From the Capitol Riot to the disappearance and death of Gabby Petito, Faith Jessie looks at the stories that mattered to Long Islanders in 2021. Credit: Newsday Studio

It was a tumultuous 12 months, dominated by COVID-19 and political change. Take a look back on some of the local and national stories that shaped the year on Long Island.


Capitol riot

Jan. 6: With Congress ready to certify Joe Biden as the 46th president, President Donald Trump's supporters break into the U.S. Capitol. The result is a second impeachment trial, numerous charges against the participants, but two weeks after the incident, Biden is sworn in on those same Capitol steps.

Jan. 27: 15-year-old Uniondale basketball star Jo-Jo Wright is killed in an automobile accident on the way to a gym. In November, the family files a $150 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Town of Hempstead and the three other drivers involved in the crash.

January: New York Attorney General Letita James releases a report criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's handling of nursing homes at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The report finds that the state's Health Department undercounted deaths in nursing homes by half, among other critiques.

January: As COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expands to the elderly and those with certain conditions, frustration in trying to get a coveted appointment also grows, with people spending hours online trying to book a dose.



Feb. 1: A nor'easter drops over a foot of snow in parts of Long Island, disrupting the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Nassau and Suffolk counties.



March 9: A probe into allegations that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed former aides begins, with calls for the governor to step down under threats of impeachment. Cuomo fights the accusations for months before finally stepping down in August.

March 30: The New York State Legislature legalizes the adult use of marijuana, and the bill is signed into law the next day. However, some towns decide to opt out of allowing marijuana sales in their jurisdictions.


Stop & Shop shooting

April 20: A shooting at a Stop & Shop on Cherry Valley Avenue in West Hempstead leaves a manager dead and two other employees injured. The cart attendant accused of the crime is planning a psychiatric defense in court.

April 25: A TikTok video of Adam Sandler being told of a wait at a Manhasset IHOP goes viral, leaving the comedian to joke about the incident on Twitter a week later. Sandler visits the location two weeks later to pose for photos with the hostess in the video.

April: Just over a year into the pandemic, real estate prices on Long Island continue to rise as the inventory falls. As a result, 4 of 10 home sales are ending in a bidding war as properties sell quickly.


COVID restrictions

May 4: Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces that most capacity restrictions at businesses and institutions will be lifted by the middle of the month, returning most things to normal after over a year of disruption, closures and limited capacity due to COVID-19.

May 6: A fire in a Garden City home kills three, including an 18-year-old high school student. A fire official said it was caused potentially by an individual who was smoking, and the house's two fire detectors were inoperable.

May 22: A Newsday report finds that minority applicants to Nassau and Suffolk County police forces found a much tougher road to hiring, with hurdles disqualifying Black and Hispanic candidates at a higher rate than their white peers.



June 12: A package of anti-discrimination bills spurred by Newsday's "Long Island Divided" series about real estate practices on Long Island won approval in the State Legislature. The bills were signed into law in December.

June 27: After issues following Tropical Storm Isaias in 2020, LIPA and PSEG Long Island finally reach a contract settlement to keep the New Jersey-based provider in place. The agreement for a new four-year deal was made in November.


Fatal Quogue crash

July 9: Tropical Storm Elsa moves through Long Island, bringing rain and strong winds, which resulted in flooded streets, toppled trees and downed power lines.

July 20: A bull escapes from a farm in Moriches and is able to elude capture for weeks despite an extensive search. The bull, later nicknamed "Barney," is eventually captured in September and brought to an animal sanctuary in New Jersey.

July 24: Five people are killed when a Nissan Maxima traveling at over 100 mph crashes into a Toyota Prius on Montauk Highway in Quogue.

July 28: Wantagh native Andrew Capobianco and teammate Michael Hixon win the silver medal for men's Synchronized 3m Springboard at the Tokyo Olympics, which was delayed a year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigns

Aug. 10: Facing sexual harassment allegations and a potential impeachment, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announces he is resigning from office. Two weeks later, Cuomo steps down and Kathy Hochul becomes the state's first female governor.

Aug. 10: Former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota is sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to conceal and impede the investigation into a 2012 beating of a prisoner in a police precinct.


Gabby Petito

Sept. 11: The family of Blue Point woman Gabby Petito reports her missing, sparking a nationwide hunt for her and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie. Just over a week later, her body is discovered in a Wyoming national forest, and a month later, Laundrie's body is found in a Florida preserve.


COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Oct. 4: Northwell Health announces it is firing 1,400 employees for not complying with the state mandate for all health workers to be vaccinated, as it and other health care providers complied with the decision.

Oct. 21: Massapequa-raised actor Alec Baldwin is involved in a shooting incident in New Mexico, firing a gun that kills cinematographer Hayla Hutchins during filiming of the movie "Rust."

Oct. 22: Long Island dodges a bullet as Hurricane Henri, forecast to deliver a direct hit, veers off to the east and spares the island from major damage. However, just over a week later, the remnants of Hurricane Ida drop over nine inches of rain on parts of LI, causing flooding issues.


Election 2021

Nov. 2: On Election Day, Republican Bruce Blakeman produces the biggest upset of the night, as he defeated Laura Curran for Nassau County Executive in a tight race decided by just over 2,000 votes.

Nov. 13: Six tornadoes touch down across Long Island, causing trees to topple and lifting roofs in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The number is the most for Long Island since 1950, doubling the previous high total of three.

Nov. 20: The New York Islanders' new home, UBS Arena, opens for fans to see the team take on the Calgary Flames. After years of uncertainty for the franchise's permanent home, the team settled into the arena at Belmont Park next to the race track.

November: Some Suffolk County motorists are caught by a camera on the side of school buses, with the county using photo taken to identify and fine drivers who pass a stopped bus $250.


COVID-19 mask mandate

Dec. 10: Gov. Kathy Hochul issues a mask mandate for New York State as COVID-19 numbers surged in the state. Enforcement was uneven, as some counties elected not to enforce the order, while others were more strict as the rapidly spreading omicron variant arrived in the U.S.

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