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. 

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Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The era of Howard Johnson’s Restaurants and Motor Lodges is long gone. But a vestige of the one of the largest hospitality chains in the country remained for years in central New York, on Carrier Circle in DeWitt. Now, after years of negotiation, a deal has been struck that allows access to the property, so the iconic orange roof has finally come down.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The next piece to the revitalization of the downtown Syracuse area home to the former Hotel Syracuse will soon be in place. Developers and the city of Syracuse have struck a tax deal that will lead to a Hyatt Hotel, across the street from the Marriott Downtown Syracuse.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

New York state is wrapping up a restoration of the historic New York Central Railroad station platform along Interstate 690 in Syracuse. And that also means several ghost-like fiberglass statues will again take up their station, waiting for a train that never comes.

A couple of nuns, a soldier, a luggage handler and members of a northside family are once again waiting for the night train along Interstate 690 in Syracuse.

Duke Epolito, the Syracuse sculptor who created the series of bright white statues, installed them on the platform 35 years ago.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse’s Salvation Army welcomes a new executive director at a time when central New York is taking aim at the issue of chronic poverty.

Linda Lopez has worked in the human services field for more than 30 years in central New York. And she has seen how chronic poverty can be invasive.

Rescue Mission

Syracuse’s Rescue Mission will be serving hundreds of Thanksgiving meals today to individuals who otherwise might not have one. CEO Alan Thornton says meal preparations started early this morning to feed an estimated 2,000 individuals.

"I think we’re in the vicinity of 1,300 pounds of cooked turkey, 45 trays of stuffing, of potatoes, over 300 pies, more trays of vegetables, lots of cookies. You name it, we’re going to have it,” said Thornton.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Genetically modified food is something that’s discussed a lot. But scientists in Syracuse are trying to take that technology one step further, and create the first genetically modified wild forest tree. And with that, rest hopes that the American chestnut tree could make a comeback with a scientific nudge.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Airports could be getting some love with the current emphasis on infrastructure improvements. President-elect Donald Trump has often mentioned airports as a key part of infrastructure improvements he would like to see, and New York state continues investing in airports. And these are things local airport officials are happy to hear.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Record numbers of travelers are expected to be flying this year according to the Transportation Security Administration, and TSA officials are using the Thanksgiving holiday to remind travelers how to make the best of a busy situation.

While next Wednesday is traditionally one of the busiest travel days of the year, Christina Callahan, Executive Director of Hancock International Airport in Syracuse, is expecting longer lines at the airport before then.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It started last January. Madison County residents would stuff the styrofoam that protects things like appliances or electronics into plastic bags, then toss them into blue trailers in the middle of the county’s landfill.  

According to county recycling coordinator Mary Bartlett, styrofoam takes up a lot of space in landfills, and it’s also unclear whether styrene can somehow seep into groundwater.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Siena Research Institute has released results of a survey that shows just how pervasive cyberbullying  is among teens across upstate New York.

The survey queried teens and their parents from Albany to Buffalo. First, the numbers from the teens who were polled:

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The fight to end the practice of putting teens in solitary confinement at the Onondaga County Justice Center continues, and it’s taking place on two fronts.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a class-action lawsuit claiming the policy violates the Constitution, and harms young people. And groups like the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse, or ACTS for short, is trying to raise awareness about the practice, with protests and discussions with county officials.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Empire Farmstead Brewery in Cazenovia has established itself as the largest farm brewery on the eastern seaboard. And a spate of new state laws, friendly to brewers, has made it possible.

It used to be that Madison County was a leading producer of hops, an ingredient in beer. Then along came Prohibition, which almost killed the brewing industry -- and the ancillary industries that supported it -- and created a series of laws unfriendly to brewers.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Central New York tow truck operators are calling on Albany to beef up the “move over” law that motorists to either slow down or move over when approaching emergency vehicles or vehicles with flashing yellow lights, like two trucks or road maintenance vehicles, on the side of the road.

There have been three deaths in recent weeks on upstate New York roadways involving motorists not paying attention to New York’s law. A state trooper, maintenance worker and tow-truck operator have all been killed by oncoming traffic while they were tending to an issue on the side of the road.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Republican Rep. John Katko is the first incumbent in more than a decade to be reelected to the 24th Congressional District. The district flipped back and forth between Republicans and Democrats in the past four congressional election cycles.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

With Hillary Clinton being the first woman nominated for president from a major political party, some voters are remembering the long hard fight for women to gain the right to vote. In Fayetteville, they're marking the moment by going to the grave of Matilda Joslyn Gage, a major player in the sufragette movement upstate. Visitors left notes, flowers, and “I voted” stickers.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Board of Elections is unveiling some new software for Election Day that will allow website visitors to look at vote totals as they come in by geographic location. Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny says it’s something voters have never had access to before on election night.

"The voters will know how their neighborhoods have voted and they can see how their individual vote matters," Czarny said.   

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County is laying off 11 employees. County lawmakers voted Monday 10-7 to adjust the budget to eliminate $600,000 worth of payroll.

County officials say this is the end of a very difficult budget year. An $8.2 million deficit, created by stagnant sales tax growth and ballooning health care and personnel costs needed to be filled, and the county did it by offering $10,000 buyouts to employees close to retirement. But that still left $600,000 that needed to be cut. So Republican Legislator Pat Kilmartin says a shuffling of jobs and positions led to the 11 layoffs.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

One of the most active Trump groups in central New York was out in full force this weekend, stumping for their candidate.

Oneida County Trump supporters carrying signs, wearing bumper stickers and waving flags got a lot of attention from passing motorists during their final rally in Rome before Election Day. It’s a group of like-minded citizens, that’s been growing organically, meeting twice a week for months. And supporters like Joseph Rezendes, who says he’s sick of career politicians, makes no apologies for supporting the controversial candidate.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There’s a good chance you’ll be voting at a school on Tuesday. Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny says they’re just good places to hold elections.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney rolled up her sleeve this week, not to work, but to show central New Yorkers how easy it is to get a flu shot.

"This took me less than a minute, and if you get the flu, you are down for a couple days and you’re making everybody around you sick,” Mahoney said. “It is a much better use of your time to take one minute and get your flu shot.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named a committee to come up with proposals for another big state investment in the New York State Fair.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Regardless of politics, New York state will most likely continue with its New York State of Health official health insurance marketplace, according to Steve Wood, director of insurance programs at ACR Health in Syracuse. He said New York is committed to the program that grew out of the Affordable Care Act.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Record-breaking rain along with regular sewage flow was to blame for a burst pipe that dumped millions of gallons of raw sewage into Onondaga Lake late last week.

The 42-inch pipe that broke carries sewage from the Ley Creek Pump Station to Onondaga County’s wastewater treatment plant on the southern shore of Onondaga Lake. According to county officials, the leak was at the top part of the underground pipe very near the railroad crossing of the Onondaga Creek Inlet.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County almost wiggled out of a multi-million dollar budget deficit with no layoffs, because of an early retirement buyout plan.

But after all the numbers were counted, the county is still looking at a half a million dollar hole for next year. County Executive Joanie Mahoney is proposing cuts that include 12 layoffs to close that gap. That means lawmakers have to go back to the budget drawing board.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

For the first time, a woman will be installed as the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York. The Very Rev. DeDe Duncan-Probe will look for ways to bring a geographically sprawling diocese together in an increasingly secular and divided world.

Ludovic Bertron / Flickr

Halloween 2016 may be mostly remembered as the year of the creepy clown in upstate New York and across the country. But experts say clown phobia is nothing new.

There’s a word for it -- coulrophobia. That’s the fear of clowns. And this year, it seems to be running rampant with complaints of clown sightings all over central New York. In Syracuse, Utica, and other communities. Just this week, police were called about a clown siting early in the morning near the middle school in Carthage in Jefferson County.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse hopes to use innovative ideas from its Civic Data Hackathon to improve the strategies for fixing potholes. Winners of the Syracuse Roads Challenge focused on using data to create a more comprehensive picture of the pothole problem the city faces.

The city of Syracuse is expanding its strategy using open source data and technology to solve municipal problems.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner admits in the beginning she was a skeptic about using data and technology to try to fix nagging issues. But she’s sold on the concept now, after the city’s Innovation Team engaged in a number of initiatives.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Environmentalists are bringing a giant yellow oil barrel across New York State to bring attention to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s fight to extract internal research from Exxon Mobile about climate change.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Upstate Medical University officials hope the build out of the Central New York Biotech Accelerator in Syracuse will help define the area as a haven for biotech research and development.

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