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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Downtown Committee of Syracuse

The “Elf on the Shelf” is coming to downtown Syracuse.  The holiday icon is part of an attempt to get more visibility for downtown shops during the holiday season.

The Downtown Committee of Syracuse is calling him “Dash.”  The elf will be turning up in shops, restaurants and museums throughout downtown Syracuse during the holiday season. Alice Maggiore of the Downtown Committee says it’s all part of a push to get people thinking downtown when they think about holiday spending.
 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Google’s program “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” came to Syracuse last week. The Internet giant has a goal of encouraging more small and medium sized businesses to take advantage of the web.

Dozens of owners of small- and medium-sized businesses sat along long tables, with laptops glowing, at SKY Armory last week, getting first-hand tips about how to use tools in the Google stable to spur business.  They ranged from the novice, to people who work with computers every day.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A dispute over internet use at Syracuse City Hall is again headed to the courts. The issue over whether lawmakers should sign a city computer use policy hasn’t been able to be resolved through negotiations.

Councilor Kathleen Joy expects the Syracuse Common Council to file court papers in the next few days asking a judge to settle the issue of whether lawmakers should be forced to sign that computer use policy which is required of and agreed to by all city employees. A majority of councilors believe it would allow the Mayor’s office too much access to Council business. 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says the city will welcome Syrian refugees despite security concerns prompted by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.  Miner says she has been assured by the White House that the screening process is thorough and detailed, and she’s confident these refugees will be vetted properly, and no one dangerous will make it to American shores.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A report out of the House Task Force on Foreign Fighters is getting more attention following the Paris Terror attacks.  Central New York Rep. John Katko, who’s a co-chair of the group, hopes it means Washington will take some of their advice about how best stop the flow of foreign fighters between Syria and their home countries.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Hancock International Airport has become the first airport in upstate New York to have a TSA PreCheck application center on site. That means airline passengers can apply at the airport for the program that lets them glide through the TSA security checks more quickly, and without some of the hassles flyers have become used to. 

At the modern looking booth at the center of Hancock, central New Yorkers are already lining up to get the perk.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Students, faculty and staff at Syracuse University are standing by students at other colleges and universities that have been plagued by racial tensions.   

Many of the protesting students wore black, the color of the University of Missouri, and they held fists high in the shadow of the Hall of Languages Thursday. They chanted “we do it for Mizzou” and “black lives matter.”

Chris Kreussling / via Flickr

A couple of upstate members of Congress are leading the charge to push back against proposed cuts to mass transit funding in the Northeast as part the transportation bill.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse will get a nod from the White House on Wednesday. Syracuse is one of three new cities added to a list of cities that have ended Veteran homelessness. Las Vegas and Schenectady join 10 other cities that have eliminated Veteran homelessness. Syracuse’s Veterans Administration Medical Center points to two developments that are helping.

A program called HUD-VASH has been successful in finding housing for homeless veterans in part because it doesn’t expect vets to conquer all of their issues before finding a place to live.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

A report on government consolidation in Onondaga County will be released early next year by a Consensus, a commission looking at the modernization of local government. One potential recommendation for saving substantial tax dollars could be the creation of a county-wide municipal government.

Whenever Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney starts talking government consolidation, it generally begins with a story about snow and the 19 towns, 15 villages, and city, county and state snowplows that clear the streets after a snowstorm.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Visitors to the Marriott Syracuse Downtown will be getting a glimpse of two worlds when they stay in one of the renovated rooms of what used to be the Hotel Syracuse.

The renovation of the rooms has been dictated in part by the funding of the $57 million project, according to hotel owner Ed Riley. There were historic preservation grants from the state and federal governments, that came with strict guidelines, meaning an entire floor of the hotel couldn’t be gutted and refitted with new totally new rooms.

NYS Dept of Labor / Facebook

In the midst of a slew of bad job news in Upstate New York -- the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant potentially closing in Oswego County, Alcoa leaving Massena -- the New York State Labor Department is trying to pair job seekers with companies that are hiring right now.
 

Two hundred businesses offering 5,000 jobs jammed the OnCenter in what New York State Labor Department officials are calling one of the biggest job fairs they’ve held in New York state. Department spokesman Cullen Burnell says the jobs run the gamut.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The former Hotel Syracuse won’t reopen as the Marriott Hotel Downtown until sometime next spring. But, that’s not stopping brides, nonprofits and companies from around the world from booking a wedding or event at the almost 100-year-old hotel.

Hotel owner Ed Riley said in the midst of the multi-million dollar renovation, there have been between 20 and 30 tours for potential customers every week. And, stepping through the the dusty hallways with exposed wires and crumbing plaster isn’t putting a crimp on potential business.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A new face will be representing part of Onondaga County in the New York State Assembly in January. Syracuse Common Councilor Pam Hunter easily won a special election in the 128th District.

Hunter took the race with almost 54 percent of the vote against two challengers, Republican John Sharon and David Stott, who ran on the Conservative Party line. It was more than the combined amount of votes Sharon and Stott received.

St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center / Facebook

Final tests have now concluded that the Legionella bacteria was present in two patient sinks and one ice machine at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse at the time three patients were being treated for Legionnaires’ disease. One person died, although hospital officials say the form of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ was not the sole cause of death. 

Now in the wake of the outbreak, hospital officials are trying to reassure patients that the hospital is safe.

Senate Democrats / Flickr

Local, state, and federal officials are scrambling to figure out ways to stop Entergy from closing the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power plant in Oswego County. The company announced Monday that it will close down the unprofitable plant after the reactor runs out of fuel in late 2016 or early 2017. Among those looking to find ways to keep the plant on the grid, is U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who intended to make an angry phone call to the CEO of Entergy. 

WRVO News file photo/TobyShelley.com

On Election Day, voters will make decisions about various levels of Onondaga County government . The entire legislature is up for election, and there are several countywide races. District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick is running unopposed, but there are contested races for comptroller and county clerk. But the biggest office up for grabs is for Onondaga County executive. 

The race pits a well-heeled incumbent going against an opponent who lost support from his party’s leadership.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Before the Erie Canal was dug almost 200 years ago, Syracuse was a swampy village of 250 people. Once that canal opened up commerce between the Hudson River and Lake Erie, the city grew dramatically. It’s this history that the Syracuse and the town of DeWitt want to reclaim, by revitalizing the 14-mile gap in the original canal path, which currently exists between DeWitt and Camillus.

Brandi Korte / Flickr

The City of Syracuse is coming together to try to make sure this Halloween weekend is a safe one. 

Halloween is on a Saturday this year.  And Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler says across the country, that often means a little more trouble than if it’s on a weekday.
 

"The city of Syracuse has not been immune to that in years past. And in years past, we’ve had our issues in the community -- issues with violence, issues with people acting in an unsafe manner,” said Fowler.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Some central New York environmentalists don’t want New York state to come to the rescue of the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego. More than 600 people have signed a petition calling for the plant to be shut down.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Making sure airports are as secure as possible was the focus of a congressional subcommittee hearing held at the federal building in Syracuse Monday. Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who chairs the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation Security, said one goal of the session was to find ways to beef up security at the nation’s airports.

St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center / Facebook

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse hospital is waiting on tests to determine whether it, in fact, has the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' Disease, in its water system. Hospital officials should know in about a week whether three cases of the disease could have been acquired at the hospital, or somewhere else. One of those patients ended up dying, though hospital officials say multiple medical issues contributed to that patient’s death.

SUNY ESF

SUNY ESF has its fingerprints on the discovery of a new giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands; a SUNY scientist is part of the research team that made the discovery.

James Gibbs, a SUNY ESF conservation biologist, has handled over 8,000 giant tortoises over the 20 years he’s been trekking back and forth between Syracuse and the Galapagos Islands. So he can easily see the difference between the new Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise, and the others that live on the island of Santa Cruz in the center of the Galapagos Archipelago.

St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center / Facebook

Some doctors across the country are starting to suggest that maybe there is a different way to treat a certain kind of breast cancer. Not all breast cancers are the same and the diagnosis of one type has has soared in recent years due to advances in radiology.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A low-cost, low-co-pay health insurance plan is now available for low income earners in New York state. The Essential Plan offers ten health benefits for less than $20 a month for anyone making less than $24,000. Steve Wood of ACR Health said the plan is very affordable.

"No deductible. Very low co-pays," Wood said. "I think the highest co-pay is about $150 for a hospital stay. Prescriptions: very, very low cost. Everything else is very inexpensive."

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.

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