Citi Field replaced the Mets' former home, Shea Stadium, which...

Citi Field replaced the Mets' former home, Shea Stadium, which was demolished after 44 years. Credit: Newsday/John Keating

Fifteen years ago, on April 13, 2009, the Mets played their first home opener at their new stadium. A sellout crowd of more than 41,000 fans attended the game at Citi Field in Queens, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. (They lost, 6-5, to the San Diego Padres, for anyone wondering.) David Wright hit the first Mets' home run in the $800-million ballpark. "I would have liked to get that win, but it is something that when I look back on it, I can tell my kids, my grandkids that I got a chance to participate in Opening Day and break in the new field," he said.

Spectators fill the stands at Freeport Speedway on April 21,...

Spectators fill the stands at Freeport Speedway on April 21, 1974. The stadium would close less than 10 years later, in 1983. Credit: Newsday/Don Norkett

New track unveiled

On April 21, 1974, a crowd of 6,600 turned out for the unveiling of Freeport Speedway’s new quarter-mile track. Previously featuring a 0.2-mile track, it was also announced that day that the Mill Road stadium had received permission from NASCAR to run modified races on Friday nights. This meant, Newsday explained back then, that for the first time there would be two NASCAR-sanctioned modified tracks operating on Long Island. The new track received some praise, but also criticism from at least one racer: “It’s a little rough near the third turn,” said Fred Harbach, of Huntington Station. “In fact, you get off the ground there.”

Kwasi Enin announcing his college choice.

Kwasi Enin announcing his college choice.

Accepted at all eight Ivies

Ten years ago, a kid from Shirley made headlines. In 2014, Kwasi Enin, then a 17-year-old senior at William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, was accepted into all eight Ivy League schools — Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale. Ultimately, he chose Yale. “We taught him to take advantage of the opportunities here. We are industrious and hard workers,” Enin’s father, Ebenezer, who is from Ghana, told Newsday at the time. Enin’s accomplishment was in the news worldwide, but he said he most appreciated the recognition he received from his peers. “I learned more about being not a leader, but almost a symbol, in a way, to people,” he said.

Emergency responders search for Robert Baranaskas and his plane.

Emergency responders search for Robert Baranaskas and his plane. Credit: Adam Daley

Veteran pilot crashes in the ocean

Local aviation enthusiasts grieved the April 5, 2009, death of Robert Baranaskas, a veteran pilot whose vintage World War II plane crashed in the Atlantic near Fire Island while he was practicing for an upcoming air show. “He was one of the best pilots I’ve ever known,” friend Kenneth Savin said of Baranaskas. The 61-year-old Northport resident was performing aerobatics, not stunt flying, at the time of the crash, Savin said. “With stunts, you can do things the plane wasn’t meant to do. You’re pushing the plane to the limit. . . . He was doing the type of flying that would have been done in a combat situation,” which Savin said was within the plane’s design capabilities. In a 2010 report, the National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause as "failure to maintain adequate airspeed while performing aerobatics at low altitude."

The fully restored horse tamer statue at Roslyn High School.

The fully restored horse tamer statue at Roslyn High School. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Horse tamer statue returns

After years of fundraising and $150,000 in restoration work, Roslyn High School’s horse tamer statue finally returned on Aug. 29, 2019. The white marble statue had been removed in 2012 because it was in disrepair — it was held together by red straps and the groom’s head and left arm, as well as the horse’s front hooves, were missing. Alumni raised more than $100,000 for the restoration; the rest of the money came from grants. “The school mascot is a bulldog,” Barbara Berke, who organized the fundraising, told Newsday in 2019. “But I think if you ask, nine out of 10 people would tell you it’s a horse because it’s such a feature piece” of the school.

Israeli national team player Adam Crystal, from Baldwin, shakes hands...

Israeli national team player Adam Crystal, from Baldwin, shakes hands with a member of the Irish team after their match. The Irish team narrowly won, with a score of 11-10. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Cross-cultural lacrosse

More than 100 fans — decked out in green or blue and white — packed the stands at Centre Island Town Park in Bayville on March 16, 2014, to watch the Irish and Israeli national lacrosse teams face off against each other. It came at a time of celebration for both, occurring during St. Patrick’s Day weekend and the Jewish festival of Purim. “We know there’s a huge Jewish community in New York and a huge Irish community in New York, and it’s great for both teams to be able to connect to those communities on major days for both countries,” said Michael Kennedy, chief executive of Ireland Lacrosse.

Johnson Murray, 29, was one of the 18 students who...

Johnson Murray, 29, was one of the 18 students who graduated from Stony Brook's first medical class. He is shown with a patient at the Northport Veteran's Hospital (now Northport VA Medical Center) on May 10, 1974. Credit: Newsday/Dick Kraus

Stony Brook's first medical class

After three years of study, the State University at Stony Brook’s inaugural medical school class graduated in May 1974. It had started with 24 students. But by the end of the program, their numbers had dropped to 18 — 13 men and five women. While some students expressed frustration with the new program, which officials admitted was plagued by “some disorganization,” others commended it for exposing students to patients early, rather than in their third year. “We dealt with reality. We met with the rougher, real life — not a fantasy world where everything was given to us,” one student told Newsday.

The new facility featured a sign reading "Geoffrey Breitkopf Memorial Tactical Training...

The new facility featured a sign reading "Geoffrey Breitkopf Memorial Tactical Training Center," a large black department badge and a black Bureau of Special Operations shield backlit in blue. The door frames also included the badge numbers of other fallen officers at the top. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Officer honored

In 2011, Nassau police Officer Geoffrey J. Breitkopf, a member of the department’s Bureau of Special Operations, was fatally shot by a Metropolitan Transportation Authority cop while responding to a Massapequa Park home — the first Nassau officer to die by friendly fire since 1976. Eight years later, on March 12, 2019, Nassau police dedicated a new special operations tactical training center in North Bellmore to him. At the ceremony, police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, a former member of the special operations unit, recalled officers were overcome with emotion after the shooting. “I’d never seen grown men crying like that before,” he said.

More than 300 students at John F. Kennedy Intermediate School...

More than 300 students at John F. Kennedy Intermediate School in Deer Park stayed home for two days after a fellow student was found to have a "probable" case of swine flu. Here, a girl, 9, holds a bottle of hand sanitizer that her mother had given her for protection. Credit: Newsday /Photo by James Carbone

Swine flu on Long Island

Fifteen years ago, a virus spread on Long Island, causing panic. Sound familiar? In some ways, the swine flu outbreak of 2009 foreshadowed the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a handful of cases reported on the Island by late April, fearful parents kept their kids home from school and a local soccer league said it would refrain from the traditional end-of-game handshake. Then, on May 2, Deer Park education officials closed their schools for a week after three students were found to have “probable” cases of the virus. “We understand this extra precaution may be challenging, but we believe it is the responsible course of action,” the schools superintendent said.

Water used to extinguish an electrical fire at the Wartburg...

Water used to extinguish an electrical fire at the Wartburg Avenue factory damaged the machine that formed the fried square knishes. Company officials had hoped to be up and running by Hanukkah but it was not meant to be. Credit: Paul Mazza

Knishes to 'die' for

For five months, there was a nationwide shortage of fried knishes — all because of a fire at the Gabila’s Knishes factory in Copiague. The September 2013 fire forced the shutdown of production of the fried squares at the 10,000-square-foot facility, which had been churning out about 13 million knishes of the tasty treats annually and was believed to be the nation’s largest supplier. The news made headlines across the country, and even got a mention on “Saturday Night Live.” So there was relief when, on Feb. 20, 2014, Gabila’s was finally cleared to resume making its famous knishes. And hopefully, an end to the anxious calls president Elliott Gabay told Newsday he had been fielding: “People are talking like they’re going to die.”

Brr!! The storm may have caught some people unawares, like...

Brr!! The storm may have caught some people unawares, like this woman, seen walking at the intersection of Fulton Avenue and Main Street in Hempstead during the blizzard. Credit: Newsday/Jim Peppler

Unexpected storm strands commuters

It was just supposed to be a dusting. But on Feb. 8, 1974, up to 10 inches of snow fell on Long Island, leaving dozens of motorists stranded on area roads. Among those affected were 44 sixth-graders from the Robert K. Toaz Junior High School in Huntington, who had been heading home from a field trip to Manhattan when their bus got caught in a traffic jam on the Grand Central Parkway. The bus was more than five hours late, prompting several nervous parents to insist the police be called. (This was pre-cell phones, after all.) But, the principal told Newsday at the time, “The police said they couldn’t get their own cars moving.”

Andrzej Jerzy Zglejszewski after he was ordained as an auxiliary...

Andrzej Jerzy Zglejszewski after he was ordained as an auxiliary bishop. The Polish native has said that the late Pope John Paul II, who also hailed from Poland, inspired him to become a priest. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Auxiliary bishop makes history

When Andrzej Jerzy Zglejszewski arrived in the United States from Poland in 1987, he carried one suitcase and knew two words of English: "Good morning." But, he said, "I had my faith. ... I had a dream and believed in God." Twenty-seven years later, on March 25, 2014, Zglejszewski was ordained an auxiliary bishop — the first immigrant to ever hold the post in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Several hundred priests, deacons and nuns attended his ordination Mass at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. Among them was the Rev. Jerry DiSpigno, who said of Zglejszewski: "He is a fabulous person, and will be a great face to the diocese. He really has a joyful spirit."

Of the three inaugural inductees, only one - Karol Bobko,...

Of the three inaugural inductees, only one - Karol Bobko, right - was still alive in 2009. At an induction ceremony, Glenn Curtiss was represented by Anthony Fabbo, left, a vice-president with the aircraft company that he founded in 1917. Leroy Grumman's son, David (center), attended for his father, who died in 1982. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

Air and space innovators

Nearly 115 years ago, Glenn Curtiss made history when he took off in a biplane Golden Flyer from the Hempstead Plains — the first person to fly on Long Island. And on March 30, 2009, he achieved a new "first," joining two others in the inaugural class of the Cradle of Aviation Museum's Long Island Air & Space Hall of Fame. The other inductees were Leroy Grumman, whose famed aircraft company started in a converted garage in Baldwin, and astronaut Karol Bobko, the first Long Islander to travel in space. “I’m flattered, being from Long Island...I hope this will have people become more interested in aviation and space," Bobko said at the time.

Two IRS offices on Long Island, including this one in...

Two IRS offices on Long Island, including this one in Hauppauge, were closed for several weeks in late 2018 and early 2019 due to a dispute over funding to build a wall on the southern border.  Credit: James Carbone

Historic shutdown

On Jan. 25, 2019, a 35-day partial government shutdown — which forced the closure of National Park facilities like the Fire Island Lighthouse, as well as Internal Revenue Service and Small Business Administration offices on Long Island — came to an end. An estimated 15,000 federal employees on the Island were affected by the shutdown, the longest in U.S. history. Hundreds of furloughed workers were forced to visit food pantries, while others borrowed from family members or dug into their personal savings to cover their lost wages, Newsday reported at the time. “It is nice to be back,” one Long Islander, who worked in tax collections, said. “We . . . . never want to be out of work.”

Billy Joel and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo pose with a framed commemoration...

Billy Joel and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo pose with a framed commemoration during a press conference honoring Joel's 100th lifetime performance at Madison Square Garden. Credit: Getty Images/Michael Loccisano

100th MSG show

"Beyond my wildest expectations." That's what Billy Joel had to say on July 18, 2018, when he performed his 100th show at Madison Square Garden to a packed crowd of fans. At the time, the Hicksville native was already more than four years into a monthly residency that is slated to end on July 25, 2024 — what should be his 150th overall lifetime show at the arena. That day in 2018 was marked with celebrations, from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declaring it "Billy Joel Day" to a surprise appearance by another tri-state musical hero, Bruce Springsteen. "My cup runneth over," Joel said. "I couldn't think of a better way of peaking in my life other than this."

The June 22 show was the first of five Presley...

The June 22 show was the first of five Presley would perform at the Nassau Coliseum that weekend.

Elvis on Long Island

On June 22, 1973, Elvis Presley had finally come to Long Island. Presley was 38, recently divorced and had "broadened considerably," but for the 16,000 fans packed into Nassau Coliseum, none of that mattered. "We've seen him in Vegas, we've seen him in Hawaii and from here we'll follow him to Pittsburgh. He's out of this world," one woman said. That night, Presley strode on stage at 9:44 p.m., according to a Newsday account. He performed for 45 minutes then, at precisely 10:30 p.m., the lights dimmed for 60 seconds. When they turned back on, Presley had disappeared. "Elvis is gone. The show is over," a loudspeaker blared.

John Caracciolo, left, with the station's general manager, Mathew Goldapper,...

John Caracciolo, left, with the station's general manager, Mathew Goldapper, in the new Long Island News Radio studio in 2013. It was believed to be the only radio station in an area airport at the time. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Airport radio station

Live from Long Island MacArthur Airport, it’s . . . talk radio? On Dec. 26, 2013, the Long Island News Radio station on 103.9 FM launched a 24-hour, all-talk format in a former office near the Ronkonkoma airport’s baggage claim.

John Caracciolo, president of station owner JVC Broadcasting of Ronkonkoma, said at the time that there was a lack of talk news radio on the Island.

“The media still looks at us as a bedroom community,” he told Newsday. In terms of population, he said, “We’re bigger than some states, and there isn’t a news talk station.”

Islip Town officials, meanwhile, hoped the station would raise the airport’s profile.

The station continues to broadcast from the airport today.

The historic Yaphank Presbyterian Church was heavily damaged in a...

The historic Yaphank Presbyterian Church was heavily damaged in a fire that broke out early the morning of Dec. 8, 2013.  About 75 firefighters fought the blaze for about 2½ hours before it was brought under control. Credit: James Carbone

Fire at historic church

On Dec. 8, 2013, fire tore through the historic Yaphank Presbyterian Church on Main Street, destroying the food in its food pantry and Christmas gifts for the needy that were being stored in the basement.

But not all was lost: firefighters were able to save two Bibles, including one dating back to the 1870s. And historical records for the church, which held its first service in 1851, had been backed up digitally in the past year.

"To us, it was more than a building," Gary Ralph, a fifth-generation member of the church and board member, told Newsday at the time. "I was baptized in the church. My mother taught Sunday school at the church."

A backup along the eastbound LIE in Shirley. The surprise...

A backup along the eastbound LIE in Shirley. The surprise storm was "quick moving, but had devastating impacts as it struck at the heart of rush hour traffic," the National Weather Service said. Credit: James Carbone

Surprise November storm

As a Newsday reporter put it at the time, Nov. 15, 2018, was “a day that will live in Long Island traffic infamy.” Forecasters had predicted a dusting, but instead, commuters venturing out that evening were greeted with heavy, wet snow. Drivers found themselves stuck in miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Long Island Expressway, and thousands were left without power. Beyond the Island, a 20-car accident backed up traffic on the George Washington Bridge, causing a “cascading effect” on other roads, the National Weather Service said. “This storm was catastrophic,” one driver told Newsday.

View of the demolition work at the Garden City Hotel...

View of the demolition work at the Garden City Hotel on January 15, 1973. Credit: Newsday/Stan Wolfson

Garden City Hotel torn down

On Jan. 15, 1973, the Garden City Hotel — a longtime landmark in the village — came crashing down, a bottle of Champagne tied to the wrecking ball.

The five-story red brick Georgian building was actually the hotel's third incarnation. First opened in 1874, it was redesigned once and then rebuilt after a fire burned the renowned hotel to the ground in 1899.

Plans to construct a 500-room hotel with 305 luxury condominiums fell through, but after a new owner took over, the hotel was rebuilt and once again welcomed visitors in 1983.

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

Police ID victims in small plane crash ... What's next for Kamala Harris? . . . St. Rocco's preview . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

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Police ID victims in small plane crash ... What's next for Kamala Harris? . . . St. Rocco's preview . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

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