Ellen Abbott

Reporter, Syracuse

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County.  Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 

Ways to Connect

Rep. John Katko / Facebook

Water levels continue rising along the southern shore of Lake Ontario. And while it’s unclear if Plan 2014 -- an initiative that changed the way water levels on the lake are controlled -- is responsible for the flooding, it’s put the controversial plan under the microscope.

Southern Arkansas University / Flickr

As gambling casinos continue to open up across the state, the shadow of compulsive gambling grows larger. One Syracuse area gambling addiction clinic is already booked.

Right now, the Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare Gambling Clinic can handle 15 patients at a time, according to integrated outpatient service director Kathi Meadows. And often that’s not enough.

“We actually had people who were coming that we successfully completed. They would have stayed longer, but there was a need to complete them, so we could get more people in the door,” said Meadows.

Courtesy Hannah Ring / Citizens Campaign for the Environment

Local environmental activists are putting pressure on Onondaga County to change advisory signs about eating fish caught in Onondaga Lake.

Everyone agrees the fish in Onondaga Lake are a testament to a legacy of pollution, and shouldn’t be a staple in anyone’s diet -- especially pregnant women and children.

Lesley L. / Flickr

The recently-passed state budget eliminates a cap on New York’s burgeoning industrial hemp industry. That will allow more farmers to be able to research, grow and process a crop that could turn into a a million dollar business.

The industrial hemp industry’s first hurdle is also the biggest misconception most people have about.

"It is related to marjiuana is what most people think," said SUNY Morrisville Researcher Jennifer Gilbert Jenkins. “But industrial hemp does not have any THC in it.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The growth of the security industry, coupled with a bit of government funding, is allowing one Syracuse security system company to expand its workforce. According to the Cuomo administration, Rapid Response Monitoring Systems is expected to create more than 275 jobs in its workforce over the next year as part of a $14 million expansion.

Of that $14 million, $2.5 million was given by the state to encourage the company to stay in central New York; almost half of that through an Upstate Revitalization Initiative grant and the rest through Excelsior tax credits.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The opioid epidemic in New York state has spurred expansion of a Syracuse addiction center to include a methadone clinic. The center, Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare (SBH), is the site of one of only a few methadone clinics in central New York.

Methadone treatment, which allows patients to reduce or quit their use of heroin or other opiates, is highly regulated by the state and federal governments. This is the third facility approved to dispense methadone in Onondaga County.

Onondaga Community College

Onondaga Community College expects a bump in enrollment following the state legislature’s approval of free tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools. It was part of the state budget plan approved on Sunday.

Tom Sinon / Flickr

Anti-smoking advocates in Onondaga County are pushing to raise the county’s legal age for purchasing tobacco products from 19 to 21. The Tobacco Action Coalition of Onondaga County says this would have a dramatic effect in reducing the number of teens and young adults that get addicted to nicotine. 

Physician Leslie Kohman of the Upstate Cancer Center says the change would restrict the amount of access teenagers have to tobacco products.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A critical resting stop for millions of waterfowl making their way north through central New York every spring is expanding. The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is adding biking and walking opportunities along its popular wildlife trail, and that’s only the beginning.

Many upstate New Yorkers recognize Montezuma as the wetlands they whiz by on the New York State Thruway. It’s about halfway between Rochester and Syracuse, and a recently installed statue of a bald eagle has quickly become an icon of the wildlife that flocks there.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The iconic 25-cent cup of milk at the New York State Fair is at the root of a shake up in the operation of one of the Syracuse fairgrounds anchor buildings.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Syracuse will remain a sanctuary city, according to Mayor Stephanie Miner, in the wake of efforts by the Trump administration to punish cities that refuse to uphold immigration law.

After the Justice Department threatened to withhold billions of dollars from self-proclaimed sanctuary cities, Miner said Syracuse is resolute in holding on to that designation.

“They’re trying to threaten and bully us into having our local police departments to become the tools of enforcement of federal, civil immigration law,” the mayor said.

ACCESS CNY

One of the new items in the New York state budget is money to help non-profit agencies give raises to employees who work with the disabled. Last month, the governor promised $55 million to help avoid an employment crisis is this sector.

Lockheed Martin

Three years after the Lockheed Martin plant in suburban Syracuse was nearly closed, the Salina location has received the single largest contract in its history. Changing methods of warfare have paved the way for more production of a special kind of radar made in central New York.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Law enforcement was forever changed after a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014. There are lessons to be learned from the incident, according to the police chief who played a role restoring peace after the police shooting of Michael Brown and the violence that followed.

At a seminar in Syracuse, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told police public safety leaders from across New York state that relationships between police and the community are key to keeping the peace in case something like Ferguson happens.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Testing season has begun in schools across New York state. It’s unclear how many students will join the opt-out movement this year, but state officials said they have tried to answer some of the concerns from parents and teachers that spawned the movement.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Construction will begin soon on Syracuse’s Near West Side to create OnTECH, a charter school targeted towards helping refugees and at-risk students get their high school diplomas.

OnTECH founder Ellen Eagen describes the mission of the school as “dovetailing this child who’s on the cusp of falling off of the educational pipeline with an employable skill set and with this idea of reengaging them with their curiosity in education.”

Julia Botero / WRVO News File Photo

Republican senators have proposed a state budget for this year that includes $3 million towards helping upstate farmers recover from last summer’s drought, the worst the state has seen in decades. In some cases, the dry summer weather resulted in the loss of entire crops. The federal government designated more than 20 counties national disaster areas due to the severity of the drought.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The New York State Fair will be a little friendlier for young families this year. Suggestions from fairgoers submitted in recent years have complained about the lack of areas for families to tend to their children.

Acting director of the fair Troy Waffner says that's why they have constructed new baby care centers that will offer privacy for nursing mothers and a place for families to change diapers in an air-conditioned and safe environment. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick has joined other law enforcement officials across the state in recent days who are criticizing "raise the age" legislation that’s being debated in Albany.

Raise the age would take 16- and 17-year-olds accused of certain crimes out of the adult justice system and into family court. Advocates say dumping teens into the adult criminal justice system makes it much harder for them to get their life back on track.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

While the idea of merging the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County isn’t getting much traction, a special legislative committee has begun work that could lead to some other kinds of government consolidation.

The Consensus Commission proposal to create one large metropolitan government is dead on arrival, according to county lawmakers, but some of the 49 other proposals in the Consensus report could have legs.

A special subcommittee is now looking over those ideas, first by identifying consolidations that could be easy to accomplish, according to chairman Kevin Holmquist.

Lindsay Fox / Flickr.com

According to a recent study by the New York State Health Department, the number of teens lighting up cigarettes in New York state has dropped dramatically in the last 16 years.

When Chris Owens, who runs a tobacco health program at St Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, saw figures showing an 84 percent drop in the teen smoking rate since 2000, he was ecstatic.

"That made me feel so good when I saw it, that drastic decrease in cigarette use by adolescents, because that’s really the key to long term tobacco abstinence,” said Owens.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

As negotiations on the state budget head toward an April 1, advocates for more spending on infrastructure are keeping up the pressure on lawmakers in Albany.

Rebuild NY Now, a statewide advocacy group, is calling on state leaders to make sure infrastructure gets its due in the state budget. Infrastructure spending is a part of the current budget discussin, with $2 billion proposed in the governor’s budget and an extra $5 billion in the GOP Senate proposal.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County could soon be the latest county in the state to follow a trend that puts animal abusers on a comprehensive list.

Stephanie Heath, of the Cuse Pit Crew in Syracuse, says right now there’s nothing stopping someone who’s been convicted of animal abuse from adopting an animal from her shelter.

“When an adopter comes to a shelter, they have to do an application. And we can only go so far with an application process, and a home check and a reference check and a vet reference.”

So she is all for creating an animal abuser registry in Onondaga County.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Syracuse’s Rescue Mission has been busy in the wake of a two-day storm that dumped upwards of two feet of snow on parts of central New York.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A youth mental health task force has identified some of the largest gaps in mental health services in central New York. The lawmakers who launched the study say they will now look for ways to fill those gaps.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

In a wide ranging State of the County speech last night, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney went on the defensive, saying many economic development projects, proposals and plans are often unfairly represented by critics across Central New York.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Upstate Medical University is launching a program targeted at treating youth and young adults at risk for suicide or other self-harming behaviors. This comes at a time when central New York has a suicide mortality rate greater than the state or national average.

Finding psychiatric help for teens or young adults in central New York is often very hard. Families often run into medical roadblocks -- referrals, long waiting lists and simply not enough services to go around.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Democratic committee members in the city of Syracuse started interviewing candidates this weekend, as they decide who to support for an open mayoral seat. And over the weekend, one more mayoral hopeful has joined the crowded field of Democrats hoping to get the nomination.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci has embarked on an audit strategy that focuses on economic development. The first target is the Onondaga County Film Commission.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s administration created the one-person film commission about the same time Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to build the Central New York Film Hub. The commission is part of the county’s Economic Development Department, with the goal of attracting moviemakers to Syracuse, who could also use the $15 million film hub facility in the town of DeWitt.

Courtesy: The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is hoping to create a climate resilient forest on the Tug Hill Plateau.

The Tug Hill Plateau is the third-largest forest landscape in the New York state -- a critical link between the Adirondacks and the Allegheny and Appalachian mountains. Its headwaters pour clean water into Lake Ontario, and the area is home to a variety of wildlife, ranging from black bears to forest birds.

Pages