ROC Rewind 2021: Looking back at the most memorable local moments of the year

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Well here we are. Another year coming to an end. Thinking back on the past 12 months can, at times, feel both like a distant and recent memory.

Much of this year has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic — locally, nationally, beyond — but there were other important moments that this community will not soon forget, and some others we’d rather not remember.

Here’s a look back at some of those moments from the year that was in our corner of the world, in chronological order:


January


January 5, 2021 — ICU nurse from New York becomes first fully vaccinated person in U.S.

Nurse Sandra Lindsay, who became the first person in the U.S. to receive the COVID-19 vaccine last December, was given her second and final dose back in early January, becoming the first person in America to become fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Lindsay, who treated some of the sickest coronavirus patients in the New York City borough and lost two of her family members to the virus, made history when she received the first dose on Dec. 14.

“The vaccine is safe, I haven’t had any side effects,” she said. “It’s our civil responsibility in a crisis to just band together and get through this. COVID-19 has stripped us of our lives, our livelihoods, and 2021 is our opportunity to reclaim that.”

More than 11 months later, some three billion people are now fully vaccinated worldwide, but the pandemic is still raging.


January 14 — Indoor dining resumes for orange zone restaurants as New York alters COVID-19 rules

Might seem like a long time ago now, but remember the COVID-19 color zone rules that New York state implemented? For a time, a restaurant on one side of the street could allow for indoor dining while another across the street couldn’t, because of high positivity rates based on zip codes and neighborhoods.

Unsurprisingly, businesses and restaurant owners sued the state to try and change the rules, with some success. Following a State Supreme Court ruling in Erie County on indoor dining, New York changed its guidance for COVID-19 orange zones in regards to restaurants.

All restrictions for the “orange” and “yellow” zones would be lifted a week later.


January 15 — Rochester man with Proud Boys ties smashed window at Capitol riots, feds say

A Rochester man was arrested after he was accused of smashing a window at the U.S. Capitol, smoking a cigar inside the building, and threatening to kill Vice President Mike Pence during the deadly, violent riots in Washington D.C. earlier this year.

Dominic Pezzola, 44 of Rochester and class of 1995 graduate of the Aquinas Institute, is charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and restricted buildings or grounds. Pezzola turned himself to police.

Federal authorities say Pezzola, also known as “Spaz” was seen breaking into the Capitol building with a police shield. According to the criminal complaint, Pezzola encouraged nearby rioters on the west side of the building.

Officials say it was one of the first breaches of the Capitol that day and allowed others to gain entry to unlock doors for others to get inside.

Federal officials say a witness who was in Washington D.C. during the riots, identified in the affidavit as W-1, said Pezzola was bragging about breaking the Capitol window and entering the building.

W-1 also said that Pezzola stated he would have killed Vice President Mike Pence if given the chance.

The witness says Pezzola and his associates planned to return to D.C. on the 20th, the day of President-Elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration, where the group planned to kill people. The witness said all members of the group had firearms or access to firearms.

Pezzola is still awaiting trial for his charges. If convicted, Pezzola faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Two other local men, James Mault of Brockport, and Cody Mattice of Hilton, have since been arrested and charged for their alleged role in the attack on the Capitol.


January 16 — Bills advance to AFC Championship with 17-3 win over Ravens

The Buffalo Bills secured their most successful season in decades when they defeated the Baltimore Ravens 17-3 at home in a divisional-round playoff game earlier this year.

Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week’s victory over Indianapolis, winning its first postseason game since the same year.

The Bills went on to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs the following week, missing out on their chance to compete in the Super Bowl, but maybe for the 2022 ROC Rewind, we’ll be able to include the Bills Super Bowl parade.


January 20 — Three National Guard members killed in Mendon military helicopter crash

A UH-60 medical evacuation helicopter was on a routine training mission when it crashed in a farmer’s field along West Bloomfield Road near Cheese Factory Road in Mendon.

Three National Guard members — 54-year-old Steven Skoda of Rochester, 39-year-old Christian Koch of Honeoye Falls, and 30-year-old Daniel Prial of Rochester — were all killed in the crash.

According to Col. Richard Goldenberg, the cause of the crash was not a maintenance issue, but a “procedural error during an emergency training maneuver.” He added that the U.S. Army has since restricted practicing that emergency procedure to flight simulators only.

“All three pilots were experienced combat veterans,” Col. Goldenberg said. “They had more than 50 years of combined flight experience who were all devoted to Army aviation and flying. Military aviation is inherently risky due to the complex flying environment that our pilots and crews have to prepare for. It can also be an unforgiving environment with life and death, decisions and actions, no matter the circumstance, whether mechanical or crew related. Chief Warrant Officers Steven Skoda, Christian Koch, and Daniel Prial were doing what they loved and what they had committed their military careers to — flying.

“This organization is dedicated to saving lives as a medical evacuation company,” Col. Goldenberg said. “These soldiers gave their lives and sacrificed themselves as part of a wider mission where they understand that the efforts we all take here in this particular facility are to fly aircrafts to rescue others.”


February


February 1 — City releases body camera footage of 9-year-old pepper-sprayed by Rochester police

Police worn body camera footage of a 9-year-old girl in handcuffs being pepper-sprayed by Rochester police sparked outrage and protests in the community.

Officers responded to a residence on Avenue B and were approached by the custodial parent of a minor. The custodial parent told the RPD that her child was going to cause self-harm to herself and others before she ran away from the residence.

Police say the girl was “agitated when she saw her custodial parent,” the RPD officials said in a press release. “This caused the minor to pull away and kick at officers, which required an officer to take the minor down to the ground.”

According to the RPD, for the minor’s safety and at the request of the custodial parent, the minor was handcuffed and detained in the backseat of a patrol car to await for AMR. Officers said the minor refused to listen to them as they gave her multiple commands to place her feet inside the patrol car. This required an officer to use an irritant on the minor.

The minor was transported to Rochester General Hospital for treatment and was ultimately released to her family.


February 14 — Rochester airport renamed to honor Frederick Douglass on his birthday

On Valentine’s Day — the day Frederick Douglass celebrated his birthday — Rochester’s airport was officially renamed The Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport.

Douglass was born into slavery in 1818 and never knew his exact birthday. He chose to celebrate on February 14, because that was the last time he remembered seeing his mother when he was a young boy.

The county plans to have educational materials about Douglass inside the airport. The airport now has new signage and officials are raising money to put up a new statue of Douglass.


February 17 — Rochester man wins $1 million in Mountain Dew’s Super Bowl commercial contest

Lots of people watched the Super Bowl for the commercials, but only one used that viewing to snag $1 million!

Mountain Dew challenged viewers to correctly count the exact number of Mountain Dew Major Melon bottles in their ad and tweet their guess.

People had three chances, and Ryan DePaul, of Rochester, ended up the big winner on his very first guess.

“I knew it was coming, and my correct answer, if I’m not mistaken, was the first try — was my very first guess — which is mind-blowing to me, but I’m watching and I’m counting as we are watching on TV, and then at one point, at the end of the commercial, a trunk opens and all these bottles fly out of it, so I’m thinking, ‘Okay, add 50 or so to it,’” DePaul said. “Well, then my roommate and I argued for a little bit over the different numbers we had, and we put it in, and I guess, I won that argument.”

DePaul said he planned to use the money to swap out his Flintstone car for new wheels, take a nice vacation once COVID-19 travel restrictions were lifted, and save for retirement.


February 18 — Second mass COVID-19 vaccination site, pop-up clinic comes to Rochester

The first few weeks of vaccination efforts were restricted due to limited availability of doses, but that all started to change in February when a second mass vaccination site opened in Rochester.

After vaccines were limited to only the population’s elderly, most vulnerable, and essential workers, eligibility slowly expanded as more and more people received their vaccination.

Despite the two local mass vaccination sites at the Dome Arena and the former Kodak Hawkeye parking lot, there would still be limits on who could be vaccinated as the community continued its slow descent from the COVID-19 surge of the recent holiday season.


February 23 — No charges for Rochester police officers involved in Daniel Prude’s death

The Rochester police officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude will not face charges after a grand jury elected not to indict.

“A grand jury has voted not to indict any police officer on charges related to the death of Daniel Prude,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday. “My office concluded there was sufficient evidence surrounding Mr. Prude’s death to present the case to a grand jury, and we presented the most comprehensive case possible.”

The attorney general said she was “extremely disappointed” in the grand jury’s conclusion. Her office compiled a report of recommendation for police reform in response to Prude’s death, including use of force standards and mental health response.

Seven Rochester police officers were suspended with pay in connection to the incident: Officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Michael Magri.

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago, died after an encounter with Rochester police back in March, but news of the incident just came to light in September. News of his death sparked prolonged protests in Rochester and a shake-up in Rochester Police Department leadership.


March


March 1 — Andrew Cuomo accused of sexual harassment

Andrew Cuomo, then one of America’s most prominent governors, was facing one of the most serious challenges of his decade in office following claims he sexually harassed, or was inappropriate with, at least six women — including four who worked for him in state government.

One of the women, Lindsey Boylan, said that during her more than three years in the Democrat’s administration, Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” compared her to one of his rumored ex-girlfriends and once remarked they should play strip poker.

Another woman, Charlotte Bennett, told The New York Times that Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she had ever had sex with older men.

The third woman, Anna Ruch, says the governor placed a hand on her bare lower back at a 2019 wedding reception before grabbing her face and asking if he could kiss her. The fourth accuser, Ana Liss, says the governor “asked her if she had a boyfriend, called her sweetheart, touched her on her lower back at a reception and once kissed her hand when she rose from her desk.”

The fifth accuser, Karen Hinton, says Cuomo hugged her in an “inappropriate” and “unethical” embrace in a California hotel room 21 years ago. The sixth accuser’s identity is being withheld at this time, but she is reportedly a member of the governor’s executive chamber staff.

Cuomo, 63, said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The results of that investigation … well, keep on reading.


March 3 — Iconic Nick Tahou Hots official hits the market for sale in Rochester

A local landmark and late-night eats destination went on sale earlier this year.

The building that houses Nick Tahou’s on Main Street in Rochester, home of the original garbage plate, was listed for sale online for $975,000, according to Howard Hanna. Owner Alex Tahou said that the property is listed by Towpath Homes, and is owned by David Vanderlinde.

The building itself is a former railroad station, but has been the home of Tahou’s for generations in Rochester. Like many, the business has been struggling during the pandemic, and then offers came in recently to buy the place.

It’s still on the market too. If the building sells, the Nick Tahou’s name will live on. Owner Alex Tahou plans to license it to the buyer. He told News 8 Wednesday he’s been at this a long time and thought this was a great opportunity.

“There’s no succession plan with family members, so when you have that — god forbid something happened to me tomorrow — what would everybody do?” Tahou said. “So you have to look to the future, and that’s the main reason. I know I can’t do this forever.”


March 5 — Rochester native Maia Chaka becomes NFL’s first Black female official

Maia Chaka has made history as the first Black female official in the NFL.

Chaka is a Rochester native and a graduate of Edison Career & Technology High School,

She would become only the second woman ever to officiate an NFL regular-season game. Sarah Thomas made history in 2015 and recently became the first female referee to work the Super Bowl.

Chaka and Thomas were actually the only two women selected for an NFL officiating developmental program seven years ago. Scouts picked up on Chaka’s talents while watching her officiate college games. She first started locally at the high school level.

Chaka is a health and physical education teacher at Renaissance Academy in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The Norfolk State University graduate has been working with at-risk youth there for the past decade.


March 23 — Daniel’s Day: Prude protest shuts down East Ave. Wegmans on 1 year anniversary of police encounter

March 23, 2021, marked one year since Daniel Prude’s encounter with the Rochester Police Department which ultimately led to his death a week later. Activists called it “Daniel’s Day,” and encouraged others in Rochester to call out of work, school, and demand justice for Prude.

A rally began around 8 a.m. at Parcel 5 in downtown Rochester with a celebration of life is planned later in the evening. From Parcel 5, demonstrators marched to the RTS station and blocked the bus path around 9:20 a.m., offering to give free rides to people who needed a commute. About a half-hour later, demonstrators marched from the bus station to the intersection of East Avenue and Alexander Street where they again shut down traffic.

About 15 minutes later the group left the intersection and headed further east down East Avenue. Around 10:20 a.m. demonstrators reached the intersection of Culver Road and East Avenue where they again shut down traffic.

Marching further east from there, the demonstrators reached the East Avenue Wegmans just before 11 a.m. and blocked off the entry. Doors to the store were closed and customers inside were kept in the building temporarily, but were let out shortly thereafter.

Shortly after 12 p.m. a spokesperson from Wegmans released the following statement:

“Our East Ave. store is currently closed due to protest activity taking place outside of the store. At this time, no customers remain in the store, and the doors will remain closed. Our number one priority is the safety of our employees and customers.

As of 1 p.m. the group of protesters were still outside the East Avenue Wegmans — eating pizza and listening to music. The store remained closed until 6 a.m. the following morning.


March 24 — Lilac Festival returns: Dates announced after event approved by Monroe County, New York state

After a year of canceled events and festivals, news of the Lilac Festival’s return sent hope throughout Monroe County.

Following approval from the county and New York state, and coinciding with improving local COVID-19 trends, Lilac Festival organizers gathered in March to announce plans for the revamped annual event.

Opposed to the traditional 10-consecutive days, the festival instead would take place over three consecutive weekends in May — a format that organizers will continue in 2022. There was also no free live music in the 2021 iteration, a staple of the festival, but there were private ticketed concerts and events where people could be spaced out safely in an outdoor setting.

The Lilac Festival was the first major local event to announce a comeback in 2021 and signaled a possibility for many others to resume their own.


March 25 — Legalized recreational marijuana deal reached for New York state

Adult-use recreational marijuana is legal in New York state.

After years of political negotiations and failed deals, New York’s Assembly, Senate and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo came together on a three-way deal to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. 

Last-minute legislative negotiations were focused on:

  • Use and allocation of tax revenue collected
  • Home cultivation
  • Driving under the influence laws

For legal marijuana, the state has previously projected $350 million in annual revenue, once the infrastructure is in place.

Gov. Cuomo signed the bill to legalize adult use of marijuana one week after the deal was reached. Here’s a list of what is legal and still illegal regarding marijuana use, possession, and cultivation in New York.


April


April 1 — State trooper who found 2-year-old on mountain in Bristol: ‘She hugged me and wouldn’t let go’

A heroic tale in the Finger Lakes region earlier this year when New York State Trooper Brian Hotchkiss saved a missing 2-year-old girl from the top of a mountain in South Bristol.

When the 911 call came in to the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office for the missing girl, they called the state police to help. Hotchkiss said he knew they were fighting against the clock.

He said 20 to 30 minutes could have entirely changed the outcome of the incident.

He and the other members of law enforcement knocked on neighbors’ doors, but as sundown loomed they had to make a decision fast. Hotchkiss and two other troopers decided to climb the mountain a half mile from the girl’s home.

He said it took him about an hour to get to the top. When he reached the top, all he saw at first was grey and brown in the trees, but then he saw a pink dot. He said he knew from dispatch that the girl was wearing a pink shirt when she disappeared.

“I followed the stream and I located the child, she was lying on her stomach on a rock, and I ran over as quick as possible and I saw her arm move and I knew she was alive and my heart just dropped. I was so excited, I ran up she hugged me immediately, she wouldn’t let go. I still can’t get that out of my head, her turning over and looking at me and throwing her hands up in the air. I’ll never forget that.”


April 7 — Irondequoit man killed in Gates armed carjacking attempt

Law enforcement agencies around the region were sounding the alarm about a concern gunpoint car theft pattern for weeks

That pattern culminated in a violent encounter on Buell Road in Gates where a 71-year-old Richard Sciascia was shot and killed during an armed carjacking attempt.

Two Rochester 16-year-olds were ultimately arrested and charged for the crime; Edgar Tolentino and Anthony Jacobs.

Armed carjackings have continued to be an issue throughout the area for much of the year and police urged motorists to surrender their vehicle should they find themselves in a similar situation.

“Please, if they do try to steal your car, just get out of the car and give them the car,” said Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode. “That is one of the most important messages today. Just give up the car, because we see what happens if you don’t give up the car, or if there’s some sort of struggle. Give the car up and we’ll work on getting your car back.”


April 17 — Snow leopard cub born at Seneca Park Zoo

The Seneca Park Zoo celebrated the successful birth of a snow leopard cub in April.

The cub, ultimately named Kenji through a community submission and voting process, was born with a respiratory issue and underwent treatment for as it recovered.

(Seneca Park Zoo photo)

And recover it did. As the cub’s condition improved, the Zoo launched a 24/7 stream of its habitat as it nursed back to health.

By September, the popular Cub Cam reached its conclusion and Kenji was able to move to the standard outdoor snow leopard cub exhibit.


April 20 — 4/20 festival at Highland Bowl Tuesday to celebrate marijuana legalization in Rochester

With marijuana being legal, folks in Rochester came out to “High-land” Park to celebrate the unofficial holiday for the activity — 4/20.

Although legal marijuana is poised to make hundreds of millions of dollars for New York state, organizers of this event say the rally was focused on educating people about the criminal just aspects of the new law.

The rally was organized by Community Justice Initiative, a local activist group, and took place at the Highland Bowl.

“People can start being released sooner and faster and faster,” said Jordan Smith, Community Justice Initiative. “Get these people out of jail because they don’t need to be there and overall I just hope that it stops the oppression that it being illegal caused.”


April 27 — 2021 Park Avenue Summer Art Festival canceled due to COVID-19

Another reminder of an ongoing pandemic.

As some events like the Lilac Festival and Party in the Park were ramping up for their 2021 return, other events like the Park Avenue Summer Art Festival, Corn Hill Arts Festival, the International Rochester Jazz Festival, and others made the difficult decision to cancel their programming for a second consecutive year.

These events take months and months of planning, and with so much uncertainty regarding the pandemic, many organizers elected to forego the unknown and cancel for another year.


April 28 — No more food requirement for alcohol service in New York, lawmakers repeal Gov. Cuomo’s order

Remember “Cuomo Chips?”

The rule that required customers to purchase “substantive food” in order to receive alcohol service in New York bars and restaurants came to an end in late April when lawmakers in the New York State Legislature voted to repeal the governor’s emergency order.

That order was put in place in July 2020 and was the recipient of a lot of criticism and scrutiny, including a debate over if chicken wings counted as food.

The repeal of this measure was widely celebrated in the food and beverage industry, understandably.


May


May 2 — Dog reunited with owner 8 years after it went missing in Rochester

If ever a dog lived up to its name, it’s Phoenix.

Eight years ago he was reported stolen in Rochester and 8 hours after he was found, he was reunited with his family.

“Whether you’re missing your dog for a few hours, or a few years, having this protection is key,” said Chris Fitzgerald, Director of Animal Services for the City of Rochester.

Phoenix’s journey home wouldn’t have been possible without a microchip — a small implant that’s placed in a pet’s skin — that contains contact information should the pet get lost. Rochester Animal Services used the technology in March after Phoenix was found sleeping in a city resident’s garage. Turns out, Phoenix was reported stolen in October of 2013.

The family was distraught to lose their then 5- month old puppy. The owner had since moved to Atlanta, but when RAS contacted her she joyfully sent her son, still in Rochester, to get him.

“Within an hour the family member came, it was the son of the owner, and he was reunited with his childhood dog that everybody thought was gone and would never see again,” Fitzgerald said.


May 17 — One-armed Spencerport lacrosse player thrives in first varsity season

 Soccer was the first sport Ruby DePalma tried, but lacrosse is where she fell in love. However, the learning curve was a little bit steeper because Ruby only has one arm from the elbow down.

Ruby was born with one arm and now wasn’t just a member of the Spencerport varsity team, but she was also one of the team’s leading scorers..

“Are there any limitations? The answer is no,” said her head coach Trish Condon. “There’s nothing that I have asked of these players that Ruby can’t do. If anything is challenging, she’s made modifications on her own and she’s better off for it.”

“I don’t think I’m very timid on the field,” said DePalma. “I feel like I belong and I usually forget about my arm and my teammates do too.”

Ruby says she was occasionally underestimated by opposing players and coaches, but she quickly showed them that is one big mistake.

“I’ll score and even the other team, the defender that I beat or something, will come up to me and be like ‘wow, you’re really good.’” said DePalma. “It makes me feel good just because I like proving people wrong when they think I can’t do something.

“It makes me really confident in the future that I can do anything and that I shouldn’t limit myself and use my arm as an excuse,” DePalma added. “I should use it as a method to prove people wrong.”

Lacrosse runs in the family her oldest sister Sophie just wrapped up a DII career at Edinboro and her older sister Lily, a senior on Spencerport, will play DIII at the University of Chicago. Ruby hopes to play in college as well, currently receiving DIII interest.

Ruby doesn’t know of anyone playing lacrosse with one arm she had to learn all of her unique techniques herself, but she hopes that maybe she could be that role model for someone else.


May 19 — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren’s husband arrested on drugs, weapon charges in major drug bust

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren’s estranged husband Timothy Granison was arrested on drug and weapon charges that ultimately led to charges against the mayor herself.

Following a traffic stop in the city — where law enforcement officials said Granison was found to be in possession of a “large” quantity of cocaine — New York State Police executed a search warrant at the home of Mayor Warren and her husband on Woodlawn Park in the City of Rochester. At that home, police said an unregistered handgun was located.

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said Granison’s arrest was a part of a major law enforcement investigation into drugs in the City of Rochester. In total, there were seven houses in the City of Rochester where search warrants were executed, which led to six arrests in the significant drug bust.

The mayor would later hold a press conference where she said she didn’t anothing wrong. To find out how her husband’s arrest ultimately impacted her, continue reading …


May 20 — Pittsford 12-year-old named Finn reels in 26 lb salmon and wins $15,000 in Lake Ontario Counties Derby History

The Lake Ontario Counties Derby started in 1988. Finn Murphy from Pittsford hadn’t even been born yet, and now he’s the youngest champ, after reeling in a 26-pound salmon.

He went out with Captain Kipp Mammano and his dad to a secret spot, and after a half-hour battle, he reeled in a chinook salmon.

He says that most of the $15,000 will go to his college, but his parents are letting him keep a little to spend for himself.


May 22 — Seabreeze reopens after historic yearlong closure

After a year with no funnel cakes, no screams, and no Jack Rabbit, Seabreeze Amusement park was back up and running on May 22.

Seabreeze was closed for the full 2020 season due to the pandemic, which was also the year the iconic Jack Rabbit roller coaster turned 100 years old.

The Seabreeze season opened with some restrictions, like tickets needing to be purchased in advance, masks required on the ground, and attendance limited to 1/3 capacity, but for many in the region it was a welcome return to semblance of normalcy heading into the summer months.


June


June 3 — Missing boyfriend in gruesome Irondequoit death caught in West Virginia, facing murder charge

Seth Larson, a suspect in a local murder investigation, was found in West Virginia and charged with murder in connection to the death of 37-year-old Lisa Shuler.

Larson was sought after by Irondequoit police after Shuler was found dead and in a “dismembered state” outside a Culver Road home the week prior.

Human remains, discovered at Durand Lake by a civilian, were identified as Shuler, the victim in a suspicious death investigation last week in Irondequoit.

Larson was then identified as a person of interest by police. Police said he was in a 10-year relationship with Shuler and they lived at the Culver Road home together.

“We don’t know the cause, it is a homicide though,” said Irondequoit Police Chief Alan Laird. “We have not determined a motive yet.”


June 15 — State’s COVID-19 mandates are lifted, effective immediately

With New York state reaching 70% of residents 18 and older with at least one vaccine dose, the remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

More than 15 months after the state’s initial state of emergency was declared, things began to change. Cleaning and disinfection, social distancing, health screenings, and contract tracing will be lifted for retail, food services, offices, gyms, amusement parks, barbershops and hair salons.

“This is a momentous day, and we deserve it,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We will remember where we were, and where we’re doing. If you had said to us on Day 1, that we were going to be capable of the accomplishment we have reached, no one would have believed you,” then-Gov. Cuomo said. “We had the highest positivity rate of anywhere on the globe.”

Although most restrictions were lifted, some stayed in place, including federal guidelines: COVID-19 health protocols would remain in place for large-scale event venues, schools pre-k to 12th grade, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health care facilities. Unvaccinated people would still be required to keep a social distance of six feet and wear a face mask.

That night fireworks were lit all across New York to honor the state’s progress and its essential workers.


June 16 — Rochester native Isaiah Stewart named to NBA All-Rookie Second Team

Rochester native and Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team.

Stewart, the No. 16 overall pick in last year’s NBA draft, averaged 7.9 points per game, along with 6.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in his first season in the pros. He averaged 21.4 minutes per game, started 14 games, and shot 55% from the field, 33% from three, and 70% from the free-throw line.

Stewart is the highest ever draft pick out of Rochester, surpassing Greece Athena’s John Wallace who was picked 18th overall by the New York Knicks in 1996 and Al Butler, who was taken 17th overall in 1961 by the Boston Celtics.


June 17 — Pittsford native Pamela Melroy confirmed as NASA deputy administrator

Pittsford native Pamela Melroy was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to help lead NASA.

Melroy, who attended Pittsford schools and Bishop Kearney High School, is a former astronaut who piloted two space shuttle missions and commanded a third. All three missions help to build the International Space Station.

Melroy retired from NASA in 2009. The Senate confirmed her as NASA Deputy Administrator Thursday.


June 18 — Billy Fuccillo, ‘huuuuge’ local car dealer, philanthropist in Upstate New York, dead at 65

Billy Fuccillo, a prominent car dealer across New York state known for his “Huuuuuuuuuuge” slogan in TV commercials, has died after a long illness. He was 65-years-old.

“Billy was a giant in the auto industry,” said attorney Robert Scalione. “He also did a lot of good things for people, and felt good when he was able to change people’s lives.”

He added Fuccillo never wanted recognition for his generosity.

Catherine James, the CEO of the Central New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, remembered Fuccillo for his generosity to her organization. James recalled a charity event where, in front of hundreds of people, Fuccillo asked her fundraising goal. She responded, “$50,000.” He offered to match it — and did.

Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick has fond memories golfing with Fuccillo, but recalled when Billy donated $10,000 to a group working to install a monument to fallen police officers in Downtown Syracuse.

Fuccillo was born in Greenport on Long island in 1957. They say he graduated from Syracuse University in 1978 after receiving a full football scholarship and would go on to buy his first dealership near Watertown, New York in 1989.


June 19 — Missing Parma man investigation becomes a murder investigation after human remains found in fire pit

Human remains discovered in a fire pit have turned a missing persons investigation into a murder investigation.

William Mason, 69 of Parma, was last seen on Tuesday, May 25 around 10:30 a.m. near his home in the Town of Parma.

“We were able to locate a fire pit that’s on that property,” Bolton said. “In the fire pit, we found what we believe to be bones. We sent those bones to the medical examiner’s office. We had a forensics anthropologist look at those bones and we can say with certainty now that the bones were in fact human bones that we found in that fire pit. At that point, this became a murder investigation.”

Two months later, two of Mason’s step-children would be arrested and charged with murder in connection to the incident.


June 22 — Malik Evans defeats Lovely Warren in Democratic primary for Rochester mayor

It marked the end of an era for local politics as Lovely Warren, running for her third term in office, was defeated handedly by City Councilmember Malik Evans in June’s Democratic primary.

Evans won the night by carrying 66% of the vote. With no Republican slated to oppose him in November’s general election, Evans was on his way to the mayor’s office.

Warren was unable to weather multiple ongoing controversies in her re-election campaign, including City Hall’s handling of Daniel Prude’s death, her indictment on campaign finance violations, and her husband’s recent arrest on drugs and weapon charges.

“Today we may have not won the race, but this is not over yet,” Warren said in a speech to her supporters on election night. “My journey isn’t over yet. The best is yet to come. So I thank you all for your support. I want to thank the Lovely team because you all stood there 100%. We may think today was about an ending, but today was about a new beginning for me, for my daughter, for our family — and I truly want to thank each and every one of you.”

Evans campaigned on reducing city crime with youth-work initiativescracking down on guns coming into Rochester, a proposed Senior Stability Fund to aid Rochester’s elderly, and more.

During Evans’ campaign he largely avoided calling attention to Warren’s controversies, instead insisting that his message focused on city issues and proposed policies.

“There are a lot of the people on this campaign that we pulled in that do not like politics,” Evans said. “That’s why you saw a campaign that was run on positivity — we never got low. We didn’t pay attention to any of the gurus that were there. We had a mission that we wanted to do and we wanted to be proud of this campaign. When you get down in the mud, you get mud splashed back at you, and I don’t have any mud on me. Why? Because we kept the campaign positive. We wanted to run a campaign in the same way we would lead this city; organized, disciplined and focused — and that’s what we did in this campaign.”


June 27 — Golfer’s paradise: House for sale in Webster has a golf course as its lawn

If you’ve ever dreamed of walking out your front door and being at a golf course, you may be in luck.

A house went for sale on Lake Point Drive in Webster and it had a personal golf course as its lawn, plus a ton of other cool features.

Aside from the eye-catching links, the 2,016 square-foot home built in 1987 features three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and loads of other features.


June 28 — Jimmy Fallon makes appearance at Iron Smoke Distillery in Fairport

Jimmy Fallon, host of The Tonight Show, made an appearance in late June at Iron Smoke Distillery in Fairport.

Iron Smoke owner and musician Tommy Brunett said the late-night host arrived at the distillery Saturday night, adding that they played some music together for folks at the bar, and sampled some of the distillery’s product.

Fallon has Upstate New York roots, spending much of his childhood in Saugerties of the Capital Region.


July


July 1 — Party in the Park returns for 2021: Downtown Rochester summer concert series is back after 1 year hiatus

Welcome news for music fans in Rochester back in July after organizers from Rochester Events! announced the return of Party in the Park.

The downtown summer concert series celebrated its 25th anniversary in the Flower City in 2021, and offered families some safe and affordable outdoor fun while other summer staples, like Corn Hill Arts Festival and Park Avenue Summer Arts Festival, remained canceled.

For eight weeks throughout the summer, people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park at Manhattan Square on Thursdays from touring and local music acts from a wide variety of genres.


July 6 — Gov. Cuomo declares disaster emergency on gun violence in New York state

As the City of Rochester wrestled with a historic pace of homicides over the summer, the State of New York was also grappling with an increase in violent crime.

That led then-governor Andrew Cuomo to declare a disaster emergency on gun violence for the state of New York, a first-of-its-kind disaster emergency for the country.

“We have to get illegal guns off the streets and we have to get illegal guns out of the hands of people and we have to rebuild the community,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Treat it like a public health issue. We know how to deal with an epidemic and what we want to say is, we want to treat gun violence like we did with COVID.”

According to the governor, immediate efforts of the disaster emergency to quell the ongoing gun violence statewide focused on the following seven key areas:

  1. Treat gun violence like the emergency public health issue it is
  2. Target hotspots with data and science
  3. Positive engagement for at-risk youth
  4. Break the cycle of escalating violence
  5. Get illegal guns off the streets
  6. Keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people
  7. Rebuild the police community relationship

July 9 — Delta variant in Rochester: ‘Small but appreciable’ percent of local coronavirus cases

As delta was becoming the dominant coronavirus strain in many areas throughout the world in early July, it was only first arriving in Rochester.

Monroe County would see the delta surge in the months to follow, as it soon would account for the majority of new cases in our area.

Although omicron could potentially overtake delta as the dominant variant locally, as of late December, delta was still fueling the rise in new cases and COVID hospitalizations throughout the region.


July 17 — Flooding at Ellison Park after near-record rainfall

July in Rochester saw more rain than most wanted to see during the summer. July 2021 ended up cracking the top 5 for most rain in July ever, and it led to quite a bit of flooding in the area, especially at Ellison Park.


July 21 — ‘Love at first truck’: One local couple talks meeting at Food Truck Rodeo, secret sauce to success

Summer events were resuming in Rochester for the first time since 2019, and the Food Truck Rodeo at the Public Market was the place for the adventurous eaters among us to enjoy.

Some of those eats were brought to you by two local food truck owners who found love at the Food Truck Rodeo.

Michael Zazzaro has a food truck and business called Chef’s Catering in Rochester, where you’ll find loaded fries, burger sliders, and more.

Shaina Sidoti also has a local food truck business, Effortlessly Healthy, where you’re not going to find loaded fries and sliders.

Two separate trucks, with two very different menus, and seven years ago at the Rochester Public Market’s Food Truck Rodeo, Michael and Shaina were culinary competitors. 

A clever pick-up line later and the two were an item with their employees each telling them “that’s the person you’re going to marry.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.


July 23 — Flying with weed: It’s OK to have this much marijuana in New York airports

Part of acclimating to marijuana being legal in New York meant reassessing old rules that would be impacted. In July, some clarity was given in regards to traveling through airports with marijuana.

While Marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, police are no longer seizing marijuana, making arrests or issuing tickets for low-level possession for travelers passing through airports across the state, according to a report from the Times Union.

As of right now, New York has eliminated penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis for those 21 and older, with a greater quantity allowed to be stored at home in a secured place. TSA officials say if marijuana is found at airports by security, they will notify local police.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is the law enforcement agency that oversees operations at the airport. They say they will enforce state law in regards to marijuana possession. In a statement to News 8 Friday:

MCSO will enforce the New York State Penal Law regarding possession of marijuana. If three ounces or less, there is no enforcement per the NYS Penal Law. If an individual is in possession of three ounces or more, the individual faces arrest and prosecution in accordance with the NYS Penal law.

So if you have three ounces or less in your possession at the Rochester airport, there is no potential to be ticketed, arrested, or have the marijuana seized. If you have more than three ounces you could face arrest and prosecution.


August


August 2 — Monroe County recommending masks for all indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status

After months of relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, the delta variant was beginning to take hold locally, across the nation, and beyond.

That led to public officials reconsidering masking and vaccine requirements and recommendations, whereas previously the CDC said fully vaccinated individuals did not need to wear masks in public.

Early August brought a new surge in Monroe County, and although Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said they recommended indoor masking in all public settings, regardless of vaccination status, they fell short of declaring widespread mandates and requirements for such seen earlier in the pandemic.


August 3 — Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, New York Attorney General report finds

Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, including former and current state employees, in violation of both federal and state law, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James who announced the findings of her office’s investigation into the governor back in August.

The nearly five-month investigation, conducted by two outside lawyers who spoke to 179 people, found that the Cuomo administration was a “hostile work environment” and that it was “rife with fear and intimidation.”

People interviewed included complainants, current and former members of the executive chamber, State troopers, additional state employees and others who interacted regularly with the governor. They also reviewed more than 74,000 pieces of evidence, including documents, emails, text messages, audio files and pictures.

“The independent investigation has concluded that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and in doing so violated federal and state law,” James said. “Specifically the investigation found that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed current and former New York state employees by engaging in unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous offensive comments.”

Later that day, the governor released a video addressing the sexual harassment report where he again denied ever touching anyone inappropriately and did not indicate that he would resign from office.


August 5 — Veteran News 8 WROC anchor Maureen McGuire retires

Maureen McGuire started at News 8 in 1997 as a general assignment reporter, but in August of this year she retired from the anchor desk. For 24 years McGuire was a trusted and valued resource for local news and information on News 8.

A Rochester native, Maureen attended Bishop Kearney High School, Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, and then pursued a graduate degree in journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving at WROC-TV she was a reporter in the Jefferson City, Missouri, Traverse City, Michigan, and St. Louis, Missouri television markets.

“I moved back because I wanted to be closer to friends and family. It was the best move I ever made,” said McGuire. “When you get to do the work you love, in a place you love, it’s a good life. I’m blessed!”

“No one can tell a story like Maureen. She has a wonderful way with words, but she also cares deeply about the people in each story and it shows,” said Adam Chodak, News 8 Anchor and Managing Editor. “Maureen has been the bearer of high journalistic standards, humor and heart.”

Even in retirement, she was still recently breaking news:

And Mo, if you’re reading this, we miss you!


August 10 — Gov. Cuomo resigning in wake of sexual harassment report

After being under fire from dueling controversies regarding the state’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, and sexual harassment allegations against the governor, Andrew Cuomo announced in August that he would resign, and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul would succeed him as governor.

“Kathy Hochul is my lieutenant governor — she is smart and competent and this transition must be seamless,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We have a lot going on., and I’m very worried about the delta variant and so should you, but she can be brought up to speed.”

Officials from both sides of the aisle, all levels of government — including President Joe Biden — said Cuomo should resign after the attorney general’s report was made public.

The governor said there were inaccuracies with the attorney general’s report, but conceded that fighting the uphill political battle he is facing currently would not benefit New Yorkers.

“I think that given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let the government get back to governing and therefore that’s what I do, because I work for you,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo, 63, was first elected as the 56th governor of New York in 2010 and was in his third term. His time in office would end once his resignation took effect 14 days later.


August 16 — Vaccine mandate issued for all New York health care workers, long-term care employees

New York state made its first sweeping vaccine mandate in the summer when officials announced all health care workers in New York state, including staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities like nursing homes, adult care, and other congregate care settings, would be required to get vaccinated by September 27.

The mandate would end up being a discussion for the courts to take up, specifically regarding religious exemptions, but would ultimately lead to an ultimatum for many of the state’s health care workers: Either get vaccinated, or find a new job.


August 22 — Toronto man with disability paddleboards across Lake Ontario to raise mental health awareness

In 2018, Mike Shoreman was a professional athlete with ambitions to take over the paddleboarding scene. That was during the same time he was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.

Over the summer, Shoreman pulled away from the Port of Rochester Marina on his attempt to become the first person with mental and physical disabilities to paddleboard from the U.S. to Canada.

Ramsey Hunt Syndrome is a neurological condition and a side-effect of shingles. When Shoreman was struck with the disease, his ability to balance was massively hindered; just like the potential of his paddleboarding career.

Following a battle with suicide and an extended period of repetitive rehab exercise that involved the combination of minimal standing and kneeling, Shoreman re-discovered his paddleboard balance and said “yes I can.”

Over the summer, he paddleboarded more than 85 miles from the Port of Rochester Marina to Toronto, Canada across Lake Ontario in a mission to raise physical and mental health awareness for youth.

The record-breaking feat also directly benefited the Tyler Clementi Foundation and The Trevor Project.


August 23 — Rochester’s Brother Wease inducted into National Radio Hall of Fame

A Rochester radio legend’s legacy will forever be cemented in the Museum of Broadcast Communications’ Radio Hall of Fame.

Brother Wease was among this year’s class of inductees in the Hall of Fame.

Wease, whose real name is Alan Levin, was nominated in July in the “Longstanding Local/Regional (20 years or more) category. He was one of four finalists, including John & Ken from KFI-AM Los Angeles, Melvin Lindsey from Washington, and Matt Siegel from KISS 108 Boston.

Brother Wease had a television show on WROC-TV in 1991 and 1992. The Brother Wease Late Night Circus featured guests, sketches, music, and more.

Wease currently hosts a show on 95.1 in Rochester.


August 24 — Kathy Hochul makes history as New York’s first female governor

Kathy Hochul became the first female governor of New York, inheriting immense challenges as she takes over an administration facing criticism for inaction during Andrew Cuomo’s distracted final months in office.

Hochul, a Democrat and former member of Congress from Western New York, took the oath of office just after midnight on August 24 in a brief, private event overseen by the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore.

A ceremonial swearing-in took place at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the New York State Capitol, with more pomp than the brief, legally required event during the night. Hochul is scheduled to make her first public address as governor at 3 p.m.

After she was ceremonially sworn-in Hochul spoke briefly to media. She said she spoke with President Joe Biden who pledged his “full support” of her administration. She also said she was going to change the culture of Albany and “looked forward to a fresh collaborative approach.”

The new governor said rental protections were a top priority of her administration going forward. She said the money is there and people need help.

“Deploying more people to the crisis, and connecting them with landlords, putting together a team to get relief out to people, and reducing the incredible stress these families are under,” Hochul said.


August 27 — Record broken: Sean Lewis surpasses 34 hours on a swing set

A new world record was broken by a 12-year-old from East Rochester. Sean Lewis wrapped up swinging for 34 consecutive hours.

He broke the record by three hours, and every four hours he was allowed a 20-minute break. His family explained the toughest part was through the night as the hours went on, but he prevailed. 

His family says that this has been a favorite habit of Sean. He’s known for playing on his swing set and wanted to give it a try for the world record. 

“Sean is always on the swing, everybody knows he likes to swing for hours and hours at a time anyway so this was just kind of a natural revolution,” said his mother Kelly Lewis. “He said he wanted to do it so we said let’s go for it.”


September


September 11 — 9/11 events commemorate 20 years since terrorist attack

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, and many organizations and businesses commemorated the somber day with memorials and events to remember what happened two decades ago.

One of the more memorable visuals from this year was “USA Field” south of Penn Yann and overlooking Keuka Lake in Yates County. The MacDonald family has kept the tradition of maintaining the farm field. Darley and Gary Cronk owned the farm in September 2011, and in the days after the attack, they had the lettering cut into their field.

Greg MacDonald bought the farm a few years and he and his son Jeff have kept the patriotic tradition alive:


September 12 — Rochester doctor accused of using own sperm to inseminate female patient in new lawsuit

A Rochester doctor was accused of using his own sperm to inseminate a woman after telling the prospective parents that the sperm would come from a separate donor, a lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit accused Dr. Morris Wortman, a local gynecologist, of telling at least one patient he was using a sperm donor, and instead used his own sperm to inseminate.

The lawsuit was filed after a local woman, who currently lives in Geneseo, discovered multiple half-siblings through over-the-counter DNA testing kits.

The plaintiff would later discover three more half-siblings, all donor conceived, and born between 1983 and 1985.

The lawsuit alleged medical malpractice against Wortman and several employees at the facility, claiming that Wortman knowingly implanted his own sperm in the plaintiff’s mother and later treated her from 2012 through 2021, including conducting numerous pelvic examinations, transvaginal ultrasounds, and IUC placements under sedation.

According to the lawsuit, “no reasonable woman” would have consented to Wortman’s actions if they knew he was their biological father.


September 13 — Tornado confirmed: NWS confirms EF-1 tornado touched down in Livingston County

We don’t often get tornadoes in our area, but it does happen.

It was a loud night for many across WNY as strong to severe thunderstorms rolled across the area. For folks in the Conesus & Springwater area, one storm in particular appears to have produced a brief tornado.

Here’s how it works: A storm produces damage. If significant enough, a team from the National Weather Service will visit the location and conduct a storm survey, analyzing damage extent and patterns. Straight-line wind damage often produces a different signature than tornadic wind damage where winds have a rotational component to them. For example, tornadoes tend to produce a convergent damage pattern. Downbursts do the opposite, damage tends to be divergent.

This survey produced results suggesting EF-1 tornado damage with maximum winds of 110 mph. According to the report, the tornado touched down at 12:57 am on September 13th near the town lines of Conesus and Springwater. 

Winds moved a trailered boat and an antique plow from their pre-storm positions. We have not heard any reports of injuries.

It is important to note that this storm did NOT have a Tornado Warning with it. It did, however, have a Severe Thunderstorm Warning at the time. This tornado was on the ground for 3 minutes and likely touched down and lifted in between radar scans, rendering it “invisible” on radar data. 


September 17 — Less is More Act: NY to eliminate jail time for most minor parole violations

Amid calls for action over the crisis at New York City’s Rikers Island, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Less Is More Act into law, a major step in overhauling New York’s parole system.

The legislation prevents people from being sent back to jail for technical, non-criminal parole violations.

The legislation also prevents people from being reincarcerated for technical, non-criminal parole violations, such as missing a curfew or arriving late to an appointment with a parole officer.

It will also allow for shortened parole sentences because of good behavior, and expedite the time frame in which parole hearings can be held.

Since the bill was signed there have been protests and counter protests throughout Rochester and the state.


September 20 — Hundreds gather at Strong to push back against vaccine mandate

Every Monday for weeks, folks would gather outside Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester to protest against vaccine mandates for health care workers.

Driving down Elmwood Avenue on a Monday afternoon in September brought a familiar sight: Hundreds gathered with signs and flags, chanting and yelling as cars drove by.

Despite the protests, the statewide vaccine mandate for health care workers would go into effect late September and despite concerns about widespread resignations, most local hospital systems saw relatively few leave their workforce.

URMC reported fewer than 300 resignations once the mandate took effect, which represented about 1% of the overall workforce of the region’s largest employer.


September 21 — More than 700 Bills season-ticket holders request refund after vaccine requirement

Health care employees weren’t the only ones who were going to need vaccines — Bills and Sabres fans would need proof of vaccination to gain entry into the stadiums for games.

When the vaccine requirement went into effect, 762 Bills season-ticket holders requested refunds. For reference, that was about 1% of the stadium’s 71,608 seating capacity.


September 24 — John Kucko celebrates 30 years at News 8 WROC

The average person spends 4.1 years with their employer before switching jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But our John Kucko is not an average person.

September 24 marked the 30 year anniversary of “Johnny K” at News 8 WROC in Rochester. John joined the team in 1991 and back then it was all about covering major sporting events, like the 19 Super Bowls he would attend.

Even in his sports role, he showed an interest in weather, and now he’s our resident expert on waterfalls, trains, and really all things nature.

He’s embraced his “digital guy” role, reaching millions of people through a Facebook Live on Election Day in 2016 while broadcasting from Susan B. Anthony’s gravesite.


September 29 — AEW wrestler: ‘Rochester has literally nothing going for it’

All Elite Wrestling (AEW) was set to make its Upstate New York debut in late September at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena. While local wrestling fans were excited for the show, one of the wrestlers on the roster was not.

AEW’s Maxwell Jacob Freidman, known as MJF, wrote on Twitter: “Just landed. Holy mother of god Rochester has literally nothing going for it.”

The tweet, predictably, went viral locally, with some agreeing with the wrestler and others offering some insight into Flower City culture, including imagery of garbage plates, Zweigle’s, and more. And, of course, the Red Wings had to chime in.

Others pointed out popular positives like Wegmans, our museums, popular restaurants and things to do while in town, like Wednesday’s final Food Truck Rodeo of the year. Some simply agreed and called the city “Rottenchester.”

Not quite the reception that comedian Jim Gaffigan received last January when he had a show in Rochester, but we’re a relatively easy population to pander to. If you say a garbage plate is “perfect,” we’re generally pretty receptive.


October


October 4 — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren submits resignation letter after accepting plea deal

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren agreed to resign after accepting the terms of a plea deal Monday in court. Her resignation would become effective December 1.

The mayor’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday for charges over alleged campaign finance violations that date back to her 2017 re-election campaign.

Terms of the plea will also resolve another set of criminal charges the mayor is currently facing. Warren and her estranged husband, Timothy Granison, were each handed three different charges after a pistol and rifle were found in their home where their daughter was left alone in May.

The mayor was serving the remainder of what was her last term in office. The two-term mayor was defeated handedly by current City Councilmember Malik Evans in this year’s June Democratic primary and Evans had no opponent for November general election.

Warren was sworn into the office in January 2014, and was re-elected in 2017. She was running for re-election this year, set to face off against City Councilmember Malik Evans in a Democratic primary on June 22. Evans will be sworn into office in the new year. Deputy Mayor James Smith will become acting mayor upon Warren’s effective resignation date on December 1.

formal resignation letter was submitted to City Council leadership later that day.

Prior to being mayor, Warren served on Rochester City Council from 2007 through 2013, and was elected as Council President in 2010, becoming the youngest person to hold that position in the Council’s history.

Warren was the first woman to become Rochester mayor, and the city’s youngest mayor in modern times. She was born and raised in the city’s 19th Ward Neighborhood.


October 15 — Eric Smith, Steuben County child killer, granted parole

Eric Smith, nationally known for killing a 4-year-old in 1993, has been granted parole after spending 27 years in prison.

Smith made national headlines in 1993 when, at 13 years old, he lured 4-year-old Derrick Robie into the woods in Steuben County, strangled him, crushed his head with a rock, and sodomized him with a stick. A jury unanimously found Smith guilty of second-degree murder.

The former Steuben County District Attorney, John Tunney, who prosecuted Smith at the time, said he’s thought about the possibility of Smith re-entering society for decades, and the first people he thought of: the family of Derrick Robie.


October 21 — Brockport banana garden: California transplant brings tropical harvest to New York

Banana trees are native to parts of South America and only spawn in wet or hot biomes.

When Ray Trim was forced to move back to New York from California, he decided to challenge Mother Nature and now he has a full banana tree garden in Brockport.

Originally from Gates-Chili, Trim spent more than 30 years in the Golden State, but moved back home to help his mother who is dealing with health issues.

While the move was beneficial, the shift in climate between the two states was a tall hurdle.

“I realized ‘OK Ray, we are not going to be growing the same plants and trees any longer,’” Trim said.

However, he wasn’t willing to give up on the idea of bringing parts of California over to Brockport. During a visit to a regional garden store, he found small musa basjoo plants.

Now his backyard in Brockport is home to more than 20 banana trees, each standing at 8 feet high.


October 25 — Greece Police Chief resigning in wake of crash, district attorney investigation continues

Greece Police Chief Andrew Forsythe resigned in the wake of a crash that sparked an investigation, Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich announced back in October.

The police chief was placed on administrative leave this weekend following a recent crash while he was operating his police-issued vehicle, which prompted an investigation by the Monroe County District Attorney’s office.

Forsythe suffered a minor contusion and the vehicle was totaled.

Reilich said he asked the chief for the resignation, who then submitted it back to him. Reilich said he then reached out to the district attorney’s office about the resignation, adding that the investigation into the crash will continue. Reilich said the “breakdown of communication” was a contributing factor in him asking for the chief to step down.

The supervisor said when he initially talked to Chief Forsythe, he had no reason to believe there was anything more to the story, but decided to put him on leave Sunday after learning more from the district attorney’s office.

Officers with Greece Police arrived at the scene of the accident to investigate. Forsythe was not given any sort of sobriety test and was not checked for drunk driving. Police say if there was any reason to suspect drunk driving, they would’ve proceeded further with a test.

Forsythe would later plead guilty to DWAI charges, and 10 members of the Greece Police Department are currently under investigation for their actions, or lack thereof, for the night the former chief crashed.


October 26 — Scorpions found in package delivered to Joywave drummer in Rochester

A shocking afternoon for a local man who found scorpions — yes, literal, live scorpions — inside a package which arrived at his house.

And the plot thickens: That man is also the drummer for the internationally renowned and locally-based rock band Joywave.

“At first I thought it was like a tick, or something. I mean, they were really small,” said Paul Brenner, Joywave drummer.

A package sat quietly on Brenner’s floor while he was away for a weekend. When he got back home Monday and opened it, he found something he didn’t order.

“That’s when I realized, ‘no, that’s a scorpion,’” Brenner said. “That’s when my shirt left my hands and went into the box.”

He says he saw about eight little ones, and one really, really big one.

Brenner says he ordered a T-shirt and some shoes from an internet seller in Hawaii. When he found the creatures, he called 311, then Rochester police were at his door.

“The cops seemed to love it,” Brenner said. “More kept showing up, they had their phones out, some of them were saying ‘I’ve never even seen a scorpion.’”

News 8 did reach out to Rochester police about this. They tell us the scorpions being there did not seem intentional. They say there might’ve been a scorpion that entered the packaging before it was shipped or was inside the item that was shipped.

“That’s almost the scariest part,” Brenner said. “Because, you know, I have a cat. My roommate was home all weekend. And to know that there were live scorpions, feet from my sleeping cat, and I wasn’t there, that’s just creepy. ‘Tis the season I suppose.”

You might recognize Brenner as the drummer for the rock band Joywave. They’re Rochester natives, with big, nationally-acclaimed hits.


October 27 — Whole flower cannabis launches at Rochester dispensary for NY medical marijuana community

A Rochester marijuana dispensary, Columbia Care, became the first in New York Tuesday to offer whole flower cannabis products for the state’s medical marijuana community.

Columbia Care, one of the nation’s largest multi-state cannabis providers, announced that it is the first licensed organization to offer “whole flower” to New York’s medical marijuana community. Whole flower refers to the bud of the plant, the part you can smoke.

Company officials say the whole flower product would be available for purchase at its local dispensary, located at 200 West Ridge Road in Eastman Business Park.


November


November 11 — 2 dead in double downtown shooting in Rochester, 2021 deadliest year in city history

Two people were shot and killed in downtown Rochester last month, making 2021 the deadliest year on record in the city’s history, according to police officials.

Authorities say officers responded around 3 a.m. after two people were shot in an apartment building Chestnut Street. Police officials identified the victims Friday as 22-year-old Tywan Harper, who lived at the address, and 19-year-old Malakai Smith, a Town of Greece resident.

This shooting incident marks the 69th and 70th homicides in the city so far this year, making 2021 officially the deadliest year in Rochester’s history. According to Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino, the homicides per year in Rochester date back to 1970, as he added that record-keeping in the past, and before then, wasn’t as reliable as it is in the present. 

The next day, Mayor Warren declared a local state of emergency due to the violence. Since then Rochester has since surpassed 81 homicides for the year.


November 12 — Nick Tahou Hots still open, local YouTube star says otherwise on TODAY show

If you come at Rochester’s garbage plate king, you best come correct.

Nick Tahou Hots, arguably Rochester’s most well-known restaurant, is in fact still open. The creator of the iconic garbage plate reminded Rochesterians that it’s still in business morning after a local YouTube star, Andrew Rea, said otherwise during an appearance on national TV.

Rea, who hosts “Binging with Babish” on his YouTube channel, appeared in a segment on the TODAY show, where he cooked a garbage plate and gave some backstory about the Flower City’s signature dish. However, some of that backstory included some false information.

“Nick Tahou’s is the place that invented it,” Rea said. “Sadly, they’re closed.”

Rea, when asked what the favorite dish he made for the channel, quipped that he “should have studied for this.” Nick Tahou Hots, which has been in business in Rochester since 1918, didn’t take long to respond.

Tahou said he felt a range of emotions from being “upset,” to “disgust,” and disappointment. He criticized Rea for not knowing the 103-year history of the restaurant, calling the restaurant closed, and for Rea’s comment that some of the ingredients were made in an unsafe manner.

“He told everybody that we use grill scrapings to use the hot sauce, which is untrue, we use probably the best hamburger you can get for the meat sauce,” Tahou said. “The health department would be here in a heartbeat if we were doing that.”

Rea issued his apology on Twitter shortly thereafter.


November 21 — Victor girls volleyball claims first state title since 2009

The Victor girls volleyball defeated undefeated Massapequa in four sets to win the Class AA NYSPHSAA state championship. The state title was the Blue Devils’ first since 2009 and fourth in program history.

A state title is something that has eluded that Victor girls volleyball team in recent history. They lost to Long Beach in the state final in 2018 and came up short in sectionals in 2019.

Last spring, they became sectional champs but weren’t able to go any further because of COVID. This season was one last chance for the 12 seniors to become state champs.

The theme of the season for the Blue Devils was unfinished business. They wanted to finish what they sought out to get three years ago.


November 22 — Lebron James gets 1st suspension of storied career after altercation with Rochester native Isaiah Stewart

Because there’s always a Rochester connection.

LeBron James was ejected for drawing blood from Isaiah Stewart’s face, sending the superstar to the locker room early in the third quarter and leaving his teammates to pick up the slack.

Stewart, Detroit’s center, was called for a foul before James hit him, had to be held back more than once to keep him separated from the NBA superstar and was also ejected.

All parties were relieved that an all-out melee wasn’t witnessed as it was on Nov. 19, 2004, when the Pistons and Indiana Pacers had a brawl that spilled into the stands.

James was suspended for one game and Stewart was suspended two games for their roles in the incident. James forfeited about $284,000 in salary, while Stewart lost about $45,000. It was the first suspension in the 19-year career of James, who has won four NBA titles with three teams.


November 23 — Keg Tree returns! Genesee Brewery launches holiday event schedule in Rochester

A welcome sight for many in the area: After a one-year pandemic-induced hiatus, Genesee Brewery’s iconic Keg Tree made its grand return in Rochester for this holiday season.

New this year: Instead of the one-night lighting ceremony event, the brewery had a new 12 Days of Keg Tree series for events throughout December. Officials say it was to help avoid the massive crowds for the lighting event in the past, while giving folks an extended window to enjoy the structure.

The 12 Days of Keg Tree at the Genesee Brew House began December 6 with the release of Keg Tree Ale, a fan-favorite cinnamon Cream Ale, brewed up by GBH brewmaster Dean Jones. Other events during the 12 Days of Keg Tree include limited-edition Genesee Brew House food specials, opportunities to benefit Rochester charities and local spotlight nights.


November 24 — 2 children dead, 1 in critical condition after ‘terrible and tragic’ crash in Rochester

Tragedy struck the day before Thanksgiving after an 11-year-old and a 4-year-old were pronounced dead with another 8-year-old injured in a crash in Rochester.

The two-vehicle crash took place near the intersection of Lyell Avenue and Mount Read Boulevard. Rochester police, firefighters, and AMR responded around 9:45 a.m.

“This was an incredibly difficult scene,” said Rochester Police Commander Gregory Bello. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone and especially the families involved. As we go into the holiday season, to have deceased children … it’s just crushing. I have two kids at home, this is bothersome. Talking to responders here, we’re working on getting resources available for assistance and for the overall wellness of them. This is incredibly distressing for everyone involved.”

To date, there have been no arrests in connection to this crash.


November 29 — Tap & Mallet, popular South Wedge restaurant in Rochester, to close by end of year

An unfortunate pandemic theme continued in 2021: Beloved local bars and restaurants permanently closing their doors.

The Tap and Mallet pub in Rochester’s South Wedge Neighborhood will soon be closed for good, a fate many businesses have faced since March 2020.

“When the pandemic hit it came at a tough time as the pub was already feeling the effects of changes in the craft beer industry that we all continue to enjoy,” owners wrote in a Facebook post. “We all soldiered on but have reached the tough decision that it’s time to call last orders.”

The Gregory Street business was well known for championing the craft beer scene in Rochester, so much so that the city’s Real Beer Expo — a block party featuring dozens of craft beer vendors, food, music, and more — took place each year right outside Tap and Mallet.

Fans of the Tap still have a few more days to catch one last meal or round.


November 30 — State of emergency declared in Monroe County due to rising COVID-19 hospitalizations

Rapidly rising COVID-19 hospitalizations brought on a second local pandemic state of emergency, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello announced late last month.

The first county state of emergency was issued back in March 2020 as the pandemic was just getting started locally and abroad. That state of emergency expired in July of this year as vaccination rates increased, and new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths fell to pandemic lows.

Bello said he proclaimed the state of emergency to give the county more flexibility to counter the latest surge of COVID-19, but added that there would be no sweeping mandates instituted Tuesday, rather the introduction of a phased approach should conditions worsen.

“I am responsible for taking the steps tailored to the issues that Monroe County residents are currently facing,” Bello said of the state of emergency.

Bello said phase one of the approach would include the implementation of preventative measures, opposed to mandates seen earlier in the pandemic, or elsewhere currently in New York state.

Some of these preventative measures include mask requirements in county buildings, and other common mitigation efforts like encouraging masking in public, social distancing, hand washing.

According to the county executive, state of emergency measures will stay in place until COVID-19 hospitalizations are stabilized locally. 


December


December 1 — Monroe Ambulance captain leaves hospital after 112-day battle with COVID-19

Members of the Monroe Ambulance team came together to celebrate one of their own.

Monroe Ambulance Captain Mark Porter was discharged from Unity Hospital earlier this month after 112 days of treatment. Porter was semi-retired and fully vaccinated when he was hospitalized with COVID-19 four months ago. He says he believes it was the vaccine and hospital staff that helped keep him alive.

“My first two months, I don’t remember a thing,” Porter said. “I was in an induced coma on a ventilator. And after that, I kind of came around and every day was a day closer to me — a day closer to today. So it was a long road, and I am where I am because of the people at Unity Hospital.”

As he left the hospital, Monroe Ambulance team members cheered on their captain. His caretakers told News 8 at one point Mark couldn’t even walk.


December 2 — Meet James Smith: Rochester’s new interim, first openly gay mayor

Rochester has a new mayor, but only for a month.

Former Mayor Lovely Warren’s resignation took effect at midnight on December 1, and her deputy mayor, James Smith, was sworn in to oversee operations at City Hall until Mayor-elect, and current City Councilman, Malik Evans is sworn in on January 1, 2022. Evans ran unopposed after defeating Warren in June’s Democratic primary.

When Smith was sworn in Thursday, he officially became Rochester’s 70th mayor in history, and its first openly gay mayor. 

Smith was sworn in virtually Thursday due to a recent positive COVID-19 diagnosis. He has since been released from quarantine.


December 7 — Seneca Falls festival celebrates 75th anniversary of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

It’s a Wonderful Life made its debut 75 years ago this month. The film, featuring James Stewart as “George Bailey,” is set in a fictional location called “Bedford Falls,” and it’s long believed to have been modeled after Seneca Falls.

The film’s director, Frank Capra, had family in nearby Auburn, New York and was said to have become enamored with Seneca Falls while making a visit there to a barbershop — and the rest was history.

Seneca Falls has an annual It’s a Wonderful Life Festival and this year’s edition took place earlier this month. Some of the childhood actors come back annually for this event to celebrate.


December 9 — Jet Ski Santa rides the waves of Irondequoit Bay to raise funds for local nonprofit

Santa has a new ride this year, a jet ski! Meet Zach Reissner who dresses up as Santa every year on Christmas Day and rides his jet ski on Irondequoit Bay.

However this year is special, Reissner is working with local non-profit ROCovery Fitness.

The non-profit helps those suffering from alcohol and drug addictions using fitness.

“I’m sure we all know somebody that might have an addiction issue, whether it may be a teenager, or a parent of a child so we all probably know somebody that has an addiction issue and it can help everybody,” said Reissner.

Reissner says this is an annual tradition he does to spread holiday cheer.


December 10 — Gov. Hochul: New York to implement indoor mask mandate for public places, or require vaccination

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surging statewide, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new mandate that would require masks to be worn in all indoor public places, unless the business or venue required proof of vaccination.

Some counties, like Livingston, Ontario, and Wyoming, said they would not enforce the new mandate, while Monroe, and others, have said they would comply.

This measure went into effect December 13, 2021 and will remain so through January 15, 2022, after which the state will re-evaluate based on current conditions.

A violation of any provision of the new mask measure is subject to all civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation. According to the governor, the respective business would face the fine for a violation, not an individual for not wearing a mask.

The governor would later announce $65 million for counties to assist in enforcing the mask mandate.


December 13 — Get to know Connor Williams: St. John Fisher basketball center, Victor grad has viral moment

St. John Fisher College basketball center Connor Williams took the internet by storm this month, as he took to the floor in the second half of an exhibition game against University of Buffalo.

The loss might not have counted on Fisher’s schedule with only a handful of games under their collective belt — since Fisher is Division III and UB is Division I — but it showed what Rochesterians always knew about Williams since his days at Victor: That he’s an A+ passer.

“I thought it was funny, because everyone was raving over how good of a pass it was, but it’s not even close to one of the better passes I’ve had,” Williams said over a Zoom with News 8, fitting in time for an interview between prepping for finals.

Williams is in his first year at Fisher, currently majoring in cybersecurity while maintaining a grueling schedule of a student-athlete. As he was coming out of high school, Williams was deciding between football, at a Division II level, and basketball.

“I really love basketball more and I think that would be a better fit for me for the next four years and I want to do that,” Williams said when News 8 interviewed the Victor standout in March of this year.

Besides his passing skill, his size possibly made the clip more viral. Williams is listed on the roster as 7 feet tall, and 360lbs. The clip shows Williams running down the court, tripping on an opposing player, and hurting his ankle before coming up to make a sweet pass to forward Dan Cook, whom Williams calls one of the best players in Division III.

After he went viral, Williams launched “Big Cozy” merchandise for charity.


December 16 — Rochester named ‘Best Pizza City in America’

This one stirred a lot of debate: Rochester was named the best city in the country for pizza, according to rent.com.

According to the real estate website, cities were ranked based on a weighted scoring system using three categories: Pizza restaurants per square mile, per capita and as a proportion of all restaurants within the city. All categories were given equal weight.

“Rochester has a deep pizza history. After all, there’s a reason it’s known as ‘The Flour City,’” wrote article author Michael Hochman. “Thanks to its proximity to the Great Lakes and Erie Canal, Rochester boomed as an agricultural production center in the early 1800s. Some 20 flour mills lined the streets of downtown, shipped daily to New York City. At its height, it was the largest flour-producing city in the world.

“The oldest known pizzeria in Rochester is the descendent of the original Giuseppe’s,” Hochman wrote. “That first spot was formerly on State Street in Brown Square but is now tossing pies in Gates. Other early pizza spots popped up like Perri’s Pizza, Proietti’s, Mama Taccone’s and Pontillo’s. Today you can find some of the best pizza in the nation’s best city for pizza anywhere, like Pizza Stop, Nino’s Pizzeria, Pizza Wizard and Amico Pizza. Or, get super-local with a slice of garbage plate pizza from Salvatore’s Old Fashioned Pizza.”

Buffalo also cracked the top 10 at No. 7, while Syracuse came in at No. 17.


It’s definitely been a year. Here’s to 2022. And until then, we are all wishing you and yours a safe and satisfying holiday season.

Want to go even further back in time? Check out our ROC Rewind from 2019 and 2020.


Check back with News 8 WROC as we’ll continue to update this story through the end of the year.

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