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 state health department is prepared, if a case of the Zika virus develops in New York state. While officials want to be ready for the worst, they’re finding some positives in the reaction to the latest insect driven disease, that at its worst, causes birth defects in newborns.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) said a report released late last Friday only deepens his skepticism about Start-Up NY, the Cuomo administration’s economic development program that offers tax breaks to companies that set up shop in certain educational zones. A report on the multi-million dollar program was released three months late and showed just over 400 jobs were created in two years. Defrancisco said a lack of transparency about the program is one of the problems.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Upstate University Hospital is upgrading its pediatric emergency department, which will change the entire emergency room landscape at central New York’s biggest hospital.

Upstate pediatric emergency department chief Richard Cantor recently showed off the new unit, which is still under construction.

“This is the acute care, super sick kids are coming in here, and they’ll have direct line of sight from the nursing station, and you can see sliding glass doors, we have isolation rooms,” said Kantor.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Changes in the field of developmental disabilities are coming fast and furious, and they are affecting some mainstay programs offered by local agencies.

The last seismic shift in the world of developmental disabilities happened over 40 years ago, when hundreds of thousands of disabled New Yorkers were deinstitutionalized. A new state-supported system of programs and supports for families was born, with things like sheltered workshops, which are supervised workplaces, filling the gap.

Doug Kerr / WRVO News

The Urban Jobs Task Force is urging the New York State Department of Transportation to apply to a federal program that would require contractors to hire local residents for the I-690 project in Syracuse.

The state is planning to spend $74 million next year to repair 15 crumbling bridges along a portion of Interstate 690 between Teall Avenue and Beech Street in the city of Syracuse. Urban Jobs Task Force Chair Aggie Lane is asking state officials to seriously look at the Local Labor Hiring Pilot Program, something the federal Department of Transportation is trying out.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Colleen Deacon, a single mother and former staffer for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), will be the Democratic nominee in the race for the 24th Congressional District.

Deacon handily beat her competitors, Syracuse attorney Steve Williams and Syracuse University professor Eric Kingson, by winning more than 48 percent of the vote in the primary election. Deacon had support from Gillibrand and other Democratic bigwigs, as well as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as the establishment party pick to face freshman Republican Rep. John Katko.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

New York State’s STAR Rebate Program has a new wrinkle. State lawmakers approved changes this year to the property tax discount program that affects new homeowners across the state, who will now get a rebate check instead of a credit on their tax bill. It applies to all people who have purchased property after March 1 in New York state.

Syracuse Common Councilor Nadar Maroun said the city assessor has sent out about 800 letters to new property owners who would be affected by the change. It will also be reflected in tax bills that are going out this week.

Eric Kingson Campaign, Colleen Deacon campaign, Steve Williams Campaign

Democrats in the 24th Congressional District decide this week who should run against Rep. John Katko, the Republican who has represented the four-county district, centered in Syracuse, for the last two years. The three candidates, who will be on the June 28 primary ballot, squared off in two debates in recent days.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Aging homes, poverty and unemployment force too many central New Yorkers to live in housing that just isn’t safe according to the New York state attorney general’s office. So it’s giving Home HeadQuarters $1 million to create the Greater Syracuse Green and Healthy Homes Initiative.

Local governments and several agencies have signed a pact promising to support initiatives that will lead to healthy homes. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said one of the big issues will focus on potential lead poisoning from lead paint.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse is hoping to get more kids to the library this summer by forgiving overdue fines of cardholders 18 and younger who live in the city. Mayor Stephanie Miner said it’ll cost the city $7,000 this year.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has signed a Syracuse resident hiring ordinance into law. Officials have high hopes that this legislation can cut into the city’s high poverty rate.

The law will require contracts in excess of $100,000 dollars issued by the City of Syracuse, guarantee that at least 20 percent of the hours worked on a job will be done by city residents.

Miner signed her name to the legislation at Syracuse’s Southwest Community Center, saying these opportunities will go a long way in attacking poverty, and its side effects.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

A lack of transportation is one of the biggest obstacles for people trying to climb out of poverty. But now one Syracuse-area program that is helping fill that gap, is hoping to expand.

It’s been a year since Providence Services of Syracuse started a Ride to Work pilot program that helps unemployed people accept jobs they might not ordinarily get, because of a lack of transportation. And Providence President Deborah Hundley has been amazed at how quickly the participants have been able to wean themselves off a transportation subsidy.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A Demand Democracy campaign across New York is encouraging state Senate Republicans to approve a list of campaign finance reform proposals. Jonah Minkoff-Zern of Public Citizen, which is organizing the campaign, said the focus in Syracuse is on Sen. John DeFransisco, the second-most powerful figure in the state Senate.

"He and the other Republicans who are in leadership have power to pass this legislation this week," Minkoff-Zern said. "The last week of the legislative session here in New York. We’re here to protest their lack of action.”

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) is hoping that officials can learn from the tragedy in Orlando, to prevent another such deadly terrorist shooting going forward.

Katko expects there to be plenty of conversation this week in Washington centering on what happened in an Orlando gay nightclub, when 29-year old Omar Mateen carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Katko, who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, says his biggest concern is the fact that Mateen was investigated more than once by the FBI, because of potential links to terrorism.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is working on breaking through the military bureaucracy to get the name of a Syracuse man and others who were involved in a naval accident 47 years ago on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Larry Reilly, Sr. says it was as simple as turning the wrong way in the South China Sea in June 1969. The USS Frank E. Evans, a Navy Destroyer, was hit in the middle of the night by an Australian aircraft carrier.

Oneida County Sheriff's Office

An explosion that injured a state corrections officer at his home in Oneida County a week and a half ago had nothing to do with his job. But three people from Ohio have been arrested, in a case that involves the victim’s mother and suspected theft.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Republican Wendy Long is taking another shot at running for U.S. Senate in New York state. The conservative lawyer from New York City lost a race against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand four years ago in a landslide. This year, she’s taking on the man who could become the next Democratic Party leader in the Senate, Charles Schumer.

Onondaga Community College

It’s going to cost more to attend Onondaga Community College this fall. The Onondaga County Legislature approved a budget that includes a tuition hike. OCC President Casey Crabill says tuition is going up just under 3 percent for the 2016-1017 school year.

"It’s going up $70 for a full-time student, $6 a credit unit for part-time students. We would like to work to go a year without a tuition increase, but that’s been really difficult.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There’s less than three weeks to go before congressional primary day in New York state. In tthe 24th District, the Democratic primary race is between Colleen Deacon, Eric Kingson and Steven Williams. This week, Deacon had some high profile supporters in town to boost her campaign. And she offered a hint of what a campaign against incumbent Republican Rep. John Katko would look like, if she wins the nomination.

Sen. Charles Schumer led things off outside Sunshine’s Coffee Shop in DeWitt.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

While most central and northern New York crops are being planted right now, there’s one that’s being harvested. SUNY ESF researchers are harvesting willow, as part of a project that continues to find the best way to use the woody plant as an alternative energy source.

When most people hear the word willow, an image of a weeping willow tree comes to mind. But that’s not what SUNY ESF researchers are working on in the Willow Project, a program that’s developing a biomass energy source.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Two high-tech companies in Syracuse are expanding with the help of New York state. Officials say it’s a reflection of a broader trend of economic development in upstate New York.

Terakeet, an internet marketing firm, and TCG Ascension Gaming, which runs an online marketplace for collectable trading cards, will add almost 250 employees to their rosters in coming months. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the numbers Thursday at the former Hotel Syracuse, which is reopening in a month as a Marriott property. All proof, the governor says, of a rebounding economy.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Some central New York Republican officials say there’s a little more excitement at their annual clambake this year, because of presumptive GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

Every year Republicans from central New York gather at Hinerwadels Grove in North Syracuse to eat clams and talk politics. And presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump was at the center of many conversations.

Onondaga County GOP Chair Tom Dadey says he’s seen more excitement locally about Trump than any other Republican candidate in years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Central New York is preparing to have more electric vehicles on the roads in the near future.

Chevrolet is promising that it will deliver an affordable electric vehicle with a 200-mile range to showrooms by the end of this year. Other electric vehicle producers are expected to follow suit. So with the potential of more of these vehicles hitting the highway, Central New York’s Regional Planning and Development Board is getting ready.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It’s been a little over two years since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a goal of ending the AIDS epidemic in New York state by 2020. The man who runs the state AIDS Institute says that goal is in reach, with the disease on the run.

Back in the early 1990s 15,000 new cases of AIDS were diagnosed every year in New York state. That number is down to 3,000 a year now. State AIDS Institute Director Dan O’Connell says the decrease is largely pinned to the drugs that are used to control symptoms in HIV positive individuals.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

As central New York waits for a decision on the future of the Interstate 81 viaduct through Syracuse, motorists will see road work on the current road in coming months. I-81 project director Mark Frechette calls it band-aiding -- maintenance work to be done this year on a stretch of I-81 that needs to be replaced.

"When you look at the interchange, just between 81 and 690, it has over a million square feet of deck area. So you don’t know where you’ll get a hole, or a beam will deteriorate, or an accident will knock down signage or a guard rail,” said Frechette.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

As the race for the Democratic nomination for president comes to a close in the coming weeks, Syracuse supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders are still promoting their candidates.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

New York State Fair officials say the first half of a massive redevelopment project at the fairgrounds in Geddes will be done by the end of June.

It was just last summer that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state would sink $50 million into the aging fairgrounds -- half this year and half next. Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner says the project has come together quickly, and it will mean big changes at the facility by the time the Syracuse Nationals car show comes to town in mid-July.

Gravitywave / via Flickr

Central New York Health officials say its that time of year to start thinking about preventing mosquito bites. Memorial Day signals the start of warm weather that means prime breeding conditions for mosquitoes and every year, it means health officials throughout the region go on the offensive as the West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis can begin percolating among the insects that live here.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Indu Gupta says prevention is the only way to deal with these diseases. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Supporters of farmworker justice chanted “yes we can” at a rally in Syracuse Thursday. They’re encouraging support for the Farmworkers Fair Labor practices Act, a piece of legislation that’s been stalled in the state legislature for 15 years.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

New York State government could be getting out of the fair business. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has launched a privatization task force to look at the ways a private sector developer can help run the New York State Fair.

In a stop at the Geddes Fairgrounds Wednesday, Cuomo admitted that the state had apparently been trying to find a top-tier private sector company to run the state fair, but couldn’t find a taker.

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