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

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner are lobbying for more money from New York state to pay for infrastructure improvement. Standing in the shadow of the Evans Street Bridge in Syracuse that the state calls deficient, DiNapoli called on Albany to help localities fix bridges and roads that are falling apart. He said a recent report shows that local government spending on infrastructure has dropped dramatically.

Nell Conway / Flickr

The Onondaga County policy of placing 16- and 17-year olds into solitary confinement at the Jamesville Correctional facility is under the microscope.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

As the city of Syracuse moves ahead with one of its biggest transportation projects in decades with the redesign of Interstate 81, a small project on the city’s west side provides a glimpse into how the community can work together, when confronting a transportation problem. 

Neighbors have a name for the highway that divides downtown Syracuse from neighborhoods on the city’s west side.

“West Street used to be referred to as the ‘nine lanes of fury,’” said Maarten Jacobs, of the Near Westside Initiative.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County’s new Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter has opened up at the Jamesville Correctional Facility.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The wars may have been decades ago, but Central New Yorkers who served in the Vietnam War and World War II got some long-awaited recognition this month. For decades, Gary Janis of Auburn didn’t talk about his tour of duty in Vietnam.  But, he says in the last five or six years, he’s been able to open up about the experience. Janis was part of a five- or six-man group that would gather information from behind enemy lines. "We would be dropped off by helicopter, infiltrate in, get our information," Janis said. Hopefully, we wouldn’t be compromised.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Old met new at the former Hotel Syracuse this week. The manager of what is now the Marriott Downtown Syracuse and the manager of the hotel in its hey days toured the historic facility in downtown Syracuse Tuesday. The hotel is undergoing a $57 million dollar renovation.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The number of older New Yorkers who fall and suffer serious and deadly injuries is on the rise, but there are programs in across the state meant to help people avoid the dangers of a fall.

The latest statistics on the number of falls among older New Yorkers is a reflection of the growing elderly population in New York state, according to Amber Slichta, interim president for the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York.

“Falls related deaths have increased by 15 percent, and falls related hospitalizations have increased by 19 percent,” said Slichta.

Upstate Medical University

Upstate Medical University’s incoming president has spent some time this month getting to know her new community.

In January, Danielle Laraque-Arena will take the reins of institution that is a hospital, but also an educational center.  As vice president of Maimonides Infants and Children’s Hospital of Brooklyn, she’s been involved in a lot of community-based work, and expects that to continue in Syracuse. 

jamelah / via Flickr

Friday is the deadline for New Yorkers to vote in this year’s elections. But there’s an added avenue to register to vote by the midnight deadline.

A Syracuse company has won $100,000 in federal funding to help it reduce electronic waste.  

Sitting in a garage on Shonnard Street in Syracuse is the prototype for something called a “depopulator,” which could revolutionize the way old electronics are recycled. It’s the brainchild of engineers at the Advanced Recovery and Recycling Company. President Byron Tietjen says it essentially shakes the circuit boards while they’re being heated to about 370 degrees Fahrenheit, and the electronic parts from the printed circuit board just fall off.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Central New York Regional Economic Development council is bullish that its proposal for the New York State Upstate Revitalization Initiative will be a winner.  

EPA Regional Director Judith Enck is calling central New York to take action when it comes to climate change.

Enck admits that taking on climate change is a big issue. But she says individuals shouldn't shy away from it.

“Sometimes climate change can be an overwhelming issue. You get paralyzed, you don’t know what’s the first thing you can do to address. But I actionably think there are no shortage of steps to take to reduce carbon pollution,” said Enck, in a recent interview with WRVO News.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

According to the latest federal figures, there are more than 1,200 endangered species in the United States. Scientists across the country are trying to figure out ways to keep many of these species from dropping off the face of the Earth. 

Walking down the steep trail towards the bottom of Chittenango Falls in central New York, Cody Gilbertson carries a big white styrofoam cooler. But there aren’t any picnic treats for humans inside. Gilbertson’s cooler is filled with several plastic containers, stuffed with leaves that endangered Chittenango Ovate Amber Snails are munching on.

Key Foster / Flickr

The Onondaga County Drug Task Force continues to look for ways to keep prescription drugs out of the wrong hands. A new pilot program launched this month will place them in the hands of police.

Nine police agencies, including the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, are putting out collection bins in their offices for unused prescription and non-prescription drugs, as well as used needles.

Gail Banach, of the Upstate New York Poison Center, says the idea is to create a safe place to drop drugs that otherwise could be abused.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency wants your old thermometers or thermostats. It’s an attempt to get mercury out of the waste stream.

If you look at an old thermometer or thermostat hanging around the house and see a ball of silver mercury in it, don’t throw it in the trash. Exposure to even small amounts of mercury can cause health damage to humans and wildlife.

Kathleen Carroll of Covanta, which runs Onondaga County’s trash burner, says they do have pollution controls that minimize the danger of the items containing mercury in the waste stream.

Rescue Mission

Some big changes are taking place at the Rescue Mission in Syracuse as the organization continues to fight homelessness in central New York.  

A new $7.2 million wing will increase the number of beds for temporary shelter and for the first time, will offer that service to women, according to Rescue Mission CEO Alan Thornton.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

One of the big questions in the wake of the state’s renovation of the New York state fairgrounds near Syracuse, was what will happen to Super Dirt Week once the grandstand and track come down. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during his "Capital for a Day" visit in Syracuse Wednesday, announced that Oswego County will reap the economic benefits of the popular event.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Syracuse was “Capital for a Day” Wednesday.  That meant the heads of several government agencies fanned out across central New York to talk about everything from opioid addiction to state parks. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was the master of ceremonies, urging the region to focus on the positive.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A recent poll shows the Republican candidate ahead in the all-important race for state Senate in the Binghamton area. Republicans across the state are keeping a close watch on a special election that could tip the scales of power in Albany.

The Time Warner Cable News/Sienna College poll shows 59 -percent of voters polled are ready to support Republican Fred Akshar, with only 31 percent prepared to vote for Democrat Barbara Fiala. That’s good news for Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco of Syracuse.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse has its first pop-up shop. The space is the result of an AT&T-sponsored competition for student entrepreneurs at Syracuse University.

An empty contained glass space near the front of Marshall Square Mall has become home to this pop-up shop thanks to Julia Haber, a sophomore public relations student at SU.

"A pop-up shop is a space that is occupied by individuals for a certain amount of time that comes and goes and kind of can be whatever it wants to be at the moment, said Haber."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO File Photo

The latest drive for Solarize CNY is the largest campaign the grassroots solarize group has tackled, moving beyond Onondaga County into surrounding counties.  And since this latest push started, more than 700 homeowners have signed up for a site assessment to look at the feasibility of a solar system on their property. But while the solarize movement has been successful so far, there are concerns about the future.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The number of syphilis cases has increased dramatically in recent years in central New York.  

It used to be that when there was an outbreak of syphilis in New York state, the state Department of Health would find people infected in a particular school or neighborhood.

"But now the social networks are different. People meet though the Internet. If they’re looking for sexual partners, and if they throw that net wide enough, they’re going to find them,” said Dan Casler, the head of the state health department’s communicable disease program.

Oliver Hine / via Flickr

A continuing study of low-wage workers in Central New York shows that many suffer from physical ailments caused by the job. And the situation takes a toll on their mental health as well.

The Low-Wage Workers Health Project has spent the last two years getting a sense of what life is like for someone living at the poverty level in the Syracuse area.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A recent study that ranks Syracuse number one in the country for concentrated poverty among blacks and Latinos has ignited activists, who want city government to do something about creating jobs for residents who live in poverty.

At a rally on the steps of Syracuse City Hall, Rev. Nebraska Carter, a vice president of the Urban Jobs Task Force, compared poverty to a cavity in a tooth. 

Ellen Abbott / wr

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) is proposing a plan that will help teachers pay off student loans.  

Hanna toured an Oneida County elementary school that could benefit from his Teacher Loan Repayment Act. It would not only help teachers, but attract more educators to schools like J.D. George Elementary in Verona, a Title I school, which means at least 40 percent of the students are from low income families.  

Hanna says the proposal would take existing federal loan forgiveness programs for teachers and roll them into one viable option.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The under-construction Upstate Cord Blood Bank in Syracuse is expanding its scope.

When ground broke for the Cord Blood Bank at Upstate University Hospital’s Broad Street Campus, the idea was to create one of only two public umbilical cord banks in New York state. Now, executive director Nicholas Greco says it’ll become more than that.

"We’re looking to have a non-profit family bank, and a non-profit public bank, and that’s unique in the industry. Non-profit. They support each other,” said Greco.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

One of the goals of healthcare reform is to cut down on the number of expensive emergency room visits. And a new pilot program in Syracuse’s eastern suburbs hopes to do that by way of an old medical standby, the house call. 

Dr. Christian Knutsen, an emergency room physician at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, and EMS provider says the idea for house calls took hold after a local fire chief complained about the number of people ambulances take to the ER for minor complaints, things like cuts or coughs or gastrointestinal disorders.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County is facing some major decisions about what to do with its crowded correctional facilities.

On any given day, Onondaga County’s Justice Center and the Janesville Penitentiary are at, or close to, capacity, according to county Sheriff Gene Conway. There are about 700 inmates on any given day in Onondaga County’s jails.  

It’s a situation created in part, by the shutdown of mental health facilities across New York state in recent years.  That ends up often pushing mentally ill individuals into the criminal justice system, because there is nowhere else to go.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Now that students have returned for a new school year, the New York State Department of Transportation is making sure school buses are safe.  

Mike Nuber is a supervisor for the DOT’s bus inspection program, looking for any problems with the school buses in the West Genesee School District fleet. They do this twice a year -- first checking out all the paperwork on a bus, then moving on to the bus itself.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) is introducing legislation he hopes will unearth definitive answers about the effects of Agent Orange on U.S. veterans who served in Vietnam and Korea.

Central New Yorker Larry Hackett served for two years in Vietnam in the late 1960s.

“He survived the war, returned home to central New York, started a family with his wife Alice, and started a wonderful life here. Three decades later he discovered that the war had followed him home,” said Onondaga County Court Judge Joe Fahey, telling the story of his friend Hackett.