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. 

Ways to Connect

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Human trafficking in central New York is on the rise, according to Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus). That was one of the takeaways at a roundtable discussion on security Thursday in Syracuse.

Katko says more and more women are being exploited by human trafficking in central New York. And he’s concerned about reports that some new players are becoming involved.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Syracuse City School District is putting together a task force this fall that will focus on one of the issues that has spurred a great deal of community discussion -- safe transportation of children to school.

The issue came to a head last winter, when a coalition of high school students complained of long walks to school through crime-ridden neighborhood during severe weather. The district, working with CENTRO, found transportation for some high school students living more than 1.5 miles from school. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

After a 10-year fight, legislation that toughens penalties for those convicted of boating while intoxicated, has been signed into law in New York state. Now, when judges decide on sentencing in boating while intoxicated cases, they must consider previous driving while intoxicated.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) says Tiffany Heitkamp’s law will mean stiffer penalties for anyone convicted on a BWI charge who also has a DWI history.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County started a program this week at the Onondaga County Justice Center and the Jamesville Corrections Facility aimed at helping opioid addicts stay clean after they are released from jail. Now, some inmates who are also addicts will be offered a medication that takes away their craving for drugs.

Officials say almost one-third of the population at the Justice Center in downtown Syracuse is addicted to opiates, many of them no stranger to the holding facility.

Gordon Lew / Flickr

This is the time of year health officials recommend families make sure children’s vaccinations are up to date so they can go to school in September. This year, there is one new requirement change in New York state.

The new vaccination rules affect older children, according to Upstate Medical University infectious disease specialist Dr. Joe Domachowske. The required shot is first given before seventh grade, then followed up with a booster, and will protect children from the sometimes deadly form of bacterial meningitis.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) still hasn’t publicly endorsed Republican Donald Trump for president, and state party officials aren’t too happy about it. Katko is running for reelection in a congressional district that has changed parties for the last five election cycles, and has expressed concern over Trump’s tone and divisive rhetoric, saying Trump will have to earn his vote. New York State Republican Party Chair Ed Cox says he understands Katko’s reluctance.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Republican Party has opened up a political headquarters for the Donald Trump presidential campaign in Syracuse. Elected officials, volunteers and Donald Trump fans crowded into an Erie Boulevard office space to get a pep talk from state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox as the area’s Trump headquarters officially opened on Friday.

"The momentum is on our side, the big mo. And by the way, what does that mean? Come November 8, we’re going to have a Republican President of the United States, Donald Trump,” Cox said. “And that’s what it’s all about.”

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

Republicans in central New York are still angry with Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) and his decision to back Democrat Hillary Clinton instead of Republican Donald Trump in the race for president.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It’s summer camp season across central and northern New York. Among the traditional kind of camps that teach swimming, theater or arts and crafts, is a first in the area only for girls who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math. 

Le Moyne College recently wrapped up its first ever, all women high school summer camp that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

The goal of the camp, according to camp director Meriel Stokoe, is to attract young women to the STEM fields.

Jason Smith / WRVO News File Photo

The Onondaga County Legislature has solidified the future of minor league baseball in Syracuse.  Lawmakers agreed Tuesday on a new deal for the Syracuse Chiefs to rent the county-owned NBT Bank Stadium for the next decade.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Central New York is home to some new strategies meant to help victims of the heroin and opioid epidemic. The strategies include new kinds of support for families of victims, and for individuals recovering from overdoses.

Onondaga County’s new peer engagement specialist, Maria Sweeney, has started to make connections in central New York emergency rooms, to help individuals recovering from a drug abuse issue. She says often there is no one to offer support for recovery, once an addict is released from the hospital.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Onondaga County District Attorney’s office is investigating a case of possible embezzlement at the Central New York SPCA.

Former Onondaga County Executive Nick Pirro is the treasurer for the CNY SPCA Board of Directors. He went to the DA’s office July 11 with suspicions that something wasn’t right with the books.

"In the operation of being the treasurer, things were brought to my attention. Other things were on my radar screen, and putting them together, I felt it was necessary to have somebody with expertise look at it,” Pirro said, in an interview with WRVO News.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

The number of heroin and opioid overdoses continues to rise in central New York. According to the latest figures from the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office, there have been 30 overdose deaths to date in 2016, compared with 52 all of last year.  The opioid epidemic is also starting to affect some of the agencies that deal with people addicted to heroin.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Drivers that use Interstate 690 east to get to Syracuse from the western suburbs will need a little more time for their commute in the coming days. The New York State Department of Transportation is doing some major deck repairs just before the I-690 interchange with Interstate 81 (see maps below), which will shut down a stretch of road that 37,000 drivers use to get into the city of Syracuse every day.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Disabled advocates in central New York are celebrating the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA. While that law has improved access for millions of disabled Americans, advocates say there are still issues that need to be faced.

There’s a roadmap now for any organization that wants to take on the task of connecting the broken portion of the statewide Erie Canalway Trail that centers on the Syracuse area. A 15- to 16-mile stretch between Camillus and DeWitt has always been one of the most problematic gaps for advocates trying to create a continuous 360-mile, multi-use trail that follows the historic Erie Canal. If the gap was connected, it would create the longest continuous intrastate multi-use trail in the nation.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

New York state will have a big presence at this week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Among the politicians who will speak from the podium, the state’s two senators.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There’s good news for barley farmers in central New York and other parts of the state. The federal government will begin offering crop insurance for the grain that is an essential ingredient for brewing beer.

At a small brewpub in North Syracuse today, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said this new insurance fills an important hole.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

W-18, a new synthetic opioid, may be on the scene in central and northern New York. ACR Health prevention director Erin Bortel said several overdose deaths in the North Country have raised suspicions.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

New York state has been able to offer enough incentives to keep one central New York company from moving part of its operation to South Carolina.

Tessy Plastics has two plants in Onondaga County -- one in the town of Elbridge, another in the town of Van Buren. It makes plastics products for the medical industry, but half its business is manufacturing the five plastic pieces that make up underarm deodorant containers.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

As the Republican National Convention gets underway this week in Cleveland, one high-profile central New York Republican will be watching from afar.  Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) who is running for reelection in a highly competitive central New York district, continues to distance himself from the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) Friday joined local families and professionals who deal with the opioid epidemic to applaud passage of a sweeping piece of federal legislation meant to deal with that crisis.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Car lovers of all stripes converge on the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse this weekend, for the Syracuse Nationals car show, which has become a mecca for classic car lovers.

Ken Zoanetti of Bridgeport has always been interested cars. But one of the vehicles he’s displaying at the Syracuse Nationals is extra special. It’s a 1957 Chrysler Windsor.

“It is identical to what my mom and dad bought in 1957. Same color, same interior, same everything,” said Zoanetti.

So for him, fixing up and maintaining classic cars, has become a kind of sentimental journey.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Hutchings Psychiatric Center, the first integrated mental health, primary care clinic at a state psychiatric hospital, has opened in Syracuse. The clinic is also open to the general community according to State Mental Health Commissioner Ann Sullivan.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The state health department is prepared, if a case of the Zika virus develops in New York state. While officials want to be ready for the worst, they’re finding some positives in the reaction to the latest insect driven disease, that at its worst, causes birth defects in newborns.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) said a report released late last Friday only deepens his skepticism about Start-Up NY, the Cuomo administration’s economic development program that offers tax breaks to companies that set up shop in certain educational zones. A report on the multi-million dollar program was released three months late and showed just over 400 jobs were created in two years. Defrancisco said a lack of transparency about the program is one of the problems.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Upstate University Hospital is upgrading its pediatric emergency department, which will change the entire emergency room landscape at central New York’s biggest hospital.

Upstate pediatric emergency department chief Richard Cantor recently showed off the new unit, which is still under construction.

“This is the acute care, super sick kids are coming in here, and they’ll have direct line of sight from the nursing station, and you can see sliding glass doors, we have isolation rooms,” said Kantor.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Changes in the field of developmental disabilities are coming fast and furious, and they are affecting some mainstay programs offered by local agencies.

The last seismic shift in the world of developmental disabilities happened over 40 years ago, when hundreds of thousands of disabled New Yorkers were deinstitutionalized. A new state-supported system of programs and supports for families was born, with things like sheltered workshops, which are supervised workplaces, filling the gap.

Doug Kerr / WRVO News

The Urban Jobs Task Force is urging the New York State Department of Transportation to apply to a federal program that would require contractors to hire local residents for the I-690 project in Syracuse.

The state is planning to spend $74 million next year to repair 15 crumbling bridges along a portion of Interstate 690 between Teall Avenue and Beech Street in the city of Syracuse. Urban Jobs Task Force Chair Aggie Lane is asking state officials to seriously look at the Local Labor Hiring Pilot Program, something the federal Department of Transportation is trying out.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Colleen Deacon, a single mother and former staffer for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), will be the Democratic nominee in the race for the 24th Congressional District.

Deacon handily beat her competitors, Syracuse attorney Steve Williams and Syracuse University professor Eric Kingson, by winning more than 48 percent of the vote in the primary election. Deacon had support from Gillibrand and other Democratic bigwigs, as well as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as the establishment party pick to face freshman Republican Rep. John Katko.

Pages