Newsday Westchester's top 10 stories in 2012
Students, teachers and parents throughout the Hudson Valley are still reeling from the Dec. 14 tragedy in Newtown, Conn., that left 28 dead, including gunman Adam Lanza and his mother. On Monday, Dec. 17, local schools opened at heightened alert with tightened security and much soul-searching about gun control. (Dec. 17, 2012)
As Democrats push for a $60.4 billion emergency spending package, superstorm Sandy victims continue to cope. In the Hudson Valley, Sandy wreaked the most havoc in Westchester County, which endured the worst power outage in Con Edison's history, and Rockland County, where more than 70 percent of residents along the Hudson River towns of Stony Point and Piermont went without power for up to two weeks.
More answers are expected soon in what has been the region's single biggest question mark for most of 2012: the new Tappan Zee Bridge. On Dec. 17, the State Thruway Authority finally voted to choose Tappan Zee Constructors as the builder of a new $3.1 billion double span. The winning bid is expected to create thousands of new jobs and shave $5-7 off future tolls that were originally estimated in the $14 range.
The controversy over keeping the aging Indian Point's nuclear reactors going for 20 more years heated up in 2012. During a series of federal hearings in October and December in Tarrytown, challenges to the relicensing were aired by the plant's primary opponents: the state attorney general's office and two local environmental groups, Riverkeeper of Ossining and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater of Beacon. No decisions were made and more hearings are expected in early 2013.
With a pending "fiscal cliff," county budget cuts and municipal belt tightening, the ramping up of Ridge Hill as a lower Westchester destination offered a rare bright spot. Barely a year old, the $842 million outdoor shopping center now boasts some three dozen retailers, including an Apple Store, half a dozen eateries and four anchor tenants: a multiplex, Dick's Sport Goods, Whole Foods and Lord & Taylor. Officials say it is expected to generate $24.2 million in sales tax once fully occupied by 2014.
In Albany, the Hudson Valley did well, too. Democrats picked up two state Senate seats -- knocking one incumbent out of office -- and an Assembly seat in Albany. A group of so-called "independent Democrats," including two Hudson Valley lawmakers, sided with Republicans to elect a GOP member as president of the upper chamber. Who will now lead the Senate's Democratic minority? Our own Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), pictured here.
The big event in Westchester County government occurred when two Democrats broke from their party and joined Republican County Executive Rob Astorino to approve a $1.7 billion budget. That gave Astorino an opportunity to tout his bipartisan credentials and skills in compromising just in time for 2013, when he is expected to run for re-election.
In December, Mount Vernon police captured Lucius Crawford, an alleged serial killer who might have been the scariest criminal to emerge in the Hudson Valley in 2012. Crawford admitted to stabbing a woman to death in Mount Vernon, though his mental health could cast doubt on his confession. He also confessed to killing two Yonkers women in the early 1990s and, nearly 40 years ago, went on a rampage and stabbed five women in South Carolina.
The Hudson Valley scions of former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy garnered sad headlines throughout 2012. Mary Richardson Kennedy, the estranged wife of RFK Jr., committed suicide. RFK's daughter and the former wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Kerry Kennedy, got into an accident on Interstate 684. Police later found sleep drugs in her blood. And Douglas Kennedy, another son of RFK, was accused of assaulting two nurses who didn't want him to take his newborn baby out of the hospital for fresh air. Luckily for him, he was acquitted.