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

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.

SUNY ESF

Every year an international committee of taxonomists for SUNY ESF’s International Institute for Species Exploration comes up with a list of the top ten new species discovered in the last year. For the first time, it has social media to thank for one of the discoveries.

It was a random posting on Facebook in Brazil of a carnivorous plant called a sundew. There are nearly 200 variations of the plant that secretes a thick mucus on its leaves, which traps insects. This particular plant, which at four feet high is taller than any others, wasn’t in any science books.

Army Medicine / Flickr

Onondaga County’s yearly mosquito testing program has started for the season. For the first time, the county is on the lookout for the mosquito that carries the Zika virus.

Zack Seward / WXXI

Work behind the scenes continues as the New York State Department of Transportation moves towards removing or replacing the crumbling Interstate 81 viaduct that cuts through the heart of Syracuse.

The community has been talking about this for years now -- what to do when the viaduct that brings I-81 through Syracuse comes to the end of its lifespan next year.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse is filling more potholes than usual as it embarks on a more data-driven strategy to fixing crumbling streets.

"We have, since April, filled 3,260 potholes,” said Mayor Stephanie Miner.

She said what you can’t see during this process may be the most important: every time the DuroPatcher goes to work, a GPS-enabled device on the vehicle keeps track of where and when a pothole is filled.  

Martina Yach / Flickr

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is pushing legislation that would help school districts deal with old pipes that are leaching lead into school’s water systems.

Schumer says the $20 million federal grant program was included in the Water Resource Development Act. He says it’s necessary because school districts need help to test water for lead.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Scientists are going to war against an invasive insect that’s decimating the ash tree population in central New York, by using one of its natural predators. While these tiny wasps may not stop the current infestation in its tracks, they may help deal with these kinds of things in the future.

SUNY ESF graduate student Mike Jones spends a lot of time scraping the bark off of dead ash trees. And occasionally, he’ll find a plump emerald ash borer larva.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

As New York state lawmakers finish up this legislative session, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli hopes one item he’s been pushing for years makes it to the top of the agenda.

DiNapoli has been critical of the use of local development corporations. More commonly called LDCs, these not-for-profit corporations are often created by governments to help spur economic growth.

He says these entities create an environment where it’s easy for communities to use them to engage in back-door borrowing for projects that avoid competitive bidding requirements.

David Chanatry / New York Reporting Project at Utica College

The dispute over whether an energy company should be storing natural gas in salt caverns underneath Seneca Lake reaches a milestone this week.

For the last year and a half, more than 500 protestors from the group We Are Seneca Lake have been arrested at the Watkins Glen entrance of the Seneca Lake storage facility, owned by the Houston-based company Crestwood. The environmental group is upset with plans by Crestwood to expand storage of natural gas in salt caverns under Seneca Lake.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse is staying out of fiscal stress, based on a system developed by the New York state comptroller’s office.

The city has never been flagged by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for having a government teetering towards insolvency.

“In the three years we’ve been doing this, Syracuse has never been in any stress categories and that certainly is very good news for this community,” said DiNapoli during a visit to Syracuse Monday.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

An elevated museum of sorts, bike trails, a blooming bridge, an outdoor ice skating park. Those are all some of the ideas that have been submitted to the “Elevating Erie” competition, focused on revamping Erie Boulevard East in Onondaga County. Now it’s time for the public to weigh in on potential projects that could turn six drab lanes of traffic into an historic and recreational destination.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

President Barack Obama has announced the biggest expansion of U.S. ground troops in Syria since the civil war there began. And that’s not sitting well with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

The U.S. will deploy 250 special forces troops to help militia fighters in Syria. Schumer is leery about the operation.

"We have good fighting forces who can do the job -- the Kurds in particular. And we should not get into one of these snares, where first we have 200 troops, then 500 troops, then 5,000 troops,” Schumer.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Abuse of a common over-the-counter drug is the latest side effect of the heroin epidemic.

Loperamide, more commonly known by the brand name Imodium, is used by most people to treat diarrhea. But Upstate New York Poison Center clinical toxicologist Jeanna Marraffa says the drug is used by opioid addicts to get high, or to help with withdrawal symptoms. Marraffa says in large quantities it can activate some of the same receptors as opioids. The problem is, it can kill.

Onondaga County is jumping on the Uber bandwagon.

State lawmakers are considering changes in state insurance laws that would allow ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft in upstate and other parts of the state they are currently prohibited. The Onondaga County Legislature, by unanimous vote, is encouraging them to do it.

“We are so far behind the eight ball on this,” said Legislator Kathy Rapp.

That’s why the Republican supported a memorializing resolution that asked the state to make the changes that would allow ride-sharing services in the Syracuse area.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Health officials in central New York this week have announced that three people in Onondaga County and one in Oneida County have tested positive for the Zika virus. Officials say all four people contracted the virus while traveling outside the country, none were hospitalized, and there is no risk to the public. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It may not be the original plan to turn Murphy’s Island over to the Onondaga Nation, but Onondaga County lawmakers have promised to turn over some other piece of land along Onondaga Lake to the nation.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Planting season is getting underway in central New York. And for farmers it means another year when the changing climate can make or break a growing season. But farmers aren’t sitting still when it comes to dealing with the more severe weather that comes along with a warming climate.

Upstate University Hospital

Researchers from Upstate University Hospital are testing a vaccine that could prevent a common respiratory virus among newborns.

Respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSV, is the most common reason newborns end up in the hospital. It’s a very contagious respiratory virus that’s everywhere, and for most children, it plays out as a common cold. But for infants less than two months old it can be life threatening.

The Libertarian Party is growing in New York state. This weekend, Onondaga County becomes the latest county to join this party that challenges the idea of an omnipresent government, instead looking to individual sovereignty as the way to peace and prosperity.

Onondaga County will be the 15th county chapter the party has chartered in New York state and the fourth this year.

Shawn Hannon of Syracuse is leading the central New York effort.

"Libertarian people try to keep the government out of your wallet and out of your bedroom,” he said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There’s a new nature sanctuary in Onondaga County. The Nature Conservancy has acquired more than 200 acres of undeveloped land along the Seneca River in Baldwinsville.

Meesh / Flickr

Syracuse is getting some federal funds that will help youth transition from the criminal system back into society.

Twenty-four-year-old David Lefler was in and out of the Jamesville Correctional Facility for several years. He says it was hard to stay out of trouble once jail became a way of life.

"If you really don’t care, then it’s just going to keep happening,” Lefler says. “You’re going to hang out with the wrong person, and next thing you know you’re in a car with a bag of dope and you’re going to jail.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse is putting a technology called SQUID into use this month, which is meant to help city hall make smarter choices when it comes to fixing crumbling streets.

SQUID – or Street Quality Identification Device – is a tiny contraption that sits on the bed of a pickup truck used by the Syracuse Department of Public Works, designed to measure the quality of the streets of Syracuse.

Varun Adibhatla is project director of ARGO labs, which came up with the technology. He says Syracuse is the first city to use it.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A chemical company working out of Solvay has come up with a way to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions its manufacturing process produces. Chemtrade and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) worked together on the project.

redplanet89 / Flickr

There’s going to be a new way to go solar in central New York. Solarize CNY Communities, the organization that’s helped install solar energy in several homes across central New York in recent years, is moving from rooftop arrays to making it a community affair.

Solarize CNY Communities project coordinator Katelyn Kriesel says all it takes for a resident to take advantage of solar power in this community model, is for them to be in the same utility zone as the arrays that convert sunshine into energy.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

New York state continues to have one of the lowest percentages of its residents signed up to be organ donors. Now organ donation advocates are hoping some new state legislation will change that.

Every April, the organ donation program at Upstate University Hospital showcases patients who have been saved by organ donations, or families who have made the decision to donate organs from a deceased loved one. This year, Tina Serio told the story of how her family dealt with the sudden death of her sister, who had not made her wishes known before she died.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

There were some boos at the Bernie Sanders supporters’ primary watch party as the projections showed Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic primary in New York state.

Joanna Radzimowski of Syracuse said she is disappointed with the Sanders defeat.

“I have hope that the rest of America is going to see the light and understand that Bernie is really the best candidate for us, for our future," Radzimowski said. "He started a revolution and it is not ending with this.”

But Radzimowski said she would support Hillary Clinton if she wins the Democratic nomination.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Polls open at noon today in central and northern New York for one of the most contested presidential primaries in New York state history. Both registered Democrats and Republicans will choose who they want to see as their party’s standard bearer in the race for president. The big push now is to get supporters out to vote.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It’s presidential primary day in New York state. But New York’s closed primary election process is creating a bit of confusion for some voters.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

SUNY Upstate Medical University’s new president will be holding a series of symposiums to look for solutions to issues that face health care providers in central New York. Dr. Danielle Laraque-Arena hopes a studying issues like poverty and mental health can help the medical community deal with them.

"Help me succeed in connecting us in a joint purpose in improving lives. Our region is small enough so that anonymity is not a problem. We can know each other and learn to problem solve together,” said Laraque-Arena.

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