of the year in New York State: Disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigning in September after being accused of sexually harassing 11 women. The former governor’s self-imposed exile from Albany has reportedly been spent living with a friend in the Hamptons. In addition, CNN fired his brother, former Cuomo Prime Time host and Southampton resident Chris Cuomo, after the State Attorney General’s office revealed documentation showing the broadcaster used his sources to help his brother counter news coverage of the scandal. The ex-governor is facing a charge in Albany court stemming from one accuser, but Nassau County prosecutors declined to press charges from another.

GABBY PETITO TRAGEDY

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Gabby Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. (YouTube)

Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old Blue Point native, set out on a cross-country trip with her fiance this summer, documenting the journey in what she called the start of their nomadic “van life” together — but was later found dead in Wyoming after her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, returned home to Florida without her. Petito’s death was ruled a homicide, Laundrie later died by suicide, and Gabby’s family launched a nonprofit in Gabby’s name to help families of other missing persons.

HEALTHCARE VAX MANDATE FIRINGS

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A healthcare clinician prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for Covid-19 for a commuter during the opening of MTA’s public vaccination program at the 179th Street subway station in the Queens borough of New York City, New York, U.S., May 12, 2021. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Northwell Health terminated 1,400 staffers for failing to get the Covid-19 vaccine by the state-mandated deadline of Sept. 27, the state’s largest medical group confirmed. The terminations make up nearly 2% of the New Hyde Park-based nonprofit’s work force, which now stands at 76,000 employees across 23 hospitals across Long Island, New York City and Westchester. Few other LI hospitals disclosed how many they terminated.

ALEC BALDWIN SHOOTING

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Actor Alec Baldwin leaves court in the Manhattan, January 23, 2019. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Actor Alec Baldwin, a Massapequa native, fired a prop gun on a movie set in New Mexico in October, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza, authorities said. The incident occurred on the set of independent feature film Rust, and triggered a drive in Hollywood to stop using real guns on movie sets.

FETTY WAP DRUG RING BUST

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Fetty Wap (L) performs with Fall Out Boy during the second night of the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Three Long Island men were among six suspects, including Grammy-nominated rapper Fetty Wap and a New Jersey corrections officer, arrested for allegedly trafficking more than 100 kilos of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and crack cocaine across Long Island and New Jersey, federal prosecutors said in October.

RED WAVE BRINGS POLITICAL SEA CHANGE

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Bruce Blakeman declares victory in the race for Nassau County Executive on Nov. 2, 2021. (Photo by Bruce Adler)

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini— both first-term Democrats — vacated office on Dec. 31 to Republicans Bruce Blakeman and Ray Tierney, respectively following election defeats. Republican Anne Donnelly, a longtime county prosecutor, won the open race for Nassau District Attorney over State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). Adding to the drubbing was the fact that Republicans also flipped control of the Suffolk Legislature from Democratic hands for the first time in 16 years.

UBS ARENA DEBUTS

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UBS Arena (Photo courtesy of the New York Islanders)

UBS Arena’s doors open to the NHL on Nov. 20, giving fans a first glimpse at the 18,000-seat, $1.1 billion venue that is strictly dedicated to the Islanders — something the franchise has not experienced since the opening of Nassau Coliseum 50 years ago.

UNPRECEDENTED TORNADOES 

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Some Levittown residents’ homes were damages in the tornado. (Courtesy Laura Stone Cody via Facebook)

Six tornadoes touched down on Long Island on Nov. 13, the most ever recorded in one day, according to the National Weather Service. Tornadoes left a trail of destruction in North Bellport, from Hampton Bays to North Sea, from Woodmere to Levittown, East Islip to Oakdale, Shirley to Manorville, and Remsenburg to Westhampton. The most powerful was the Manorville tornado, which was confirmed as an EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale that ranks tornado strength, with 110 mph winds, while the other five were ranked as an EF0, the weakest on the scale, with estimated 85 mph winds each.

FIMP FINALLY UNDERWAY

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A dredge crew pumps sand onto a Fire Island Beach in 2013.

Workers finally started this month a long-stalled $1.7 billion federal project to mitigate storm damage from the South Fork to Fire Island, more than a half century after the idea was proposed. Officials recently applauded the start of the Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point Project, known as FIMP for short, as crews prepared for the arrival of a dredge ship that will pump sand from the bottom of the ocean onto nearby beaches in the first of 11 contracts in the plan, which will also raise up to 4,400 structures.

NEW SCPD COMMISH

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Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison reviews a crime scene on Ocean Parkway on Dc. 31, 2021. (SCPD photo)

Suffolk County lawmakers confirmed Dec. 21 that retiring NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison will be the first Black commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department. One of his first acts was to pledge to bring a fresh set of eyes to the unsolved Gilgo Beach serial murder case.

COVID-19 RESURGENCE

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A man is tested for Covid-19 at a mobile testing unit, as pedestrians make their way in the sidewalk during the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 8, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Long Island, New York State, the nation and the world are once again seeing record numbers of coronavirus cases diagnosed each day as the pandemic regains steam with the new omicron variant, winter weather in which the virus thrives, and intimate holiday gatherings that help it spread. At least this time around, much of the population is vaccinated, so the hospitalization rate is not as high as earlier waves. But with experts forecasting a blizzard of cases nationwide, we’re not out of the woods yet.

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