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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Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Democratic candidates for Onondaga County Legislature are calling for tougher financial disclosures among elected officials and more accountability to the public. Among the four candidates proposing changes are Kevin Tees, running in the 14th District based in Clay, and Tim Rudd, running for the 15th District in Syracuse.

All four have listed five items they believe the county government can do differently.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There are no issues too small for Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who is expected to become the next majority leader in the U.S. Senate. Schumer visited central New York Monday to put some heft behind the complaint one small town has against a big corporation.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) will conduct a statewide internet lottery that offers a chance for New Yorkers to see Pope Francis when he comes to Washington D.C. this September.  

Schumer will offer a single ticket to the joint meeting of Congress with the pope, as well as 100 pairs of tickets to the papal audience on the West Lawn of the Capitol.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

Workers are putting the finishing touches on a couple of model rooms at the former Hotel Syracuse this week.

Most of the interior of hotel has been taken down to its studs as part of a $57 million dollar renovation. That includes floors two through nine which will be home to 261 rooms in the new Marriott Downtown Syracuse.  

Al Gough, chief financial officer for Hotel Syracuse Restoration, says it’s important to have these model rooms available well before the hotel opening, anticipated next spring.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Onondaga County and its biggest union are close to agreeing to a contract. As WRVO’s Ellen Abbott reports, the county and CSEA leadership have agreed to the terms within a fact-finding report from the New York State Employment Relations Board.

The deal includes modest wage increases over five years, and raises health insurance contributions from employees. County Executive Joanie Mahoney says that reflects a changing trend in contracts for government employees, who traditionally were paid less than private sector counterparts, but had better benefits packages.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is urging the state to make changes in voting laws so it will be easier for people to go to the polls.  The mayor made her plea surrounded by several local lawmakers and candidates for office and says even she sometimes forgets its Election Day.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A program that provides a book a month to impoverished pre-schoolers in the city of Syracuse could be expanding. This comes after research that shows that the thousands of books that have been sent to 6,000 youngsters in the city have made a difference.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program run by the Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County has been sending books to children for five years now. And LeMoyne researcher Frank Ridzi says they have tested children who have been part of the program in that time and found success.  

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

The Designated AIDS Center at Upstate University Hospital has won a state grant that will expand treatment programs. 

The idea is to make sure people infected with the HIV virus continue treatment that keeps the virus at bay.

Program director Kelley Flood says they will target people who might not follow up on the care they need to corral the virus that can lead to AIDS.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Central New Yorkers who are opposed to the Iran nuclear deal are urging others who don’t agree with the policy to make some noise.  Randy Potter, of Syracuse, has been calling senators from across the country explaining his position and he wants others to do the same.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

As the $57 million renovation of the Hotel Syracuse continues, operators want the public to pass along stories and artifacts they may have about the historic building. The history of the hotel, which opened in 1924, is very much a part of the renovation that will turn it into a Marriot Downtown Syracuse.

And while the team renovating the hotel is asking people for their memories, they continue to find iconic items hidden behind years of remodeling. Because you never know what’s going to turn up as crews dismantle the Hotel Syracuse to its bare bones.

It doesn’t seem like central New York Republicans have settled in on any of the candidates looking for the GOP presidential nomination, at least so far. And last week’s Republican debate may have winnowed the field for some local political junkies, but only by a bit.

RichardHannaforCongress.com

A central New York congressman, who has long supported Planned Parenthood, is calling for an investigation into the agency, in light of the videos showing Planned Parenthood officials apparently discussing how the group provides researchers body parts from aborted fetuses.   

Rep. Richard Hanna, the 22nd District representative, says the videos are disturbing.

“I’ve asked for an investigation into this, and I think Congress will do one.  My hope is that it’s deliberate, fair, thoughtful and inclusive.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Construction of a new cultural center at the old French fort along Onondaga Lake begins this week. The new Skä·noñh Great Law of Peace Center will take the place of the former Sainte Marie Among the Iroquois museum site. The new cultural center will tell the history of the Onondaga Nation, from their perspective.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A packed house at Syracuse City Hall last night told the New York State Public Service Commission that Syracuse and central New York needs more choice, better service and lower prices when for their cable and internet service. More than 100 people crammed into the Syracuse hearing, one over several being held across the state this summer.

Helen Dewey, runs a business strategy company on Syracuse’s near west side. But she told commissioners it’s a technical struggle.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) wants to raise awareness about Lyme disease. And he’s hoping some federal legislation can provide relief for victims of the tick borne ailment.

“I would doubt if anyone who hears this doesn’t know somebody affected by it,” said Hanna.

“It” is Lyme disease, a tick borne illness that is affecting more and more people across the country and in upstate New York. Hanna’s hoping that a bill called the 21 Century Cures Act, can make a dent into discovering the mysteries of Lyme disease.

borisvolodnikov / Flickr

Onondaga County has the funds set aside that would create plans for a swimmable beach on Onondaga Lake.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney believes recent studies that have deemed parts of the lake is clean enough to swim in brings the reality of a beach closer.

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Officials continue to track the movement of the Emerald Ash Borer in Central New York.

Jessi Lyons of the Onondaga County Emerald Ash Borer Task Force says the parts of the Syracuse areas that are seeing the most activity right now are in transportation corridors.

Senate Democrats / Flickr

A vote on a cyber security bill is expected soon in the U.S. Senate.

The proposal would overhaul the nation’s cyber security laws, and senate leaders are hoping to move on it before lawmakers leave town for an August recess later this week.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) though has some concerns about the bill, especially how US companies would lose access to certain software that hackers use to break into networks. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

After sitting unnoticed amidst weeds for two decades behind the Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse’s Armory Square, a section of the Berlin Wall is now the centerpiece of new peace garden. The slab of concrete that was a sign of the end of the Cold War, thanks to  an anonymous donor 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

An apartment building geared towards students is going up in the shadow of Syracuse University. The new complex reflects a real estate sector that developers say has been neglected.

A long-vacant medical building has been torn down, and in its place a six story 54-unit student apartment complex is being built on University Avenue. The $18 million project has been a dream of Syracuse University grad Jared Hutter, a lead developer on the project, ever since he and his college roommate lived together in a house on Madison street in Syracuse a decade ago.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There was no cake, but Medicare’s 50th birthday was serenaded by a few dozen Central New Yorkers in downtown Syracuse Thursday. 

Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law in 1965, and have been providing medical care for the poor and elderly ever since.  Robert O’Connor of Onondaga County’s AARP, says the milestone is worth noting.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The final piece in the Onondaga County's Lakeview Amphitheater project is in place. Country singer Miranda Lambert has been inked as the first artist to play the venue. It’s taken just a little over year to get the sometimes controversial project ready for prime time.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Country music superstar Miranda Lambert will be the inaugural act at Onondaga County’s newly constructed Lakeview Amphitheater.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney announced Wednesday that Lambert will appear September 3. Even though that leaves promoters with five weeks to sell tickets, Mahoney is optimistic there will be a full house.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Dozens of Central New Yorkers gathered on the lawn in front of the East Genesee Street offices of Planned Parenthood in Syracuse Tuesday, saying they were spurred into action by undercover videos of the agency's executives apparently talking about the sale of body parts culled from aborted fetuses for medical research. 

"When somebody’s looking to find money to buy a Lamborghini, and is looking to sell body parts to do that, it’s a new low,” said one protester at Tuesday's rally.

Others at the rally shared the same sentiment.

Andrew Malone / Flickr

As egg prices continue to rise across the country because of the avian flu outbreak, lawmakers are proposing cutting $500 million in research funding from the federal budget that would look into ways to deal with the devastating bird flu. 

Sen. Charles Schumer calls these proposed Agriculture Department cuts mindless.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office

The Public Service Commission comes to Syracuse this summer to find out what internet and cable access is like for residents of the city.  And there won’t be many positives to take away, if they hear the same thing residents are telling Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Don’t expect the decision last week by the New York State Wage Board to boost the minimum wage for New York’s fast food workers to $15 an hour to be the end of the story. At least one central New York lawmaker expects this to be the beginning of a bigger debate.

For Syracuse-area Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, there’s no question that the state’s minimum wage should be upped to $15 an hour for everyone.

Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities

Disabled Veterans are getting a crash course in how to become entrepreneurs this week in Syracuse.

Dan Piston spent six years in the Navy.  When he got out two years ago, he realized he had a passion for the health and fitness field. And wanted to put that In action by doing something like owning a gym.

"I do not have much training in business. Right now my undergrad degree is in health and exercise science. And I’ve always had an interest in owning a business, but I didn’t know how to do it, or where to get started,” said Piston.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse hopes to use a $10 million infusion from a New York State Assembly fund for infrastructure as a springboard to even more cash to help repair the crumbling waterlines and sewer pipes that dog the city.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A central New York Mentorship program that pairs grandparents with first and second graders could become the victim of federal budget cuts.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) says this funding is essential for the grandparents who help in Syracuse classrooms, by way of the Senior Corp Chapter in the city of Syracuse.

Volunteer Colleen Chestnut works with these kids in the Syracuse City School District, and doesn’t want to see the program go away.

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