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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Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Republican congressional candidate John Katko says he has no regrets about legally obtaining a gun to use for protection while he was a federal prosecutor in Syracuse.

He accuses political opponents of rehashing a 14-year-old story about  the theft of that gun, and its use in a robbery that ended with the shooting death of two men in Syracuse.

“Despite all the threats I’ve been through over 20 years, I still stuck with it, and went after the worst criminals, the most violence criminals in El Paso, in Puerto Rico and here in Syracuse," Katko said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A steady stream of patients visit the infirmary at the New York State Fair each day. Though most people have minor maladies, one fairgoer did have a heart attack early in the fair's run and is recovering. Upstate Medical University Hospital ER Physician Erin Wirths isn’t surprised. She says the fairgrounds has all the pieces in place to deal with an emergency situation. For the most part the infirmary handles small things, and sometimes fairgoers who need a few minutes to rest up.

Operation WALK Syracuse

For the first time ever at the New York State Fair, there will be a running event at the fairgrounds. The Bubble Blast 5K run will take place Sunday.

One of the beneficiaries of the fundraiser is a group of central New York medical professionals who take their skills to third-world countries.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

As New York state continues to boost the craft brewery and distillery business, brews and spirits pushed into the wine court at the New York State Fair.

David Tadros has been collecting brews and spirits from Clayton to Brooklyn to sell at his stand on the edge of the wine court. State Fair Showstopper Ale, a brew concocted only for the run of the fair, by Empire Brewery, is sold here, along with other New York state beers. And for the first time distilled spirits are available outside, opening them up to a bigger audience.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Preservationists and Syracuse-area economic development specialists are uniting to try and save a federal tax credit that’s helped renovation of historic buildings.

They made the push  from one of the grandest rooms in an historic building that turned 90 years old this month, the Hotel Syracuse.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Temperatures may still be in the 80s, but Syracuse's common councilors are looking beyond shorts and sandal weather. The issues of people not shoveling snow from their sidewalks is once again on the agenda.

Last year, Councilor Bob Dougherty couldn’t get the votes to pass a law that would have ticketed property owners who didn’t clear snow off their sidewalks. So he’s spent the summer looking at what went wrong and devising a way to encourage homeowners to keep sidewalks clear when the inevitable Syracuse snow begins to fall.

Syracuse lawmakers are making more changes to the proposed Ban the Box legislation. A scheduled vote has been put off until after another committee meeting, to discuss the latest iteration of the civil rights legislation.

Ban the Box legislation is meant to get rid of the check box on a hiring application that asks if applicants have a criminal history. For Brian Johnson of Syracuse, that box is keeping him from getting a job, even though it’s been seven years since his encounter with the law.

George F / via Flickr

Syracuse lawmakers agreed to a pilot program Monday that will ease the tax burden for developers renovating the historic Hotel Syracuse.

City Deputy Commissioner for Development Ben Walsh says this is a big step in moving the project forward.

“The project is complicated, and frankly, as expensive as this, it needs as much certainty and predictability as possible," Walsh said. "And that’s what the pilot provides. It provides a certain payment for a period of time when the hotel is most vulnerable in it’s initial years of operation.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A new state program is providing bulletproof vests for police departments across the state. One Syracuse Police detective is living proof of how important these vests are to an officer on the street.

It was April 13, 2009, when Syracuse Police Detective Richard Curran and his partner found themselves in a shootout on Syracuse’s south side with a wanted parolee who was carrying an illegal .357 handgun. Curran was wearing an up-to-date bulletproof vest, and was shot at close range.

via New York State Tax Department

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance is back at the New York State Fair this year. They had a very positive experience last year signing homeowners up for the STAR tax credit.

This year, Department Commissioner Tom Mattox says they’re taking it one step further by providing private assistance to resolve tax issues on the spot.

“Yesterday alone, we worked with a couple dozen taxpayers to resolve issues in real time," Mattox said. "Everything from eligibility for certain veterans exemptions to certain sales tax collection related issues."

Today is Law Enforcement Day at the New York State Fair. Police officials remembered officers lost in the line of duty with a special memorial. State Police Superintendent Joe D’Amico says it’s been a tough 15 months in his department, with five officers killed while on duty. He says it’s hard on morale.

“They’re friends, they're people you work with," D'Amico said. "You talk about the law enforcement family, and it really is. It’s more than just colleagues. People become very close, so it’s very difficult.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo says there has been no progress on a decision about hydrofracking in New York state, the movement opposing the controversial gas extracting technology gets louder. There are a couple of candidates in the upcoming election who want to tap into this anti-fracking fervor.

"We got the people power, la la la," yelled several protesters gathered at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. "We got the people power, la la la!"
 

Governor Andrew Cuomo / via Flickr

It was an opening day to remember for Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the New York State Fair.

Cuomo opened the fair this morning with a ribbon cutting at the dairy cattle building. Standing next to politicians, goats and cows, he declared the 2014 edition of the fair open.

“On three, don’t cheat, don’t cheat," Cuomo said to those surrounding him. "One, two, three."

The skies opened up shortly after Cuomo left the Dairy Building to make his way to Dinosaur Barbecue for the traditional sausage sandwich.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

There’s a new kind of playbook for some of the athletic coaches in the Syracuse City School District. The district is teaming up with Vera House to pilot a program encouraging male athletes to have healthy relationships, especially with the women in their lives.

Coaches for Nottingham High School's football team, freshman basketball team and modified soccer team will be dealing with more than X’s an O’s when the season starts. They will also carry a playbook and flip cards that have topics like "Disrespecting Behavior towards Girls," and "Understanding Consent."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Upstate Medical University Hospital’s community campus has added a new unit for older patients who may need a little more time recovering from a hospital stay.

There’s already a waiting list for the new Transitional Care Unit that's on the fifth floor of the former Community General Hospital. Unit nursing director Amy Rottger, says the idea is to help senior patients who, while clinically stable, still need physician oversight and specialized services.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The issue of central New York Congressman Dan Maffei's connections to Washington, D.C. has once again come up as a campaign issue. But it's the mention of his wife and newborn daughter that has the Democrat steaming.

Maffei called a news conference Wednesday, telling reporters that Republican candidate John Katko crossed the line when mentioning the fact that Maffei’s wife works in Washington, D.C, and his baby was born in a Washington, D.C. area hospital earlier this summer

Courtesy of Wade Shows

Every year there are new attractions or cosmetic changes at the New York State Fair in Geddes. This year, when the fair gates open Thursday, visitors will see some of the most dramatic differences in decades.

It’s the biggest change at the fair in 73 years, says Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner. An all new midway, with long-time show operator James E. Strates out and Michigan-based Wade Shows in.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

There’s a new free dental clinic in the city of Syracuse, attached to the Amaus Health Services clinic at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Syracuse. The idea is to offer basic dental care to the homeless and people who have no dental insurance.

The first patient is a Syracuse man named Barry. He says his mouth is a mess after years of neglect.
 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The Onondaga County Comptroller’s Office will start an audit of so-called take home cars used by employees of various county agencies after the work day is done.

Onondaga County Legislator Chris Ryan says the idea is to get a kind of macro look at how county employees use these government-owned vehicles.

"What we’re trying to find out through an audit, is the amount of vehicles out there, how many miles, what are they being used for, how many times have they been responding out of hours with such vehicles,” Ryan explained.

litlnemo / Flickr

For many in central New York, this is fire pit season. In the city of Syracuse, common councilors are looking for ways to keep disputes about fire pits from burning out of control. Lawmakers have been receiving complaints from some homeowners who say their houses get filled with smoke from neighborhood fire pits.  

Fire pits are legal in the city. Deputy Fire Chief Stephen Cavuto says there is a very specific flow chart firefighters follow when they answer a complaint call about a fire pit.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is pushing for a new tax-advantaged savings account that will help families with disabilities. Schumer visited Syracuse to offer support to families that are looking for passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Today is Purple Heart Day -- the annual, nationwide commemoration of the thousands of American soldiers either killed or wounded while serving in the military who have received the medal. And it is an extra special day for one central New Yorker.

Dan Hunnicutt is an acting chaplain in Oswego County who runs a ministry with his family meant to help veterans. He often wears his medals when he goes to meet troubled vets as a kind of conversation starter. He now has a new one to share.

Charles LeBlanc / Flickr

Bedbugs are out of control once again in Syracuse.

Sharon Sherman runs the Greater Syracuse Tenants Network. She says she thought a bedbug infestation that swept across the area a few years ago was under control, but now she says it is not.

“I can’t explain it," Sherman said. "I know even the housing authority was telling me that they got so backlogged, they had trained their employees, they were certified by DEC. They had to bring an outside exterminator to catch them up. I don’t know what the answer is.”  

Onondaga County

Residents have almost an extra month to weigh in on the initial environmental impact statement for the proposed Lakeview Amphitheater facility along Onondaga Lake. This move follows criticism among lawmakers and the public that the environmental scoping process for the $100 million project was rushed.

Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank/City of Syracuse

The city of Syracuse is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, but one organization is hoping it can ease things by educating landlords.

Part of the problem is timing. For the last year, the Syracuse Land Bank has been buying properties seized by the city for back taxes, according to Sharon Sherman of the Greater Syracuse Tenants Network.

"Hundreds of properties have been foreclosed on and are making their way into the land bank, but very few have been sold yet, so that’s taken quite a few out,” Sherman said.

dank depot / via Flickr

A group of organizations in Syracuse is creating a coalition meant to attack the problem of youth substance abuse in the city.

The Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Initiative is based on a national model that uses several strategies to fight a problem that just doesn’t seem to go away. Groups like the Southwest Community Center and the Syracuse City School District have joined the Prevention Network in Syracuse to try to stop the persistent abuse of drugs and alcohol by kids in Syracuse. So, they’re creating a coalition to find ways to meet the problem head on.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is using a project in Madison County to highlight a new federal program that’s meant to promote infrastructure upgrades in rural parts of the country. The idea is to connect small communities with private money, in an effort to revitalize rural America.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

There is a nationwide racial disparity when it comes to breast cancer. The mortality rate is 41 percent higher for African-American women than Caucasian women. But a special program at Pioneer Homes in Syracuse hopes to put a dent in that number.

The idea is to get the 149 women over the age of 40 in this public housing development to get a mammogram, which can detect cancer in its early stages and can lead to better survival rates.

Central New Yorkers trying to help victims of domestic violence are happy that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that deals with the changing technology.

Vera House Executive Director Randi Bregman says the world of domestic violence and harassment has changed as technology allows people to become more plugged in.

"It used to be aggravated harassment was primarily making a phone call," Bregman explained. "Now it’s texting, Facebook messaging, email and the GPS piece."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

There’s a movement afoot in the Syracuse area to get more people to install solar energy technology in their home or business.

Peter Wirth of Fayetteville installed solar panels on his home two years ago. And one of the most frequent questions he hears is,

“Does it work in central New York? Well, it’s produced almost 100 percent of our power for the last two years,” said Wirth.

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