Top 10 local stories of 2012
1. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s so-called soda ban shook things up on both sides of the aisle when it was overwhelming approved by the Board of Health on Sept. 13. The decision means New Yorkers will be limited to sugary drinks in 16-ounce containers or less in restaurants, bodegas, food carts and theaters. Critics blasted the plan as yet another infringement on personal liberties by Bloomberg’s “nanny state.” But health advocates herald the ban as a key weapon in the fight against obesity. New Yorkers will feel the effects in the new year, when the ban goes into effect in 2013.
2. In a story that shocked the entire country, an NYPD cop was charged in a twisted plot to cook and eat women he kidnapped in October. Gilberto Valle, 28, is accused of having graphic online conversations detailing his plans to abduct women, some of whom he knew personally, and cook them while still alive. Investigators said Valle, of Queens, kept a file of photos and addresses for at least 100 women, some of whom he had recorded surveillance. Valle pleaded not guilty in November, his defense arguing the conversations were just fantasy. He is set for trail on January 22.
3. Just hours after news of the so-called cannibal cop broke, the city was shocked again when two children were brutally murdered. Six-year-old Lucia Krim and 2-year-old Leo Krim were fatally stabbed in their family’s Upper West Side apartment. Their nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, was discovered in the same room with self-inflicted stab wounds, police said. The children’s mother, Marina Krim, came home to horrific scene with another one of her children. Ortega, 50, was taken to the hospital where she remained for weeks after the incident. She was charged with the murders of the children and pleaded not guilty on Nov. 27.
4. A 33-year-old cold case reemerged in the headlines when a suspect was charged in the murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz. Pedro Hernandez, 51, confessed to police that he lured Patz into a SoHo basement on May 25, 1979, by offering him a soda. Hernandez, a bodega clerk, said he strangled the boy before wrapping his body in plastic wrap and putting it in the trash. He eventually moved to New Jersey, where he reportedly told family members multiple times over the years that he had “done a bad thing and killed a child in New York.” Hernandez’s attorney insists his confession should not stand because his client suffers from schizophrenia and hallucinations.
5. Occupy Wall Street, between periods of hibernation, made several comeback-style splashes, including a May Day protest that turned out thousands of supporters. 86 people were arrested during a full day of pickets and marches. On the movement’s Sept. 17 anniversary, activists once again filled the streets, this time with 181 of them ending up in cuffs. The movement reemerged in November with its Occupy Sandy campaign, organizing supplies and sending volunteers to NYC’s hardest hit areas by Hurricane Sandy.
6. The NYPD foiled a potentially deadly plot to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank. 21-year-old Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a Bangladeshi national, was arrested on Oct. 17 after investigators said he parked a van containing what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb outside the Federal Reserve Bank. Nafis is accused of conspiring with an undercover agent to detonate the bomb from a downtown hotel. This was the 15th foiled terror plot by the NYPD since 9/11.
7. New York is still feeling the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which claimed 43 lives in the five boroughs. The superstorm blew ashore on Oct. 29, bringing death and destruction with it. Hundreds of thousands of homes were left without power. Subway service was snarled for months and the MTA estimates it will take $4.75 billion to fully restore the subway to the state it was in before Sandy ravaged the tunnels and flooded stations. The immediate aftermath at the storm prompted Mayor Michael Bloomberg to cancel the much-anticipated New York City Marathon.
8. A Bronx teenager was followed into his home on Feb. 2 and shot by an NYPD officer in his bathroom. Ramarley Graham, who was unarmed, was reportedly trying to flush a small amount of marijuana down the toilet. He died from a single gunshot. Officer Richard Haste pleaded not guilty in June to manslaughter in the death of the 18-year-old. Haste was in an undercover narcotics unit, and officers reportedly said they thought Graham had a gun. Graham’s death sparked outrage in the community from those who insisted minorities are unfairly targeted by the NYPD.
9. Terror struck outside the Empire State Building when a disgruntled former worker opened fired on the morning of Aug. 23. Jeffrey Johnson had lost his job at Hazan Imports, located within the building, in the past year. He encountered former co-worker Steven Ercolino outside the building, shooting him in the head and close range, killing him. Johnson turned the gun on police when the confronted him and officers shot and killed him. Nine other people were injured in the crossfire.
10. Scandal hit close to home for NYPD’s top cop when news broke that his son, Fox 5 anchor Greg Kelly, was accused of rape. Kelly’s accuser claimed she shared drinks with him at a South Street Seaport bar the previous October before the two went to her Wall Street office, where he raped her. The woman told police she became pregnant from the encounter and later had an abortion. The NYPD handed the case to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which reviewed text messages between Kelly, who maintained his innocence, and his accuser after the night of the alleged incident. The DA declined to file charges against Kelly, stating “the facts established during our investigation do not fit the definitions of sexual assault crimes under New York criminal law.”