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Silda Wall Spitzer and Eliot Spitzer

Photo: Martin Benjamin

The Capital Regionís 10 best news stories of the past 30 years

We love scandal. Oh, how we love scandal, and drama and tragedy. While the past 30 years in the Capital Region has been filled with plenty of good news, interesting stories, pleasant surprises, etc., clearly, what stood out in our respondentsí minds was downfall and death.

Actually, while death was the news hook back in 1983, the reason Erastus Corning 2nd earned second place on this list was his lifeóand his long, long (41 years) term as Albany mayor. So that choice is a celebration of sorts.

Jerry Jenningsí election to that same seat was not a scandal, but just good old political news, his ascendancy gaining importance as years passed and he took a more powerful hold on the Albany Democratic machine. And thereís nothing particularly scandalous about a snowstorm, but the one that hit the region on Oct. 4, 1987, was as destructive as it was beautiful. Unforecasted, it took us by surprise with big heavy snow that clung to leaves, making for gorgeous scenery even as it crippled us with broken branches and downed power lines.

Four of the stories were simply horrific. The Thruway bridge collapse in 1987 sent 10 motorists plunging to their deaths; the Ethan Allen sank on Lake George without warning in glorious weather, killing 20; Wyley Gates killed four family members and stunned the small town of Chatham; and the grisly murder of Peter Porco and subsequent trial and conviction of his son gripped the regionís newsies with its over-the-top sensationalism.

Finally, for good old political scandal, we saw John Sweeney self-destruct before our eyes; Jim Coyne got an arena built, but in the process got convicted of bribery and mail fraud. But nothing, nothing compared to the sight of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, fresh from getting caught, um, with his pants down, apologizing to the state for his bad behavior while his wife stared like a deer in the headlights behind him. Once a rising star, now the Mayflower Hotelís most notorious guest.

Survey respondents ranked up to 10 choices, and points were tallied as follows: 10 for 1st place, 9 for 2nd, and so on.

1. Gov. Eliot Spitzerís prostitution scandal and resignation (80)

2. Albany Mayor Erastus Corning 2ndís death in 1983 (46)

3. The rise, fall and conviction of Albany County Executive Jim Coyne (28)

4. The murder of Peter Porco and trial and conviction of his son Christopher (25)

5. The 1987 Thurway Bridge collapse over the Schoharie River (21)

6. The snowstorm of Oct. 4, 1987 (20)

7. The controversy over General Electric and PCBs in the Hudson (19)

8. Tie: The October 2005 sinking of the Ethan Allen on Lake George, killing 20 (18); The 1986 murders by Wyley Gates of his father, fatherís girlfriend, brother and cousin (18)

10. Tie: Jerry Jenningsí election to Albany mayor and takeover of the machine (15); The scandals plaguing U.S. Rep. John Sweeney and his defeat by Kirsten Gillibrand (15)

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