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

The city of Syracuse is hoping to get more kids to the library this summer by forgiving overdue fines of cardholders 18 and younger who live in the city. Mayor Stephanie Miner said it’ll cost the city $7,000 this year.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has signed a Syracuse resident hiring ordinance into law. Officials have high hopes that this legislation can cut into the city’s high poverty rate.

The law will require contracts in excess of $100,000 dollars issued by the City of Syracuse, guarantee that at least 20 percent of the hours worked on a job will be done by city residents.

Miner signed her name to the legislation at Syracuse’s Southwest Community Center, saying these opportunities will go a long way in attacking poverty, and its side effects.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

A lack of transportation is one of the biggest obstacles for people trying to climb out of poverty. But now one Syracuse-area program that is helping fill that gap, is hoping to expand.

It’s been a year since Providence Services of Syracuse started a Ride to Work pilot program that helps unemployed people accept jobs they might not ordinarily get, because of a lack of transportation. And Providence President Deborah Hundley has been amazed at how quickly the participants have been able to wean themselves off a transportation subsidy.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A Demand Democracy campaign across New York is encouraging state Senate Republicans to approve a list of campaign finance reform proposals. Jonah Minkoff-Zern of Public Citizen, which is organizing the campaign, said the focus in Syracuse is on Sen. John DeFransisco, the second-most powerful figure in the state Senate.

"He and the other Republicans who are in leadership have power to pass this legislation this week," Minkoff-Zern said. "The last week of the legislative session here in New York. We’re here to protest their lack of action.”

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) is hoping that officials can learn from the tragedy in Orlando, to prevent another such deadly terrorist shooting going forward.

Katko expects there to be plenty of conversation this week in Washington centering on what happened in an Orlando gay nightclub, when 29-year old Omar Mateen carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Katko, who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, says his biggest concern is the fact that Mateen was investigated more than once by the FBI, because of potential links to terrorism.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is working on breaking through the military bureaucracy to get the name of a Syracuse man and others who were involved in a naval accident 47 years ago on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Larry Reilly, Sr. says it was as simple as turning the wrong way in the South China Sea in June 1969. The USS Frank E. Evans, a Navy Destroyer, was hit in the middle of the night by an Australian aircraft carrier.

Oneida County Sheriff's Office

An explosion that injured a state corrections officer at his home in Oneida County a week and a half ago had nothing to do with his job. But three people from Ohio have been arrested, in a case that involves the victim’s mother and suspected theft.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Republican Wendy Long is taking another shot at running for U.S. Senate in New York state. The conservative lawyer from New York City lost a race against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand four years ago in a landslide. This year, she’s taking on the man who could become the next Democratic Party leader in the Senate, Charles Schumer.

Onondaga Community College

It’s going to cost more to attend Onondaga Community College this fall. The Onondaga County Legislature approved a budget that includes a tuition hike. OCC President Casey Crabill says tuition is going up just under 3 percent for the 2016-1017 school year.

"It’s going up $70 for a full-time student, $6 a credit unit for part-time students. We would like to work to go a year without a tuition increase, but that’s been really difficult.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There’s less than three weeks to go before congressional primary day in New York state. In tthe 24th District, the Democratic primary race is between Colleen Deacon, Eric Kingson and Steven Williams. This week, Deacon had some high profile supporters in town to boost her campaign. And she offered a hint of what a campaign against incumbent Republican Rep. John Katko would look like, if she wins the nomination.

Sen. Charles Schumer led things off outside Sunshine’s Coffee Shop in DeWitt.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

While most central and northern New York crops are being planted right now, there’s one that’s being harvested. SUNY ESF researchers are harvesting willow, as part of a project that continues to find the best way to use the woody plant as an alternative energy source.

When most people hear the word willow, an image of a weeping willow tree comes to mind. But that’s not what SUNY ESF researchers are working on in the Willow Project, a program that’s developing a biomass energy source.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Two high-tech companies in Syracuse are expanding with the help of New York state. Officials say it’s a reflection of a broader trend of economic development in upstate New York.

Terakeet, an internet marketing firm, and TCG Ascension Gaming, which runs an online marketplace for collectable trading cards, will add almost 250 employees to their rosters in coming months. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the numbers Thursday at the former Hotel Syracuse, which is reopening in a month as a Marriott property. All proof, the governor says, of a rebounding economy.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Some central New York Republican officials say there’s a little more excitement at their annual clambake this year, because of presumptive GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

Every year Republicans from central New York gather at Hinerwadels Grove in North Syracuse to eat clams and talk politics. And presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump was at the center of many conversations.

Onondaga County GOP Chair Tom Dadey says he’s seen more excitement locally about Trump than any other Republican candidate in years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Central New York is preparing to have more electric vehicles on the roads in the near future.

Chevrolet is promising that it will deliver an affordable electric vehicle with a 200-mile range to showrooms by the end of this year. Other electric vehicle producers are expected to follow suit. So with the potential of more of these vehicles hitting the highway, Central New York’s Regional Planning and Development Board is getting ready.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It’s been a little over two years since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a goal of ending the AIDS epidemic in New York state by 2020. The man who runs the state AIDS Institute says that goal is in reach, with the disease on the run.

Back in the early 1990s 15,000 new cases of AIDS were diagnosed every year in New York state. That number is down to 3,000 a year now. State AIDS Institute Director Dan O’Connell says the decrease is largely pinned to the drugs that are used to control symptoms in HIV positive individuals.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

As central New York waits for a decision on the future of the Interstate 81 viaduct through Syracuse, motorists will see road work on the current road in coming months. I-81 project director Mark Frechette calls it band-aiding -- maintenance work to be done this year on a stretch of I-81 that needs to be replaced.

"When you look at the interchange, just between 81 and 690, it has over a million square feet of deck area. So you don’t know where you’ll get a hole, or a beam will deteriorate, or an accident will knock down signage or a guard rail,” said Frechette.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

As the race for the Democratic nomination for president comes to a close in the coming weeks, Syracuse supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders are still promoting their candidates.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

New York State Fair officials say the first half of a massive redevelopment project at the fairgrounds in Geddes will be done by the end of June.

It was just last summer that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state would sink $50 million into the aging fairgrounds -- half this year and half next. Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner says the project has come together quickly, and it will mean big changes at the facility by the time the Syracuse Nationals car show comes to town in mid-July.

Gravitywave / via Flickr

Central New York Health officials say its that time of year to start thinking about preventing mosquito bites. Memorial Day signals the start of warm weather that means prime breeding conditions for mosquitoes and every year, it means health officials throughout the region go on the offensive as the West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis can begin percolating among the insects that live here.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Indu Gupta says prevention is the only way to deal with these diseases. 

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.


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.