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

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Regulations surrounding the use of electronic cigarettes and the liquid nicotine that fuels them continue to increase in New York state, but anti-smoking activists are hoping for more.

The Clean Indoor Air Act of 2003 prohibited smoking in public places, but that doesn’t automatically apply to the newest trend in tobacco use, e-cigarettes, says American Heart Association Spokeswoman Kristy Smorol.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

It was another step forward in the restoration of the historic Hotel Syracuse Thursday with the renaming of the iconic hotel.


It’s a transition from a name that’s meant memories for over 90 years in Syracuse, to a name travelers across the world recognize. 

"The Hotel Syracuse moniker, brand, is going to retire," declared hotel owner Ed Riley. "The new name of this hotel, and the new partnership we will have, will be the Marriott Downtown Syracuse.”

Onondaga County

Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says he is optimistic there will be an announcement soon regarding an opening act for the county’s new amphitheater on Onondaga Lake.

“We’ve had a much shorter time period to put one together than what most other venues have.  They usually have a year and a half to get things booked.  We’ve only had 60 days.  But it’s going to happen.”  

McMahon also points out that the New York State Fair has had difficulty finding acts for the Grandstand at the fair this year.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Downtown Committee of Syracuse is celebrating its 40th birthday. The group that was created in 1975 is watching over a neighborhood that’s dramatically changed.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Dozens of central New Yorkers demonstrated during a busy noon hour in Syracuse’s Clinton Square Tuesday, calling attention to racism in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina shootings at a historic black church

During a hot, muggy midday, protesters made their way around the Farmer’s Market in Clinton Square to the Jerry Rescue monument, a symbol of Syracuse’s anti-slavery past, chanting against violence and racism.

Amelia Lefevre of the Syracuse Peace Council says that history can’t be forgotten.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse University’s new athletic director is promising strong academics and winning teams as he was introduced to the public by Syracuse University. Mark Coyle is leaving his job as athletic director at Boise State University, to take the helm of an athletic department that’s seen its share of troubles lately.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There’s another state-driven economic development competition taking place in central New York in coming months. This contest is based on a similar successful program in Buffalo called 43North.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the $3 million dollar GENIUS NY business competition open to data-centric technology companies from all over the world, and hosted by the The Tech Garden in downtown Syracuse.  

Ellen Abbott/WRVO file photo

With a Supreme Court ruling expected in the coming days, the future of the Affordable Care Act is in the hands of the justices. One local lawmaker expects there will be changes to the controversial health care law, one way or the other.

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) says he has no idea which way the court will come down on King v. Burwell. That’s the case that could cripple the law, especially in the 36 states that aren’t subsidizing health care on their own, but letting the federal government do it.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council is getting ready to put together a proposal for the latest competition for state economic development dollars.  

Bret Jaspers / WSKG News file photo

The city of Syracuse is moving ahead with a strategy to improve access to broadband for businesses and residents.  

The problem is there aren’t enough affordable, high speed internet broadband options for residents or businesses in Syracuse. And that means that Syracuse isn’t competing on a level playing field with other cities when it comes to economic development, says Ben Walsh, Syracuse’s deputy commissioner of neighborhoods and business development.

As summer approaches, the city of Syracuse is again cracking down on a sector that's caused trouble in low-income neighborhoods in the past, corner stores.

City hall’s crackdown on corner stores is meant to curb what Mayor Stephanie Miner has in the past called a scourge in many neighborhoods -- corner stores that have health and safety issues, leading to neighborhood complaints.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

  A program that started a couple of years ago in Syracuse, continues to try to get more central New Yorkers out for a walk.  

Jennifer Pagan and Barb Procopio of Syracuse love to walk.

"I walk indoors in the winter, but outdoors just to be in the fresh air and the beautiful parks.  And After that miserable winter that we had, it’s nice to be outside," agreed Pagan and Procopio. "Walking is so good for everything."

Courtesy of the Library of Congress National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection / Washington Area Spark via Flickr

Sponsors of a bill to put Harriet Tubman's face on U.S. currency say they're getting a lot of support. Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) is one of the seven original representatives who introduced the bill in Congress earlier this month, noting that it has been a true bipartisan piece of legislation.

"We've already got co-sponsors from the entire spectrum in the congress. Democrats, Republicans, males, females, African Americans, everything," Katko says. "It's a great cross-section of support for it and there seems to be a lot of excitement about it."

Ryan Delaney / WRVO file photo

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) has joined the movement in Congress to make the NCAA more accountable. 

Katko is among five House of Representatives members introducing a bill that would reform the way the NCAA oversees college sports. The legislation would require the NCAA to be more transparent in how it deals with disciplinary cases, which include investigations that sometimes go on years. There would also be some sort of legal avenue for schools or athletes accused of transgressions.  

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Syracuse City School district reached a contract agreement with its teachers, which district officials are calling historic. 

The deal offers teachers pay raises over the next five years, ranging from three to five percent.  It marks the biggest raises the teachers have received in a decade, and makes them among the highest paid teachers in the region. 

.jocelyn. / Flickr

It sometimes can be more difficult for a smoker to quit the habit if they’re in chronic pain. A Syracuse University graduate student has won a federal grant to figure out a way to change that.

There can be a vicious circle when it comes to pain and smoking according to SU graduate student Emily Zale.

"Smokers are more likely to develop chronic pain and they may experience worse pain and have more disability that goes along with their pain, and in turn the pain may actually motivate continued smoking,” Zale says. “And may actually be a barrier in quitting.” 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Research shows that during summer, children who don’t continue to read, lose about two months of the reading growth they’ve made during the school year.  It's called 'summer slide.' Syracuse City School District Superintendent Sharon Contreras says that can be a big issue, especially in an urban district like Syracuse.

Alberto G. / Flickr

Le Moyne College announced this week that it is going test optional. They’re joining a growing movement that includes other New York schools that are not requiring SAT or ACT test scores in their admission process. 

Doug Kerr / Flickr

Syracuse Common Councilors have gone on record opposing the idea of resurrecting a junk yard along the shores of Onondaga Lake, near Destiny USA and the Inner Harbor development.  But they are at odds with the mayor’s office over how to do it.

  Waiting lists for treatment of opioid addiction continue to grow in central New York. That’s why local addiction experts are hoping proposed federal legislation that could help the situation becomes law.  

Monika Taylor, director of behavioral health services at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse says Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, can be key to someone getting off their addiction to opioids -- heroin or prescription painkillers.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

What goes up must come down, and luckily for researchers at SUNY ESF in Syracuse, a weather balloon they launched just over a month ago from their Syracuse campus, was finally discovered along a remote area in Cortland County.

The project was part of the Global Space Balloon Challenge, and engineering students, led by professor Giorgos Mountrakis, fashioned the high-altitude balloon so it could carry information-gathering electronics thousands of miles high.

St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center / Facebook

St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center will be offering pasteurized donor human milk for premature infants.  

St. Joseph’s will become one of 12 hospitals in New York state that will offer donor’s milk, from a Boston-based milk bank in its Level III neonatal intensive care unit.  

Pediatrics chairman Dr. Larry Consenstein says the milk would be used in cases where a mother’s milk is not available for a premature infant. He says studies show that feeding formula to a premature baby can cause severe complications, especially infections in the digestive tract.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Gaming facilities have some new competition in upstate New York. The Yellow Brick Road Casino has opened in Chittenango, a small town about 20 miles east of Syracuse.  

Gamblers started waiting along a yellow brick path in front of the casino, the night before the opening; From Albany, from nearby Syracuse and all around central New York.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO file photo

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) says more resources are needed to fight recruitment of individuals by radical organizations like ISIS and groups linked to al-Qaida.  He says one of the big goals should be an anti-messaging campaign aimed at extremist groups.

Chris and Jenni / Flickr

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is trying to discourage mothers from early elective deliveries. The insurance company is sending out information to doctors and health care facilities, warning about problems that can come from delivering babies early.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

In the wake of federal lawmakers delaying a decision on the future of the Federal Highway Trust Fund, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner continues the drumbeat calling for more spending on America’s roads and bridges.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Central New York boosters of universal health care are celebrating this week, after the state Assembly passed the New York Health Act.

The legislation would provide universal, comprehensive health care to all New Yorkers.

“What it means is -- basically -- when you’re born, you have health insurance,” says retired physician Joal Potash. He volunteers at free medical clinics in Syracuse.

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.