Ellen Abbott

Reporter, Syracuse, WRVO Public Media

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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9:29am

Mon June 30, 2014
Regional Coverage

New federal program seeks to provide homeless families with longer lasting housing solutions

Syracuse has the second highest number of homeless children in New York state outside of New York City, according to recent statistics. There are 957 homeless children in the city of Syracuse, 1,401 in all in Onondaga County. Now one organization that deals with that population is hoping a new program will help ease that number.

This is the time of year things start getting busy at local homeless shelters.  

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7:54am

Mon June 30, 2014
Environment

Invasive insect threatening hemlock trees near Skaneateles Lake

Nicholas A. Tonelll

There’s a new invasive insect causing problems in Onondaga County. The hemlock woolly adelgid has started feeding on hemlock trees in the watershed that provides water for the city of Syracuse.

An alert arborist found the bug that’s been on the eastern seaboard since the 1950s, munching on hemlock needles in trees on the Onondaga County side of Skaneateles Lake.

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6:23am

Fri June 27, 2014
Business

Restaurants consider forming association to combat Destiny USA tax breaks

Restaurant owners meet in Syracuse to discuss ways to combat Destiny USA's tax breaks.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Independent restaurants in central New York are hoping to fight what they call an uneven playing field when it comes to Destiny USA. Many restaurants say they’ve lost business since the mega-mall expanded a few years ago with the help of a tax deal with the city of Syracuse.

Denis Sick, of Mohegan Manor in Baldwinsville, has seen business fall 30 to 40 percent since December a year ago, and puts the blame squarely on competition from Destiny’s chain restaurants.

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6:23am

Fri June 27, 2014
Politics

DeFrancisco says upstate New York will suffer, following IDC decision

Durrie Bouscaren WRVO File

Upstate will be the big loser if a new power change in the state Senate goes through, according to one high ranking state Senate Republican.

Syracuse-area state Sen. John DeFrancisco says if history tells us anything, it’s that upstate New York doesn’t fare well when downstate Democrats control all branches of government in New York state.

"Upstate will be shafted, to put it in the vernacular, if New York City is running everything again," DeFrancisco said.

He says voters need to know how upstate will be affected by the power shift.

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7:06am

Thu June 26, 2014
Health

Homeowners urged to protect themselves from rabies

Jennifer Krauel Flickr

As we head into summer, rabid animals are turning up in central New York.

So far this year a couple of bats, a feral cat and a raccoon have tested positive for rabies, according to the Onondaga County Health Department. Environmental health assessment director Lisa Letteney says it’s common for these reports to start trickling in this time of year. Letteney is particularly concerned, though, about the feral cat found with the disease in the Baldwinsville area.

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3:39pm

Wed June 25, 2014
Politics

Kessner continues to pursue run against Valesky because of IDC alignment

Jean Kessner (far left), looks on as Assemblyman Sam Roberts discusses his support for her possible run against Sen. Dave Valesky (D-Oneida)
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner continues collecting petition signatures for a possible Democratic primary run for the state Senate seat held by Dave Valesky (D-Oneida). On Tuesday, Kessner supporters rallied in front of the State Office Building in Syracuse.

Kessner says she only wants to run if Valesky stays aligned with the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway Democrats that, along with Republicans, control the state Senate.  

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6:17am

Tue June 24, 2014
Regional Coverage

Maffei promotes infrastructure plan in Syracuse

Dan maffei speaks to reporters about his plan to increase the amount of investements in infrastructure.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) has put together a wide-ranging program that would invest in central New York’s infrastructure, ranging from fixing crumbling roads and bridges to bringing high speed rail to the area. He says there has to be a mindset change in Washington for this to happen.

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8:17am

Mon June 23, 2014
Politics and Government

Hanna, Tenney to face off in Congressional primary Tuesday

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld)
Credit RichardHannaforCongress.com

Some national conservative political pundits are comparing the Republican primary in the 22nd Congressional District in New York state tomorrow to the Virginia primary race that saw a Tea Party candidate beat an established Republican Party leader.

The race has some of the same themes as that Virginia primary, with a moderate main street Republican looking to keep his seat, in the wake of a challenge from a more conservative Tea Party Republican.

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7:22am

Mon June 23, 2014
Education

SU professor takes on the topic of death in new study

Ben Bradley will soon lead a study on death and how it shapes opinions.
SU News Services

A Syracuse University professor will be spending the next several months thinking about death, as part of a grant by the Immortality Project at the University of California, Riverside.

SU's Philosophy Department Chairman Ben Bradley will lead the research into a topic not many people want to talk about - death. He says the focus will be on the emotions and attitudes people have about their own death.

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7:17am

Fri June 20, 2014
Regional Coverage

SU group offers backup plans if Carrier Dome becomes inoperable

Rick Burton serves as chairman for a Syracuse University work group searching for emergency options if the Carrier Dome fails.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

A special work group at Syracuse University has laid out several options in case the Carrier Dome is ever incapacitated.

The group has come up with a back-up plan to deal with the 275 events that happen in SU’s iconic stadium.

So what would happen to Syracuse University's most high profile sports if the Carrier Dome became inoperable for a long period of time?

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6:35am

Thu June 19, 2014
Regional Coverage

Downtown Syracuse's boom is led by residential development

A view of South Salina Street in downtown Syracuse.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Downtown Syracuse is in the midst of a multi-million dollar development boom. Much of this development is fueled by people who want to live downtown.

There are signs of construction all along the 300 block of South Salina Street in Syracuse. Downtown Committee executive director Merike Treier says today’s downtown has changed a lot in the last decade.

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7:13am

Tue June 17, 2014
Agriculture

Dairy industry sees a boom in New York

(file photo)
Matt Richmond WSKG

The New York state dairy industry is in a good place right now, and state officials say they want to keep it that way.

When New York State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball was a boy, he used to travel the state for his family’s farm business.

"It seemed like there were 60 dairies between Albany and Buffalo. And then there were a handful," Ball said. "And now at the department, we inspect and keep our eyes on close to 400 processing plants, and there are about 40 in the queue right now to get up and running.”

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7:32am

Mon June 16, 2014
Performing Arts and Culture

One year in, Symphoria plans for the future

Symphoria

Symphoria, the successor to the defunct Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, has one year under its belt.  And organizers believe so far, so good.

And as the fledgling orchestra closes the books on its first year, Symphoria managing director Catherine Underhill estimates musicians played to 45,000 people. It has been trying to attract a new audience, with things like its “Spark” series, which creates more social music going experiences. But Underhill says the organization knows they need to keep growing.

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6:56am

Fri June 13, 2014
Regional Coverage

Onondaga County Justice Center opens new infirmary to reduce inmate hospital visits

The Onondaga County Justice Center in Syracuse.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

A new, higher level of medical care is now available at the Onondaga County Justice Center. The new infirmary is located in the downtown Syracuse jail that holds prisoners awaiting trials or transfer to other facilities.

There has always been space for an infirmary in the almost 20-year-old jail, but cost considerations kept Onondaga County from staffing it. Now, the medical organization the county contracts out to can offer the advanced level of training needed for the staff that already works in the jail’s medical unit.

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5:53am

Thu June 12, 2014
Business

Public can soon comment on Solvay amphitheater project along Onondaga Lake

Gov. Andrew Cuomo discusses Onondaga Lake redevelopment in Solvay, N.Y. during an announcement in January. (file photo)
Ryan Delaney WRVO

This summer, environmental questions will be heard surrounding the construction of a new amphitheater on the old Solvay waste beds along Onondaga Lake. A draft environmental impact statement surrounding the project will soon be up for review.

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5:52am

Thu June 12, 2014
Environment

Onondaga County plans to spend $15 million to combat Emerald Ash Borer

Arborist Lori Brockelbank injects insecticide into an ash tree. (file photo)
Ryan Delaney WRVO

Onondaga County expects to spend more than $15 million over the next 25 years to deal with the Emerald Ash Borer infestation. The plan targets almost 47,000 ash trees on county land that pose a danger if they fall over.

The invasive bug was discovered in Onondaga County last summer, and if left alone can kill an ash tree in two to seven years. County Environmental Director David Coburn says the county is proposing an ash tree management strategy that is a balanced approach.

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5:45am

Wed June 11, 2014
Health

Rise in elder abuse cases has central New York searching for answers

With an aging population, elder abuse is becoming more prevalent across the country and in central New York. Financial abuse has become one of the most common ways people take advantage of older Americans.

Jenny Hicks runs a program out of Vera House in Syracuse that focuses on elder abuse, and says there’s a kind of déjà vu in an agency that for years has counseled victims of domestic violence.

“It’s very much like domestic violence was 35 years ago -- in the shadows," Hicks said. "People are just now starting to talk about elder abuse.”

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7:17am

Tue June 10, 2014
Environment

Onondaga County residents speak out against 'Trash to Ash' plan

Jamesville resident Vicki Baker, left, speaks to Onondaga County legislators about the county's proposed 'Trash to Ash' plan
Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Opponents to a trash to ash plan between Onondaga and Cortland Counties had their say at an informational meeting on the environmental impact of the proposed move in the town of DeWitt last night.  

The plan would truck garbage from Cortland County to Onondaga County’s trash burner in Jamesville, then return the ash to the Cortland County landfill. Many of the people who testified at the meeting had been involved in the fierce debate over whether the plant should have been built in the first place  20 years ago, and remembered the promises made to placate a community.  

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4:30pm

Mon June 9, 2014
Environment

Public to share concerns about 'Trash to Ash' plan during first hearing

Onondaga County's Waste-to-Energy Facility in Jamesville.
Office of Onondaga County Comptroller

Onondaga County is hosting the first of several public hearings on a plan to import trash from Cortland County to burn at Onondaga County’s incinerator in Jamesville.

Onondaga County Legislator David Knapp says this is all part of the process of getting information about the potential impacts of the deal.

“Right now we’re in the scoping phase of the environmental impact process," Knapp said. "So this meeting is open to any resident to come in and give us their thoughts about what should be in the scope of the environmental review.”

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7:54am

Mon June 9, 2014
Regional Coverage

Syracuse lawmakers to vote on smoking ban in city parks and other gathering places

Sudipto Sarkar Flickr

The Syracuse Common Council will vote Monday on a proposal to ban smoking in city parks and other areas.

The ban would limit smoking in any areas the city parks department manages, so that includes parks where little league games are played, but also the site of many of the festivals that take place in the city, such as Clinton Square, Cathedral Circle, Hanover Square. 

That’s why Councilor Khalid Bey, one of the sponsors of the measure, says they’re putting off implementation of the ban until October, to give festival organizers a heads up.

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4:08pm

Fri June 6, 2014
Regional Coverage

Paying for street parking in Syracuse? There's an app for that.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Paying for street parking from your smart phone will soon be an option in the city of Syracuse. Public Works Commissioner Pete O'Connor says the option to pay by phone will be available once meter readers get new hand-held devices they use to scan cars parked on city streets.  

“On the app, there will be a map. You’ll punch in what block you’re in. The meter will pop up for that block, you punch in what time you want, what credit card you want, and your license plate number. That’s it.”

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6:44am

Fri June 6, 2014
Politics

Valesky says Senate leadership coalition is successful in Albany

Dave Valesky is one of members in the state Senate's Independent Democratic Conference.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Democrats in New York state are vowing to take control of the Senate from the coalition leading it now, made up of Republicans and five breakaway Democrats.

Oneida’s Sen. Dave Valesky, a founding member of the Independent Democratic Conference, says he’s staying committed to the power sharing structure, even as some Democrats are calling on him to leave it.

Many members in the more progressive wing of the Democratic party, like Blue Carreker, campaign manager of Citizen Action of New York, wants Valesky to caucus with fellow Democrats.

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6:23am

Fri June 6, 2014
Entertainment

Syracuse's Meachem Ice Rink gets a new ice mat, will reopen

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is joined by Sen. Dave Valesky and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli to make the Meachem Ice Rink announcement.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

There will be skating at the Meachem Ice Rink in Syracuse’s Valley neighborhood starting in October.

The rink closed earlier this year after a series of mechanical problems made it impossible to make ice. State Sen. Dave Valesky and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli combined forces to get more than $450,000 from the state’s capital budget to pay for installation of an ice mat.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says it is the latest innovation in the ice rink world.

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7:17am

Thu June 5, 2014
Politics and Government

Wait for a pistol permit in Onondaga County drops

The wait for a pistol permit in Onondaga County has steadily gotten better since a logjam was created in the wake of the passage of the NY SAFE Act.

A year ago, it took 15 months get an appointment with the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department simply to apply for a pistol permit.  

"We’ve been able to reduce the wait from over 15 months to three months.  That’s a tremendous improvement,” said Deputy Chief John Balloni.

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5:32am

Wed June 4, 2014
Regional Coverage

Onondaga County remains neutral on Tyre casino resolution

Tyre residents attend Tuesday's Onondaga County Legislature meeting.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

There was no vote at the Onondaga County Legislature Tuesday regarding the siting of a proposed casino in the Seneca County town of Tyre, but residents still had their say.

Lawmakers were originally going to vote on a resolution that would have supported development of a $350 million casino project in the small town of Tyre. The New York State Gaming Commission is deciding where to site gaming facilities in a region that stretches from Lake Ontario down through Seneca County, and east past Binghamton.

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6:06am

Tue June 3, 2014
Regional Coverage

First CNY bourbon product of state's craft distillery initiatives

Oak barrels that Aidrondack Distilling Company stores their bourbon in.
Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The bourbon being produced at a Utica distillery is being described as the first legal bourbon produced in central New York. It's proof that the craft liquor industry is growing in New York state.

The Adirondack Distilling Company started out by crafting vodka. Then they moved to gin and, most recently, white whiskey. Now, master distiller Jordan Karp says the company is moving on to that quintessential American drink.

"Bourbon is an American spirit made with at least 51 percent corn, and stored and aged in a charred, new, oak American barrel,” Karp explained.

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6:44am

Mon June 2, 2014
Environment

Upstate NY sightings of monarch butterfly in danger

Nature Conservancy of Western and Central New York

Early June is the time of year we should begin seeing  the monarch butterfly fluttering about our flowers and plants in central and western New York. But, scientists are worried that a sharp decline in the population of the iconic insect could cut back local monarch sightings dramatically, or end them all together.

When you think about it, the migration of the monarch butterfly is pretty amazing.

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4:37pm

Fri May 30, 2014
Politics and Government

Veto override means Syracuse will get small property tax increase

A 1.5 percent property tax increase will stand in the City of Syracuse after the Common Council overrode Mayor Stephanie Miner’s budget veto today.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Kathleen Joy says the city can’t continue to cut it’s way out of yearly budget deficits, so lawmakers felt the time was right for this increase.

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6:32am

Fri May 30, 2014
Regional Coverage

City of Syracuse short on lifeguards heading into summer season

Syracuse Parks commissioner Baye Muhammad stands next ot the Thorndon Park pool, one of eight in the city.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

The city of Syracuse parks department has a big "help wanted" sign up, because there aren’t enough lifeguards to staff the city’s eight outdoor pools this summer.

The pool at Thorndon Park is filled and ready to go, but a shortage of lifeguards could put parts of the upcoming swim season in peril. Parks commissioner Baye Muhammad says the city still needs to hire 53 lifeguards to open all pools in the city.

And if they don’t find lifeguards?

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3:25pm

Thu May 29, 2014
Politics and Government

NOW president promotes Women's Equality Agenda

As the end of the state legislative session in Albany gets closer, one issue that hasn’t made many strides yet, for the second year in a row, is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed ten-point Women’s Equality Act, meant to end discrimination based on gender.

In a swing across Central New York today, Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, says it’s important that New York is be a leader by passing the agenda that ranges from health care to economic issues, because states are where women’s issues are languishing.

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