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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Colleen / via Flickr

Schools around central and northern New York will soon be able to apply for federal funds to cover school safety and mental health training expenses - part of the recently passed $1.3 trillion spending plan passed by Congress.

Rep. John Kakto (R-Camillus) says grants are available on a number of fronts - to help schools to hire school resource officers, provide mental health counseling and pay for bullying and harassment prevent programs.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh’s first proposed budget asks lawmakers to use $11 million from the city’s savings account to cover a budget gap. It’s a deficit Walsh says is less than originally anticipated, after asking individual city departments to change their budget requests.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Volunteers for former Syracuse mayoral candidate Juanita Perez Williams are scouring the 24th Congressional District this week in an attempt to get enough petition signatures to get her name on the June primary ballot in the race for Congress. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) says she is extremely concerned about President Donald Trump's position on tariffs, expressing fears about trade war.

The U.S. has recently implemented tariffs on aluminum and steel products and is threatening to impose $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. Stefanik says she does believe the nation's bilateral trade agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), need to be modernized. But she disagrees with the president on the tariffs because the North Country is so dependent on trading relationships.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Gubernatorial hopeful Cynthia Nixon brought her campaign to Syracuse this week to talk with community leaders about their concerns in a closed-door session.

Nixon, a Democrat hoping to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a primary this fall, called the 15 or so attendees of a private roundtable in Syracuse local heroes. Afterward, she told reporters the issues brought up by these community leaders are the same she’s hearing from others across the state - like more funding for education.

Low fare air carrier Frontier Airlines begins service out of Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport this summer.

Frontier will add two new non-stop destinations to the departure board at Hancock: Denver and Raleigh/Durham. Christina Callahan, Executive Director at Hancock Airport, says this opens up the west in particular, one of the more popular destinations for travelers out of Hancock.

“Not only the direct connection to Denver which is so important, but Denver is Frontier’s hub, and you can connect to any market they serve,” said Callahan.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

As concert goers prepare to head to Onondaga County’s amphitheater for a third season, they’ll find it with a new name. County lawmakers Tuesday agreed to a $1.5 million naming deal, that creates the Saint Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview. 

Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon said after the signs go up, both the county and Live Nation, the concert promotor for what’s been called ‘The Amp’, will each pull in about $700,000.

NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities

Families with disabled children and adults have some decisions to make in the coming weeks. New York State is replacing the Medicaid Service Coordination Program, that’s served this population for decades, with one called Health Home Care Management

Timothy Vollmer / Flickr

The city of Atlanta is starting to get some online services back up after a massive cyberattack last week. It’s an attack that has the city of Syracuse paying close attention.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Research has prompted some new and unusual memory care at one central New York day center for the elderly. 

It looks like small yellow dog with a bright red collar. It wags its tail and barks like a dog, and that’s enough for it to be a soothing presence to one of the clients at a PACE CNY Day Center in East Syracuse.

This puppy is part of what PACE CNY calls a memory care kit. It includes an animatronic cat as well as the dog, a realistic looking baby, and other soothing items like aromatherapy and the soft pink lights of an LED Cherry Tree.

syracuselandbank.org

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank is hoping the city of Syracuse comes through with some funding to keep the non-profit agency afloat. 

Land Bank Executive Director Katelyn Wright said without some help, the organization that buys dilapidated tax delinquent city properties with the goal of selling or demolishing them, will be out of savings soon.

“If things keep going the way they’re going, we’ll deplete our fund balance by the first quarter of 2021,” said Wright.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It’s the final stretch in Albany as lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo try to cobble together a new budget before the April 1 deadline.

State Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse) expects all parties to come to agreement on a $168 billion budget before the deadline. But he said coming up with the money to pay for state spending could derail negotiations between Gov. Cuomo and leaders of the Senate and Assembly.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Immigrants rights advocates in Syracuse have joined a nationwide protest calling on bus companies to stop allowing Border Patrol agents to question passengers about their immigration status. Protesters say this action shines a light on an issue that’s been happening locally for years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Local Alzheimer's advocates got on a bus early Tuesday morning and headed for Albany to push for more funding for caregivers of those with the deadly brain disease. 

Mary Koenig with the CNY Alzheimer's Association said her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease four years ago. He lives at home, and his wife is his major caregiver. He has bouts of hallucinations, talking to people who aren’t there. It’s hard for him to get in and out of a chair.  As the disease progresses, Koenig’s biggest fear is that something happens to her mother.

Agriculturede/Flickr

As the Emerald Ash Borer continues its decimation of ash trees in New York state, it has turned up this winter for the first time in Tompkins County near Ithaca.

The invasive beetle species has been eating its way across the ash trees in New York state for the last decade, destroying a once vibrant ash tree population.  Entomologist Mike Griggs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture detected the infestation in Arnot Forest last month while walking his dog. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

An attorney representing some survivors of clergy sexual abuse is calling on both the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse and Ogdensburg to release names of all priests accused of abuse.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

The city of Syracuse is embarking on a series of pubic meetings to get final input on a project that reworks the city’s dated zoning ordinance and zoning map.

The last time the city’s 100-year-old zoning laws were updated was 1967. City Planner Owen Kerney said no one in the 1960s foresaw things like micro-breweries and doggie day cares opening up in the city; so the old ordinances can create roadblocks for certain projects.

"The community has changed a lot since then, but zoning laws haven’t,” Kerney said. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

The prospect of a beach for swimming on Onondaga Lake is taking a step forward.

It’s been almost 80 years since anyone was able to swim in Onondaga Lake from a public beach. Years of industrial pollution and sewage outflow destroyed any hope of public access until recent years, following a multi-million dollar cleanup of the lake once deemed the most polluted in the country.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

By next winter, residents of the city of Syracuse could log on to the internet and find a map with brightly colored lines, telling them the last time a snow plow visited their street. It’s one potential application of ideas springing from the city’s latest hackathon.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, local leaders are convening a task force that will create a blueprint for school safety in central New York.

Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says a massive government failure played a part in the Parkland tragedy.

“Parkland was a blueprint for government disaster," FitzPatrick said. "Ineffectiveness of almost every institution in Parkland that was designed to protect children in Parkland failed."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Fees could be rising for some programs run by the city of Syracuse Parks Department. The last time the City of Syracuse increased fees for Recreation Department programs, George W. Bush was president.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Americans are starting to see some of the impact of the tax plan in their paychecks, and polls are showing more support for it in recent weeks.  But some tax experts say it may be too soon to declare the tax plan a winner.

Officials at one Onondaga County business say the tax plan is already making a big difference for its 800 employees. Suit-Kote president Frank Suits announced last week that his company is beefing up employees retirement, and increasing pay by two percent. He also said the new tax structure makes it easier to invest.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) is facing a backlash regarding a statement she made Wednesday on a radio talk show that “so many people who commit mass murders end up being Democrats.” But Tenney wouldn’t go into detail about it at a media event in Onondaga County Thursday, regarding the impact of tax reform on businesses.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Congress Beer is coming back to Syracuse.

The Haeberle Congress Brewing Company brewed its last batch of Congress in Syracuse in 1962. It had been the longest continuous brewery in Syracuse, but brewing times changed according to Onondaga Historical Association Executive Director Greg Tripoli.

“The local brewers just couldn’t compete with big brewers with refrigerated trucks for shipping. So this was really the end of the small brewers at that time,” said Tripoli.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Hearings begin next month in New York to get input on whether the state should eliminate the tip credit, which allows tipped workers to be paid a lower wage as long as they make the full minimum wage if tips are included. 

But the organization that represents the state’s restaurant owners is building support against the idea.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says reevaluating the tipped wage is a question of compensating servers more fairly. Vanessa Littles who serves patrons at Joey’s, a well-known Italian restaurant in Syracuse, doesn’t agree.

Onondaga Community College

Onondaga Community College is working with local manufacturers on a program that will offer training that will lead to apprenticeships and jobs - and individuals will be paid while they learn.

elevatingerie.com

New York state has released a concept plan that closes the gap in the Erie Canalway Trail System between Camillus and DeWitt. It would extend the recreation trail through an urban area.

From the start, bridging the 14-mile gap has been the most challenging part of creating a seamless trail that closely follows the path of the Erie Canal.

"This segment of the trail goes through the most heavily urbanized areas of Onondaga County," said Town of DeWitt planner Sam Gordon.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

The Syracuse City School District is facing a $24 million deficit in it’s 2018-2019 budget. It hopes to close the gap using savings and more funds from the state.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse Bishop Robert Cunningham hopes a new program offering reconciliation and compensation to victims of clergy abuse can move the church past a scandal that has dogged it for years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — The Syracuse diocese of the Roman Catholic Church is establishing a reconciliation program for survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

Bishop Robert Cunningham announced the voluntary program Wednesday. It’s aimed at promoting reconciliation and healing, and possibly compensation, for those who have been harmed by members of the diocese’s clergy.

In announcing the program, Cunningham admitted the church will never fully make amends for the harm caused by the church.

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