The 2010s: These are the stories that defined the decade in NYC

BySarah Swiss WABC logo
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
The 2010s: These are the stories that defined the decade in NYC
How many of these stories do you remember? As the decade comes to a close, we are taking a look back at the stories and headlines that shaped the 2010s in New York City.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- As the decade comes to a close, we are taking a look back at the stories that shaped the 2010s in New York City.

There was no shortage of tragedy and conflict over the past 10 years, but there were plenty of stories of triumph.

We were polarized by politics and elections, but we also came together as New Yorkers when it mattered most.

This was a decade of activism as our communities took to the streets to fight for what they believed in: Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the Women's March, protesting the travel ban and demanding equal rights of all.

These are the stories that defined the last decade in New York City.

View stories of the decade through photos:

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In this Sunday, May 2, 2010 image, a police officer approaches a vehicle containing a car bomb, which stands with the door open in NYC's Times Square. (AP Photo/APTV, File)


We kicked off the decade with a war against salt. In January, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Health Department unveiled a plan to make New Yorkers healthier and urged restaurants to reduce salt levels in their food by 25 percent. The effort was part of a constellation of initiatives to promote public health, but some derided the push as indicative of a nanny state.

The narrative of the year soon segued from health fears to terror fears. On May 1, a car bomb failed to detonate in Times Square in an attempted terror attack.

Faisal Shahzad was eventually arrested and sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to commit an act of terrorism.

While fears of terrorism lingered almost a decade after 9/11, a controversy brewed in lower Manhattan over the proposal to build a mosque near Ground Zero, called Park51.

The majority of the public was opposed to the idea, and some relatives of the victims of 9/11 said they found the proposal offensive, but others expressed support and were in favor of promoting interfaith peace and freedom of religion.

The controversy over the "Ground Zero Mosque" became a campaign issue in the 2010 midterm elections and also sparked a national debate over religious tolerance and sensitivity to 9/11 victims.

A story that fascinated the nation later that summer was the dramatic stunt pulled by disgruntled JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater on Aug. 9.

Slater apparently became fed up with passengers after their flight landed at Kennedy Airport and deployed the emergency slide from the aircraft and took off -- allegedly with a beer in hand.

Despite being arrested and facing serious charges, Slater's getaway stunt garnered him national support and made a viral star in these early days of social media.

Weather stories would prove to be defining moments of the decade.

A notable story involved tornadoes that spun through Brooklyn and Queens on the evening of Sept. 16 -- leaving a trail of damage in their wake. At least one person was killed in the storms.

And it was certainly a white day AFTER Christmas that year when a blizzard dumped between 18-24 inches of snow in NYC.

This was also the year that Humans of New York first launched -- giving the rest of the world a personal look into the lives of everyday New Yorkers.


The death of Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn shocked the city in July. The 8-year-old boy was kidnapped after he asked for directions during his walk home and his dismembered body was later found after an extensive search across the city.

The medical examiner said he was given a lethal cocktail of drugs before he was smothered to death. Levi Aron is serving 40 years to life for kidnapping and killing Kletzky.

Sept. 11 of that year marked the somber 10th anniversary since terrorists attacked the Twin Towers.

The 9/11 Memorial was officially dedicated on the anniversary and opened to the public the next day.

Less than a week after the memorial opened, protesters descended onto Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan for what would become Occupy Wall Street -- a weeks-long movement in the Financial District to push the government to address a range of issues like unemployment, the funding of wars and the foreclosure crisis.

It didn't take long for the movement to spread beyond the streets of NYC and onto main streets across America.

Do you remember that it snowed this year on Halloween? A nor'easter that some remember as "Snowtober" brought an early blast of snow to the tri-state area.

The year came to an end as the mystery of the Gilgo Beach serial killer was only getting started. On November 29, police announced that they believed the previous deaths of multiple people were likely connected, leading to fears that a serial killer was lurking on Long Island just miles away from NYC.

The still-unidentified serial killer is believed to be responsible for at least 10 deaths over the course of 20 years -- and the victims were mainly women associated with prostitution.


2012 was a year that started with excitement over sports but will be remembered for the tragedy that struck by the end of the year.

The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5. Not long after the excitement of that win, a personality from another sport stirred up a global frenzy.

In what will be remembered as "Linsanity," Jeremy Lin rose to fame after he unexpectedly led a winning turnaround for the New York Knicks.

The Knicks started selling his No. 17 jerseys and T-shirts and merchandise at stands throughout Madison Square Garden. Restaurants around the city started selling special food and drink items in Lin's honor, Ben & Jerry's created special ice cream and he was even the subject of a documentary film that premiered at Sundance.

In baseball news, Gary Carter, a member of the 1986 world champion Mets, died on Feb. 16 at the age of 57 after a battle with brain cancer. The Mets added a memorial patch to their uniforms in Carter's honor for the entire 2012 season.

It was in April of that same year that the New Jersey Nets moved to the Barclays Center to become the Brooklyn Nets.

Although sports dominated the headlines for the first part of the year, the narrative shifted when Superstorm Sandy devastated the area at the end of October.

The storm slammed NYC with a surge of water that killed 44 people and plunged parts of the city into darkness. Flooding damaged tens of thousands of homes, drowned subways and forced hospitals and nursing homes to evacuate.

In a controversial decision, the NYC Marathon was canceled that year because of the storm's aftermath.

Communities are still recovering to this day after the damage and destruction left behind by the storm.

Hearts broke across New York City when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six people, including 20 children, were murdered in a crime that shocked the world.

Nothing it seemed would ever be the same.


After a long life in the public eye, the former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, died on Feb. 1. Koch made his mark on the city during his tenure as mayor from 1978 to 1989.

That same year marked the beginning of another mayoral administration: Bill de Blasio was first elected to the position on Nov. 5.

The election-year wasn't free of scandalous headlines -- this is the year that the infamous Anthony Weiner sexting scandal cost him the election.

Weiner had attempted to make a return to politics after his previous scandal in 2011 but ultimately lost the mayoral primary after admitting to sexting multiple women following his resignation from Congress.

2013 wasn't all about politics -- transportation also rolled into the headlines. Citi Bike officially launched on May 27 of that year and no one can forget about BridgeGate.

The first traffic closures that evolved into the infamous BridgeGate scandal happened on Sept. 9. Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly were later convicted of creating the traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge for politically motivated reasons.

The year ended on a sad note with the Metro-North crash at Spuyten Duyvil on Dec. 1. Four passengers were killed and dozens were injured when the train derailed in the Bronx.


This year brought New York City into the national spotlight for multiple stories.

On the morning of March 12, a gas explosion in East Harlem leveled two apartment buildings and killed eight people. At least 70 other people were injured in the tragic incident.

The police chokehold death of Eric Garner on July 17 sparked protests around NYC and the country as it fueled the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Dec. 20 murders of two NYPD police detectives sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn shocked the city. The gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, apparently cited Garner's death as a motive.

Garner's daughter publicly spoke out and showed her support for fallen officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

All eyes were on New York City earlier that year as the Ebola crisis arrived in America.

Dr. Craig Spencer was diagnosed with Ebola on Oct. 23.

After returning from working with Doctors Without Borders in Africa, city officials rushed to find other people he may have come into contact with in NYC. Before he showed symptoms, he rode the subway, walked the High Line and even went bowling in Brooklyn.

After he recovered from the disease, Mayor de Blasio declared that NYC was Ebola-free.

Finally, the eyes of America and around the world fell on New York City on Nov. 3 when One World Trade Center officially opened -- marking a chapter of rebirth and renewal after the terror attacks.


The first quarter of 2015 was marked with disaster:

-A Metro-North train struck a passenger car in Valhalla on Feb. 3, killing six people and injuring more than a dozen others.

-Seven children were trapped and killed on March 21 when a fire broke out in their Midwood, Brooklyn, apartment.

-Two people were killed and 13 others were injured in a deadly gas explosion in the East Village on March 26. The owner of the building, an unlicensed plumber and a general contractor. would all later be found guilty in 2019.

The year also provided moments that will go down in pop culture history:

-On June 16, Donald Trump rode down an escalator in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue to officially launch his presidential campaign.

-Lin-Manuel Miranda did not throw away his shot and opened his mega-successful "Hamilton" on Broadway on Aug. 6 -- arguably changing Broadway forever.

-Two words: Pizza Rat. Who would have thought a video of a hungry rat enjoying a New York slice would be a part of NYC history? Pizza Rat remains a viral sensation to this day.

The Pope's visit to NYC was a highlight of the latter part of the year. Pope Francis visited New York City from Sept. 24 to Sept. 26 as part of his visit to North America.

In his short visit to the city, he addressed the United Nations, visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, visited children at a school in East Harlem, made his way through Central Park and even held a Mass at Madison Square Garden.

New Yorkers felt a sense of pride and hope as the Holy Father forever left his touch on our city.


2016 got off to a cold and snowy start when the biggest blizzard in our city's history hit NYC in January -- leaving behind more than 26 inches of snow.

In a still-unsolved mystery, a tourist from Virginia lost his foot when he stepped on an explosive in Central Park on July 3. It is still unclear if the explosion had something to do with celebratory firecrackers ahead of the 4th of July or if it was intentionally placed there to do harm.

Later that summer, the murder and sexual assault of 30-year-old jogger Karina Vetrano on Aug. 2. shocked the city.

Vetrano left for a run through the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens but she never returned home. Her murder went unsolved for six months until Chanel Lewis was arrested and charged in 2017. He was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole in April 2019.

September of that year was plagued with crime: Chelsea bomber Ahmad Rahimi set off pressure-cooker bombs in New Jersey and Chelsea on Sept. 17. He was captured days later after a shootout with police.

Fortunately, no one was killed or seriously injured in the explosions, but dozens of people were wounded.

That same month, FDNY Battalion Chief Michael Fahy was killed in a Bronx house explosion while investigating a drug lab. Nine other firefighters were injured in the blast as were six police officers, three Con Edison workers, and two civilians.

It was the end of an era when the iconic Carnegie Deli closed its doors for good at the end of the year. New Yorkers said goodbye to giant pastrami sandwiches and huge slices of strawberry cheesecake.


After decades of talk, the Second Avenue subway finally opened on Jan. 1 and East Siders rejoiced.

On March 16, FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo was mowed down by her own ambulance while she was on the job. The mother of five's death struck a chord with New Yorkers.

On May 18, 23 pedestrians were mowed down in Times Square. Police said the driver was high on drugs -- - possibly synthetic marijuana. An 18-year-old tourist from Michigan, Alyssa Elsman, did not survive.

New Yorkers came together to support their brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria made landfall there on Sept. 20.

In October of that year, reports by the New York Times and The New Yorker would eventually lead to the downfall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. These reports not only led to his fall from grace, but they also spurred the #MeToo movement.

Because of the empowerment movement, women around the world broke their silence to speak out against the sexual assault and harassment they had suffered.

On Oct. 31, a day that should have been happy and full of fun turned horrific when Sayfullo Saipov drove a pickup truck onto a bike path full of runners and cyclists along the West Side Highway in a Halloween terror attack. Eight people were killed -- six of whom were tourists.

That wasn't the last act of terror that year -- on Dec. 11, suspect Akayed Ullah injured four people when he partially detonated a pipe bomb in a tunnel at Port Authority.

No one was killed, but several people were injured.

Just days after Christmas that year, 13 people were killed in an apartment fire in the Belmont section of the Bronx on Dec. 28 -- marking New York's deadliest fire in 25 years.

Officials said it appeared a young child playing with a stove caused the fire. The child's mother escaped the apartment with her kids but left the front door open, which acted like a chimney and allowed the fire to quickly travel up the stairs.


The death of innocent 15-year-old Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz on June 20 outraged people in his Bronx community and far beyond.

#JusticeForJunior soon went viral and became a cry for justice for the teen who was chased into a bodega by gang members and killed in what is believed to be a case of mistaken identity.

Fourteen suspects were arrested in the murder and the first five to stand trial were all found guilty and later sentenced to life in prison in 2019.

2018 will also be remembered as the year that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, rose to the national spotlight. The Bronx native was officially elected on Nov. 6 to serve as the U.S. representative for New York's 14th Congressional district.

That year she became the youngest woman to serve in U.S. Congress. And whether people loved her or hated her, there was no denying she made a splash in the world of politics.

The city was on edge for days in October when suspicious packages that supposedly contained pipe bombs were mailed to critics of President Trump, including CNN, causing the Time Warner Center in NYC to be evacuated.

None of the devices exploded, but the fear that they could prompt responses from bomb squads out of precaution. Eventually, Cesar Sayoc was arrested in Florida on Oct. 26.

And who could forget that dreadful evening commute on Nov. 15 when the entire city was caught off guard by 6 inches of snow.

The city was completely unprepared for the snow, sleet, and rain, which made for a disastrous ride home. Drivers were stranded for hours, children couldn't get home from school, and the Port Authority became so packed that officials had no choice but to shut it down.


The last year of the decade is when we were first introduced to OMNY. First, there were subway tokens, which were replaced by MetroCards, but the future is OMNY. The tap-and-go system was first rolled out to 16 stations along the Nos. 4,5,6 lines but will soon expand throughout NYC.

Parts of Manhattan were plunged into darkness on a Saturday night in July -- ironically marking the 42nd anniversary of the 1977 blackout that led to looting and arson across NYC.

Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in July of this year for the sex trafficking of minors. As he awaited trial for the charges, Epstein was found dead in his jail cell on Aug. 10. Although his death was ruled a suicide, some have disputed those claims.

Later in August, then-New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill announced he fired Daniel Pantaleo the police officer involved in the 2014 death of Eric Garner. O'Neill later stepped down as NYC police commissioner, making way for Dermot Shea to take the job as a top cop as the city enters the next decade.

On Sept. 23, commuters watched in shock as a father jumped in front of an oncoming train while holding his 5-year-old daughter in his arms. She miraculously survived and video of good Samaritans pulling her to safety quickly went viral.

On Dec. 10, a man and woman opened fire in a violent and tragic shootout in a Jewish grocery store in Jersey City. Three innocent people inside that store as well as a police officer were killed in the hours-long standoff. Hate is being investigated as a motive in the tragic crime.

An 18-year-old Barnard College freshman was viciously murdered on the evening of Dec. 11. Tessa Majors was stabbed during a mugging by a group of men in a Manhattan park.

She managed to make it to the top of one of the steepest staircases in Manhattan before she collapsed. Her murder sent shock waves through the college and New York City as a whole.

A 13-year-old was soon arrested in her murder -- but many were left questioning how they could ever feel safe there again, and whether this gut-wrenching case would be a turning point for NYC.

On Dec. 28, a man attacked a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi's home in Rockland County, stabbing and wounding five people before fleeing in a vehicle.

Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel identified the suspect as Grafton E. Thomas, 37, of Greenwood Lake, New York. Thomas entered pleas of not guilty to 5 counts of attempted murder and burglary at his arraignment on Sunday morning. He was ordered held on a $5-million bond.


These are the stories we believe will always be remembered as history looks back on this decade.

Did we miss any defining stories that are important to you? Let us know in the comment sections on our social media pages.


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