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

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.

Courtesy of Upstate Drone Resisters

Activists opposed to drone warfare continue targeting the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base north of Syracuse.

During a protest at the air base last week, local upstate drone activists were joined by some members of the Atlantic Life Community Activists, an East Coast-based group of pacifists.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

For the third time in six years, Republican John Sharon will challenge Democrat Sam Roberts for the 128th Assembly District seat.

Sharon admits going into a race in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans overwhelmingly, it doesn’t look promising.

“Just do that red-blue math, the numbers are not good," Sharon said. "But I’m not concerned about that, because I’m trying to reach out to the people who live here. And say, look, I’ll work for you, I will listen to you, I’ll be accessible, I’ll be visible, I’ll give you everything I’ve got every day.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The only scheduled public hearing on the proposed amphitheater project on Onondaga Lake drew mostly criticism Wednesday. The project, which has been fast-tracked by the state legislature, would put the concert venue on land that was used as a dumping place for industrial waste for years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse's Empire Brewing Company will become one of the top five brewers in New York state, if all goes well with the creation of Farmstead Brewery in Cazenovia. Empire wants everybody to get in on the craft brew party, even people who aren’t craft beer connoisseurs.

The owner of the Empire Brewing Company says he wants to turn more people into beer snobs.

"The longer they are surrounded by craft beer, the more they’ll let their barriers down and try new things," says Empire founder David Katleski.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A film production company that’s moved to central New York is scouting locations across the region for movies it plans on filming by the end of the year.

The Film House, which will be the first tenant in the new Central New York Hub for Emerging Nano Industries in Dewitt, plans on starting to film the sci-fi picture “The Opium Wars” in September. The company's president Ryan Johnson says right now they’re scouting for places like exterior farms, a run-down bar, and a big hangar with a "Mad Max" feel. At the same time, Johnson says they’re also working on their next movie.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Onondaga Community College is tapping another central New York College to join it’s "2+2" partnership stable.

Cazenovia College is the latest institution to sign this kind of partnership agreement with OCC. What it does is allow students to take two years of directed coursework at the community college, then transfer to Cazenovia, to get a bachelor's degree.

OCC President Casey Craybill says one of the major pluses to these deals is that academic advisement comes from both schools.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Technological times have changed since the Tech Garden set up shop on Warren Street in Syracuse almost ten years ago.

Six months ago, the technical infrastructure at the Tech Garden was sadly lacking.

"The projection wasn’t widescreen, it wasn’t high-definition," said Seth Mulligan, Tech Garden Innovation Services vice president. "The Internet was crashing and it was slow.”

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The sight of cranes in the air, and shovels in the ground abound in central New York this summer.  That doesn’t jive though, with the latest job figures from New York state that the Syracuse area continues to lose jobs at an alarming rate.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A ceremony in Syracuse Friday launched the new face of cancer treatment in central New York. The Upstate Cancer Center is ready for patients, and assistant director Dick Kilburg says its innovative design merges nature and advanced cancer-fighting technology.  
 

"Basically what we’re doing with this facility is bringing all the services under one roof, and being able to offer patients what they deserve in this community," Kilburg said. "All the extra services that a cancer center should be offering.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse could be a potential landing spot for unaccompanied immigrant children who’ve been crossing the Mexican border in droves in recent months. Mayor Stephanie Miner is hoping a letter to the president can bring those kids to central New York sooner rather than later.

Miner is asking President Barack Obama to consider forming a partnership between Syracuse and the federal government to help with the humanitarian needs of the kids, who are waiting for deportation hearings.

She says dealing with immigrants in the past, and in the present, is in Syracuse’s blood.

Onondaga County Sheriff's Office

The New York State Police helicopter operation based in has moved to Rochester, which will cause a gap in air support for police investigations and rescues in central New York. Onondaga County’s Air One helicopter will still fly, but needs more funding to provide those services.

Before the state police helicopter moved, the troopers generally took care of calls during the day, and Onondaga County’s Air One handled them in the evening. County Sheriff Kevin Walsh says the county’s crime fighting helicopter can’t fill those day time hours at this time.

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