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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governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

New York state will add another $200 million toward the effort to end the AIDS epidemic.

These new funds are on top of $2.5 billion the state has already committed to the fight against AIDS by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration. And that has made a difference according to Micheal Crinnen, head of ACR Health in Syracuse. He said beyond the billboards and publicity, it’s huge having the health department pushing universal testing for HIV so doctors offer it routinely.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Updated at 11:50 a.m. Tuesday 

According to federal lawmakers, mass transit funding for northeast states has been restored in the transportation funding bill. More than $94 million was earmarked for New York in 2014 for mass transit services, under the High Density States program. Centro in the Syracuse-area received more than $2 million. That funding was cut from the House version of the transportation bill. But U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday that not only was the funding restored, and additional $18.5 million over the next 5 years.

Jason Devaun / Flickr

The Syracuse City School District is revisiting the debate over how far children should have to walk to school. A group representing parents, teachers and students contend that two miles is too far to walk.

Kama Ndbay is a junior at Henninger High School. He’s an honor student and his first class of the day is Advanced Placement English.

“In all my other classes I have a 90 or above," Ndbay said. "But in that class I have an 83.”

lindenbaum / Flickr

Maple sugar operators, scientists and forest managers have known for years that the sugar maple is very sensitive to acid rain. So when the federal acid rain levels dropped levels dramatically after federal regulation, it could only mean good news for one iconic tree that found living with acid rain difficult -- right? A recent study published by the SUNY School of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) in Syracuse shows that hypothesis doesn’t hold water.

According to recent statistics, 2.1 million New Yorkers are cheated out of $3.2 billion in wages and benefits. Activists are trying to get the word out that this wage theft is happening here in central New York.

Rebecca Fuentes is an organizer with the Workers’ Center of Central New York. She says wage theft happens when employers underpay workers, don’t pay overtime, or classify them in the wrong job description. And it makes it harder for a working family to get by.
 

Rescue Mission Alliance

Syracuse’s Rescue Mission is getting ready for Thanksgiving.

Alan Thornton, with the Rescue Mission, said you need a lot of food when you’re making meals for about 2,000 people.

“It’s about 1,200 pounds of turkey, 375 pies, 42 pans of stuffing and mixed vegetables, and mashed potatoes, 20 gallons of gravy," Thornton said. "I don’t know how many people measure gravy in gallons, but we do here at the Rescue Mission.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Some Syracuse residents are trying to focus the spotlight on poverty in the city.

More than a dozen members of some Syracuse churches marched through downtown during a busy midday, calling for more action to prevent poverty in the Salt City. Organizer Raymond Blackwell says there are three things that need to happen for Syracuse to lose the distinction of having the highest rate of concentrated poverty among minorities.

"One, is job training and job placement. Two, is fair housing policies, and three, is fully fund the public schools,” said Blackwell.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Upstate Medical University is working together with the military to come up with a vaccine to prevent dengue fever. 

The medical research wing of the Army is willing to spend up to $12 million over the next three-and-a-half years, as Upstate researchers try to develop a vaccine for a disease that affects half the world’s population. 

Mark Polhemus of Upstate says while most people associate dengue with third world countries, the mosquito borne illness has a foothold in the U.S.

Downtown Committee of Syracuse

The “Elf on the Shelf” is coming to downtown Syracuse.  The holiday icon is part of an attempt to get more visibility for downtown shops during the holiday season.

The Downtown Committee of Syracuse is calling him “Dash.”  The elf will be turning up in shops, restaurants and museums throughout downtown Syracuse during the holiday season. Alice Maggiore of the Downtown Committee says it’s all part of a push to get people thinking downtown when they think about holiday spending.
 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Google’s program “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” came to Syracuse last week. The Internet giant has a goal of encouraging more small and medium sized businesses to take advantage of the web.

Dozens of owners of small- and medium-sized businesses sat along long tables, with laptops glowing, at SKY Armory last week, getting first-hand tips about how to use tools in the Google stable to spur business.  They ranged from the novice, to people who work with computers every day.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A dispute over internet use at Syracuse City Hall is again headed to the courts. The issue over whether lawmakers should sign a city computer use policy hasn’t been able to be resolved through negotiations.

Councilor Kathleen Joy expects the Syracuse Common Council to file court papers in the next few days asking a judge to settle the issue of whether lawmakers should be forced to sign that computer use policy which is required of and agreed to by all city employees. A majority of councilors believe it would allow the Mayor’s office too much access to Council business. 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says the city will welcome Syrian refugees despite security concerns prompted by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.  Miner says she has been assured by the White House that the screening process is thorough and detailed, and she’s confident these refugees will be vetted properly, and no one dangerous will make it to American shores.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A report out of the House Task Force on Foreign Fighters is getting more attention following the Paris Terror attacks.  Central New York Rep. John Katko, who’s a co-chair of the group, hopes it means Washington will take some of their advice about how best stop the flow of foreign fighters between Syria and their home countries.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Hancock International Airport has become the first airport in upstate New York to have a TSA PreCheck application center on site. That means airline passengers can apply at the airport for the program that lets them glide through the TSA security checks more quickly, and without some of the hassles flyers have become used to. 

At the modern looking booth at the center of Hancock, central New Yorkers are already lining up to get the perk.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Students, faculty and staff at Syracuse University are standing by students at other colleges and universities that have been plagued by racial tensions.   

Many of the protesting students wore black, the color of the University of Missouri, and they held fists high in the shadow of the Hall of Languages Thursday. They chanted “we do it for Mizzou” and “black lives matter.”

Chris Kreussling / via Flickr

A couple of upstate members of Congress are leading the charge to push back against proposed cuts to mass transit funding in the Northeast as part the transportation bill.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse will get a nod from the White House on Wednesday. Syracuse is one of three new cities added to a list of cities that have ended Veteran homelessness. Las Vegas and Schenectady join 10 other cities that have eliminated Veteran homelessness. Syracuse’s Veterans Administration Medical Center points to two developments that are helping.

A program called HUD-VASH has been successful in finding housing for homeless veterans in part because it doesn’t expect vets to conquer all of their issues before finding a place to live.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

A report on government consolidation in Onondaga County will be released early next year by a Consensus, a commission looking at the modernization of local government. One potential recommendation for saving substantial tax dollars could be the creation of a county-wide municipal government.

Whenever Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney starts talking government consolidation, it generally begins with a story about snow and the 19 towns, 15 villages, and city, county and state snowplows that clear the streets after a snowstorm.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Visitors to the Marriott Syracuse Downtown will be getting a glimpse of two worlds when they stay in one of the renovated rooms of what used to be the Hotel Syracuse.

The renovation of the rooms has been dictated in part by the funding of the $57 million project, according to hotel owner Ed Riley. There were historic preservation grants from the state and federal governments, that came with strict guidelines, meaning an entire floor of the hotel couldn’t be gutted and refitted with new totally new rooms.

NYS Dept of Labor / Facebook

In the midst of a slew of bad job news in Upstate New York -- the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant potentially closing in Oswego County, Alcoa leaving Massena -- the New York State Labor Department is trying to pair job seekers with companies that are hiring right now.
 

Two hundred businesses offering 5,000 jobs jammed the OnCenter in what New York State Labor Department officials are calling one of the biggest job fairs they’ve held in New York state. Department spokesman Cullen Burnell says the jobs run the gamut.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The former Hotel Syracuse won’t reopen as the Marriott Hotel Downtown until sometime next spring. But, that’s not stopping brides, nonprofits and companies from around the world from booking a wedding or event at the almost 100-year-old hotel.

Hotel owner Ed Riley said in the midst of the multi-million dollar renovation, there have been between 20 and 30 tours for potential customers every week. And, stepping through the the dusty hallways with exposed wires and crumbing plaster isn’t putting a crimp on potential business.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A new face will be representing part of Onondaga County in the New York State Assembly in January. Syracuse Common Councilor Pam Hunter easily won a special election in the 128th District.

Hunter took the race with almost 54 percent of the vote against two challengers, Republican John Sharon and David Stott, who ran on the Conservative Party line. It was more than the combined amount of votes Sharon and Stott received.

St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center / Facebook

Final tests have now concluded that the Legionella bacteria was present in two patient sinks and one ice machine at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse at the time three patients were being treated for Legionnaires’ disease. One person died, although hospital officials say the form of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ was not the sole cause of death. 

Now in the wake of the outbreak, hospital officials are trying to reassure patients that the hospital is safe.

Senate Democrats / Flickr

Local, state, and federal officials are scrambling to figure out ways to stop Entergy from closing the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power plant in Oswego County. The company announced Monday that it will close down the unprofitable plant after the reactor runs out of fuel in late 2016 or early 2017. Among those looking to find ways to keep the plant on the grid, is U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who intended to make an angry phone call to the CEO of Entergy. 

WRVO News file photo/TobyShelley.com

On Election Day, voters will make decisions about various levels of Onondaga County government . The entire legislature is up for election, and there are several countywide races. District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick is running unopposed, but there are contested races for comptroller and county clerk. But the biggest office up for grabs is for Onondaga County executive. 

The race pits a well-heeled incumbent going against an opponent who lost support from his party’s leadership.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Before the Erie Canal was dug almost 200 years ago, Syracuse was a swampy village of 250 people. Once that canal opened up commerce between the Hudson River and Lake Erie, the city grew dramatically. It’s this history that the Syracuse and the town of DeWitt want to reclaim, by revitalizing the 14-mile gap in the original canal path, which currently exists between DeWitt and Camillus.

Brandi Korte / Flickr

The City of Syracuse is coming together to try to make sure this Halloween weekend is a safe one. 

Halloween is on a Saturday this year.  And Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler says across the country, that often means a little more trouble than if it’s on a weekday.
 

"The city of Syracuse has not been immune to that in years past. And in years past, we’ve had our issues in the community -- issues with violence, issues with people acting in an unsafe manner,” said Fowler.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Some central New York environmentalists don’t want New York state to come to the rescue of the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego. More than 600 people have signed a petition calling for the plant to be shut down.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Making sure airports are as secure as possible was the focus of a congressional subcommittee hearing held at the federal building in Syracuse Monday. Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who chairs the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation Security, said one goal of the session was to find ways to beef up security at the nation’s airports.

St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center / Facebook

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse hospital is waiting on tests to determine whether it, in fact, has the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' Disease, in its water system. Hospital officials should know in about a week whether three cases of the disease could have been acquired at the hospital, or somewhere else. One of those patients ended up dying, though hospital officials say multiple medical issues contributed to that patient’s death.

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