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

Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport is kicking off one of its busiest seasons of the year with a new direct flight to Florida. Allegiant Airlines will start flying to Florida on Friday.

Allegiant Airlines will be flying non-stop twice a week from Syracuse to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Airport Executive Director Christina Callahan says it’s a good time to kick off the flight, because this is the time of year the airport sees a lot of action.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

  East meets West in a glass at Empire Brewing Company in downtown Syracuse. The new Two Dragon beer is the result of a Syracuse business delegation that visited China last year.

The new craft brew relies on Fu brick tea imported from China for its unique taste. It got rave reviews when it was introduced at Empire this week, with tasters describing it as smooth, but with a little edge of tea flavor.

Empire founder David Katleski says it actually makes sense to use tea in the brewing of beer.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Central New York educators are galvanizing support as they oppose Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed education policy.

Cuomo is proposing sweeping education reforms as part of his 2015 budget. They include stricter teacher evaluations, tougher tenure rules and expansion of charter schools. In his State of the State message, he tied it all together with money.

"If the legislature passes these reforms, I propose a 4.8 percent increase in the budget. A $1.1 billion investment in education, because it will be the right education system," Cuomo said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

This week's snowstorm didn't slow down action at Hancock International Airport in Syracuse, in fact, the airport has stayed open through several storms this winter. Executive Director Christina Callahan says there were a few flights canceled, but only because of problems in destinations like New York, Chicago and Boston.

It's been a tough winter at the airport, Callahan admits, but adds the staff there is ready for the worst -- every year.

MTSOFAN / Flickr

Alzheimer’s disease advocates in central New York are joining the national calling for more money to be spent on treatment research and a cure for the disease.

The federal government currently spends half a billion dollars a year on finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and it has left some potential cures without the money to fund trials that lead to FDA approval.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse-area Rep. John Katko is jumping into the discussion on the future of Interstate 81.  The Republican is calling on the New York state and federal governments to include all options for the future of I-81 when a scoping report is released to the public in the coming weeks.  

Thomas Favre-Bulle / via Flickr

Central New York educators are continuing their fight to get rid of the gap elimination adjustment. The program has been around for five years, initially meant to take funds earmarked for public schools and use them to close a state budget deficit.  Schools say it’s forced them to lay off staff and cut programs.

"For two years in a row now, we’ve had a budget surplus.  Why do we need a gap elimination adjustment?" said Charles Borgognoni, executive director of the Central New York School Boards Association.

Corie Howell / via Flickr

Some central and northern New York parents are missing out on a state child care subsidies that could help their bottom line.  

In some communities around the state, child care subsidy dollars are available to help working families that make up to 275 percent of the federal poverty level. Currently, the Child Care Facilitated Enrollment Program funded through New York state is only operating in the Capital region, and Oneida and Monroe Counties.

Now, community leaders in central New York are starting a push for Onondaga County to join the program.

This January’s Point-In-Time homeless count in the city of Syracuse shows both some success and fallbacks in the fight against homelessness in central New York.

The number of homeless individuals in central New York has increased, according to recent numbers compiled by the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Syracuse and Onondaga County.

“Last year we had 490 people stay in emergency shelters, and this year we had 547 people stay in emergency shelters,” said coalition coordinator Melissa Marrone.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The renovation of Hotel Syracuse has started creating jobs.  The first of several job fairs was held in the lobby of the historic hotel.

There hadn't been so many people in the lobby of the Hotel Syracuse since it closed over a decade ago. Hundreds of men and women filled out applications for Environmental Remediation Services Inc, the company that’s handling the demolition and asbestos removal portion of the renovation of the hotel in downtown Syracuse.

Chad Parks figures he’ll be sifting through between 600 and 800 applications for 30 to 40 jobs.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Freshman Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) takes the gavel to chair his first congressional subcommittee meeting Tuesday.  

The 24th District congressman is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, and chairs the Subcommittee on Transportation Security.

The hearing comes following an apparent gun smuggling ring that started in Atlanta. With the alleged help of an airport employee, a passenger last December got through security with several guns in carry-on luggage and on to a plane headed to New York.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

As Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) is finishing up his first month representing the residents of the 24th Congressional District, he says he’s getting used to the pace and the politics of the nation’s capital.

Katko, joins a Congress that has the largest Republican majority since the 1930s.  And he admits that getting all the factions of the GOP to work together as one can be a challenge.

ephesuslighting.com

This weekend’s Super Bowl won’t only be showcasing the NFL’s top football teams. It will also show off a new stadium lighting system that was created in Syracuse.  

  Ephesus Lighting founder Joe Casper is amazed at the publicity his company’s high-performance LED lights have been getting in the run-up to the Super Bowl. There’s been mention of the semi-conductor based technology in Forbes magazine, USA Today and the Washington Post.  And the enhanced lighting fixtures have even made their way into deflate-gate conversations.

One hundred forty central New Yorkers learned first hand what it's like to live in the grip of poverty this week. Visions for Change shined a light on the issue through it's poverty simulation.

Ashlee Hines works at the homeless shelter at the Salvation Army in Syracuse. You’d think she’d be aware of some of the issues people living in poverty face, but playing the role of a mom, going to school, working, and taking care of children was an eye opener.

"What I had to do was really hard. I kind of panicked,” Hines said. “And I know how to do day-to-day stuff.”

Creative Commons [BY-SA 3.0]

A central New York organization that tries to poke a cynical Syracuse mindset into something more positive is now two years old. The founder of the group Believe in Syracuse says they’ll be getting their message across in more ways as they continue to grow.

John DeSantis started the group two years ago when he found himself continuously watching friends leave central New York after graduating from college.

Public Domain

Syracuse common councilors agreed this week to accept more military hardware for the police department through a state grant program, but not every lawmaker is on board with accepting the equipment.

Among the items on the list of equipment the $100,000 grant will obtain are: entry rams, tubular assault equipment and a Bearcat Ram-Cam four-way monitor. Democrat Jean Kessner wonders why police need it.

"We're a city. We're not a war zone," Kessner said. "I don't know what they are. I can't pretend to know, and that's kind of a problem."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse lawmakers have gone on record calling on the New York State Department of Transportation to replace the Interstate-81 viaduct that runs through the city with a street-level boulevard. The move further defines the debate over what to do with the aging highway, which is reaching the end of its lifespan.

Common councilors have voted unanimously to support the option that would tear down I-81 and force traffic around the city, using Interstate-481.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Upstate University Hospital has won a “comprehensive stroke center” designation by a national health care accrediting agency. But what does that mean for central New York stroke victims?

Catherine Stephens, the administrator of the Upstate Stroke Center, likes to say “time is brain” when emphasizing how important it is for stroke victims to get fast treatment. So as soon as Upstate is alerted of a patient with a possible stroke, the team goes into action.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Charter schools across New York State could be getting a boost, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his State of State address last week, proposed adding another 100 slots to the state’s charter school cap and lifting the regional limit on the schools. One non-profit charter school operator in the Syracuse area is already bursting at the seams and looking to expand.

smoooochie / Flickr

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank will continue to use deconstruction as they demolish dilapidated properties across the city of Syracuse in the coming year. The results of a year-long experiment in the deconstruction process have proved fruitful so far.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO file photo

There will be another competition for state economic development dollars, if the state legislature approves spending $1.5 billion for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed Upstate New York Economic Revitalization Competition. At least one Central New York Economic development official is ready for the challenge.

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out a sweeping agenda for 2015, in today’s joint State of the State and budget address. The two yearly presentations were combined following the death of Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo on Jan. 1.

Many of the proposals the governor emphasized in his speech, have been rolled out in recent weeks, like the $1.7 billion tax relief proposal, and the $500 million project to expand broadband across the state.

Cuomo offered a shout-out to one central New York institution, the New York State Fair, which he said needs a state-supported update.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO file photo

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank is encouraging certain city employees to buy tax delinquent homes that have been sold to the city.

Last year, police officers and fire fighters employed by the city, and teachers who worked for the city school district, were offered a 10 percent discount if they bought one of the land bank properties. Nobody did. So the land bank’s board has okayed raising that discount to 50 percent.

The Land Bank’s executive director Katelyn Wright says they’ll push the program more aggressively this year.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The online MBA program at Syracuse Univeristy’s Whitman School of Management has its biggest class ever signed up this year. Officials say it’s a reflection of a growing trend in higher education.

At the start of the semester this January, a new cohort of Syracuse University MBA students got together for a happy hour. The difference? They were having their party online.

Whitman School assistant dean Amy McHale says this semester’s class set enrollment record. Distance learning master’s programs have been at SU since the 1970s, when students sent in their papers by mail.  

Sudipto Sarkar / Flickr

More central New Yorkers are apt to smoke cigarettes, than anywhere else in New York State. This comes at a time when most private health insurance plans, as well as Medicaid and Medicare cover smoking cessation strategies. So why the disconnect?  Experts say getting people to quit comes down to education.

According to the New York State Health Department, just over 22 percent of central New York adults smoke. The state smoking rate is 10 points below that.  

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) continues to make her case for legislation that would help ease the burden of child care costs, which the senator says add up to $10,000 a year per child for the average central New York family.  

At a day care center in East Syracuse Friday, the Democrat calmed an infant before explaining her proposal to use tax breaks to make child care more affordable. The three-pronged plan takes into account different income levels. 

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Another drone resistance trial is taking place in DeWitt Town Court. The latest protester to go to trial participated in a staged die-in outside the front gate of Hancock Air Base last spring and wants to defend herself by telling the tales of the effect of drone warfare on everyday people.

Bonny Mahoney and the group Code Pink visited Pakistan in 2012 to express their opposition to the U.S. drone strikes in that country. Mahoney says she will tell jurors in her trial about the fear that she felt among the people of that country.

Corey Seeman / Flickr

Over the past several years, Sen. Charles Schumer has been able to secure federal money to help with upgrading facilities, including the improvement of rail lines and even dredging the Port of Oswego. He calls the upgrade of the port one of his "pet projects."

Schumer has been advocating modernizing the port for several years and says when all is said and done, he expects the job impact to be in the thousands.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Upstate New York Poison Center saw a threefold increase in calls about synthetic drugs last year, as there was a resurgence in use of these chemicals.

Lee Livermore, a public education health coordinator, says these synthetic cannabinoids seem to have become a drug of choice for many abusters. There were a total of 290 calls about overdoses of these synthetic drugs last year to the poison center.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

New York’s new Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be the point person in the Cuomo administration when it comes to economic development upstate.

"Upstate continues to be one of the highest priorities of Governor Cuomo's administration. And when he selected me as an upstater, as someone who'd been educated here in Syracuse, I know this area, I represented seven upstate counties in Congress," Hochul said.

Pages