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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Destiny USA

Tourism is growing in central New York, up 17 percent in the last five years, according to industry officials. And at a tourism roundtable in Syracuse Wednesday they agreed there are still more ways to boost tourism dollars.  

Travel spending in the five counties of central New York amounts to nearly $1.2 billion, employing 25,000 people. So it’s a huge industry already, according to David Holder of the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Finding out who tests positive for the H-I-V virus and getting them treated are cornerstones of a central New York strategy to meet the state’s goal of ending AIDS by 2020.  

HIV testing by ACR Health is already up 20 percent since December, after a new push to get more people tested according to Jeanette O’Connor-Shanley, the agency's director of support services. And when individuals test positive, they move on to the next part of their strategy to cut back on the number of new aids patients. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse-area Rep. John Katko is touring schools in central New York this week, looking for ways to strengthen education policy.

It’s a story Katko says he’s heard again and again: federally mandated standardized testing is stifling teaching flexibility, and forcing all children to be taught in a one-size-fits-all curriculum. To make his point at a news conference Tuesday, he read a letter he received from an Onondaga County sixth grader, upset at the way he sees test prep taking over schools.

NYS Assembly

The future of the state’s property tax cap is one of the big items on the docket as state lawmakers head back to Albany to finish up the current session. Supporters of the tax cap, including business groups, Republicans in the state Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are pushing to make the tax cap permanent. 

Syracuse-area Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli thinks the tax cap has worked.

"I think it has been successful in keeping property taxes down,” said Magnarelli.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

Central New York emergency medical technicians have increasingly been on the lookout for liquid nicotine overdoses.  

As the use of smokeless e-cigarettes continues to grow, more and more liquid nicotine is ending up in the homes of Americans. And it’s not safe, says Upstate Medical University toxicologist Nicholas Nacca.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A political newcomer is running for the seat on the Onondaga County legislature, currently held by legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon. Tim Rudd says he’s a candidate in the district that includes parts of the city of Syracuse and the town of Geddes.

Rudd had one issue to talk about in his introductory news conference: campaign ethics.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It’s time for emergency rooms to prepare for typical summertime injuries involving children. Often that means accidents involving kids on bikes, skateboards or scooters. One Syracuse hospital says the worst of those injuries can be avoided.

When 10-year-old Michael Caltabiano of Syracuse heads out on his bike, he always wears a helmet. And when he sees other kids without one, he has a message for them:

"I tell them that wearing a helmet, keeps them out of the hospital. It’s a great, great idea."

Mike Mozart / Flickr

This weekend kicks off the summer travel season. And according to one travel group, it’s going to be a busy one.

Every year, AAA does a survey of members to find out if they’re traveling over Memorial Day. Results this year show it will the busiest Memorial Day on the road in the last decade, according to AAA of Western and Central New York Spokeswoman Diana Dibble. Estimates are that 32 million Americans will hit the road, in large part because of an improving economy and lower gas prices. This could bode well for a busy summer overall.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It’s not the threats from abroad that worry Army Secretary John McHugh the most these days. During a visit at Syracuse University yesterday, he said an uncertain budget situation is the military's boogie man right now.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse-area Assemblyman Sam Roberts may soon be giving up his seat to be commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the state agency that handles welfare and disability cases.  

Roberts, a Democrat, was nominated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the job Wednesday. He needs to be confirmed by the New York State Senate, and then it’s up to the governor to call a special election.  

Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, a fellow Democrat from Syraucuse, hopes that could take place during the regular November election.

Michael Staab / International Institute of Species Exploration, SUNY ESF

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse has come out with a top ten list of new species discovered in the last year. SUNY ESF President Quentin Wheeler says the list is culled from the 18,000 new plants and animals scientists discover every year. 

Wheeler says it’s not just plants or animals on the list. There’s a 600-pound chicken-like dinosaur that researchers used to think was a bird, nicknamed the “chicken from hell” because they hung out in nests of dinosaur eggs.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney is kicking off her campaign for re-election with an endorsement from a group that doesn’t traditionally back Republicans.  

The Alliance Network is a leading Syracuse-area community organization that represents many of Syracuse’s minority interests. It has only endorsed two Republicans in its history, former Rep. Jim Walsh and Mahoney, when she ran for a second term as county executive four years ago.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Residents in one Syracuse neighborhood are sprucing up their homes this spring with an extra incentive in mind

The Eastwood Neighborhood Association once again is recognizing homeowners who put in a little extra time and effort to beautify their home.  

Resident Minch Lewis says the Eastwood Neighborhood Curb Appeal Contest goes a long way to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood that anchors the east side of the city of Syracuse.

Ryan Somma / Flickr

There won’t be any crowing contests or poultry competitions at the New York State Fair this year. The decision is a proactive one, in response to the spread of a strain of avian flu.

The directive comes from the New York State Department of Agriculture, which is watching the spread of strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza, according to state veterinarian Dr. David Smith.

DJ Leln / via Flickr

President Barack Obama is calling on more public awareness and debate regarding military equipment that is distributed to local law enforcement agencies. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says she would welcome such discussions.  

PunchingJudy / Flickr

In the last six months, New York state has trained 10,000 laypeople to use Narcan, a drug that can save a person from death after an overdose of opioids like heroin or prescription pain killers. Local emergency medical technicians say they are behind the move, if people are properly trained.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

While the federal government and some state governments are looking to punish companies that sell pure powdered caffeine, local emergency personnel are getting a primer on how to deal with an overdose.

Upstate New York Poison Center toxicologist William Eggleston says it’s only a matter of time before someone dies using powdered caffeine in New York state.

"I think if the product continues to be readily available, it’s inevitable that someone is going to unintentionally misuse the product,” Eggleston said.

borisvolodnikov / Flickr

A report released this spring labels much of Onondaga Lake as swimmable, and Onondaga County officials say this report should be a springboard to further discussions about the future of the lake.  

The Upstate Freshwater Institute says the northern two-thirds of the lake, that was once called the most polluted in the country, is swimmable. Tom Rhoads, Onondaga County’s Water and Environment Protection Commissioner, says that doesn’t necessarily mean residents should grab their swimsuits and jump in.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Taking care of dogs can help rehabilitate an inmate. That’s one of the theories behind the creation of the dog shelter at the Jamesville Correctional Facility.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A new program starts in Syracuse this weekend that’s meant to help people overcome one of the biggest impediments to finding work in central New York: transportation. 

It often isn’t so easy getting a job in central New York if you don’t have a car or access to public transportation. Providence Services of Syracuse President Deborah Hundley says the problems come at workplaces that are beyond the bus line, or shifts that begin or end when buses aren’t running.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse's Upstate Medical University is taking a research project into the community, which will focus on older, frail adults.

Dr. Sharon Brangman, chief of geriatric medicine, says usually researchers start out with a thesis and then try to prove it. Armed with a $15,000 federal grant, they’ll work the other way around on this.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Prosecutors and police agencies across central New York are trying a new strategy as they continue to fight the rising use of synthetic marijuana. Not since the bath salts craze of 2012 have local police and emergency personnel come across so many agitated individuals high on synthetic drugs. 

John Katko/Facebook

Syracuse-area Rep. John Katko has his work cut out for him as co-chair of the Task Force on Terrorist, Foreign Fighter Threat. The Republican just returned from a trip to several countries in the Middle East to get a sense of where problems might lie.

Katko, as part of an eight-member congressional delegation, visited Israel, Iraq, Turkey and some European countries to get a better idea of the dangers posed by foreign fighters -- those Westerners recruited and trained by terrorist organizations.

Fairfax County / Flickr

Now that warmer weather appears to be here for good, central and northern New Yorkers need to be aware of Lyme disease. The disease, carried by deer ticks, is endemic to the area, and can have a devastating effect.

Lyme disease changed the life of of Baldwinsville resident Kathy Wallace. The former hairdresser, says it took a couple of years before a physician from Rhinebeck, in the Hudson Valley, first mentioned Lyme as a reason for an array of symptoms she was experiences, ranging from fatigue to aching joints.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It’s been just over a year since Onondaga County got out of the business of running a nursing home. And according to Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, the sale of the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing to the Upstate Services Group has been a good move.

St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office

A St. Lawrence County man has admitted abducting two Amish girls from a farm stand last summer and abusing them in his home, while his girlfriend taped the sex acts. Stephen Howells pled guilty to all 21 counts in a federal indictment, including child pornography, in a Syracuse Courtroom Friday.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse University and Cazenovia College have joined the list of private colleges and universities across the state that are supporting the “Enough is Enough” campaign, an initiative of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. The proposal is meant to push the State University of New York’s sexual assault policy into the private sector.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Syracuse-area state Sen. John DeFrancisco says he would be shocked if the uncertainty over the leadership of the New York State Senate lasts another week.  Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos was arrested Monday on federal corruption charges.  

Initially, lawmakers agreed to support Skelos. Since then, there has been a growing number of Republican senators publicly calling for him to resign his leadership post.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse Common Councilors have unanimously approved Mayor Stephanie Miner’s $674 million budget, with a few minor changes. Lawmakers added some cash to deal with some perennial problems.

The extra spending amounts to less than $1 million, and covers more water and sewer maintenance and repair, and demolition of hazardous buildings.  

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Central New York Republicans are weighing in on the scandal surrounding the New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos scandal.  

Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey is calling for Skelos to resign, so state government can get back to the people’s business, instead of what he calls wasting tax dollars and time defending the Long Island Republican.