regional news

Dads, college guys get to test their rides at Watkins Glen

Apr 25, 2015
Monica Sandreczki / WSKG News

It’s springtime (even if it doesn't feel like it) and you know what that means – racing season. Watkins Glen International speedway marked it opening weekend by opening its track to amateurs. The big weekend is the NASCAR race in August. But right now, it’s all about the amateur racing.

A few hundred New Yorkers came down to the speedway to drive their personal cars around the track. All it takes is $25 and a drivers license and you’ve got your ticket to ride.

A Tiny Home for Good

Some very small homes are coming soon to Syracuse’s South Side.

These homes will be small, just a few hundred square feet. Three of them will be able to fit onto a single property lot. But it’s not a way to cope with urban congestion like in some bigger cities, Syracuse doesn’t have that problem. But it does face a shortage of affordable housing.

A Tiny Home for Good and local housing charity Operation Northern Comfort are getting ready to break ground on their first three tiny homes this spring.

Matt Richmond/WSKG

The NBA playoffs begin this weekend. And while big city teams like Oakland, Cleveland and Atlanta are the favorites, sixty years ago the league looked much different.

In 1955, the Syracuse Nationals took home the title, beating the Fort Wayne Pistons in seven games. One of the guards on that team was Binghamton resident Bill Kenville, known during his playing days as Billy the Kid, and Kenville followed a surprising path to the NBA.

Melinda Shelton / Flickr

Less than a month after it was enacted, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new teacher evaluation plan seems to be in jeopardy, with the Regents chancellor calling for a year’s delay and a key senator saying the legislature needs to revisit the issue.

Senate Democrats / Flickr

Asthma rates are on the rise across New York, especially in children.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has proposed the School Asthma Management Plan Act to ensure schools are equipped to respond to asthma attacks and to help prevent them from happening.

"This bill would ensure that schools have a coordinated response to asthma related medical emergencies, better communication with citizens and access to life saving medication," Gillibrand told reporters.

Matt Richmond / WSKG

Dairy farmers may be able to spread out their insurance payments under a plan proposed to the federal agriculture agency.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is backing the proposal to let dairy cooperatives front individual farmer’s payments and then allow farmers to slowly pay the co-ops back. Right now, farmers pay for a quarter of their U.S.D.A. insurance in February and the rest in June. The change would help farmers deal with dropping milk prices, Schumer says.

comedy_nose / Flickr

In 2016, low-income New Yorkers will have a new option for health coverage on the state health insurance marketplace. 

State Health officials have announced the adoption of a Basic Health Plan that allows people who earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line to enroll in low-cost health coverage.

Premiums cost around $20 a month and there are no deductibles.

Linda Garett / Fort Drum ACUB Program

Fort Drum has grown tremendously over the last decade. There are more soldiers working – and training – on its grounds. Fort Drum planners have been concerned new development just outside the base may come into conflict with that training mission. The base is paying property owners to keep their land undeveloped. A family dairy farm in Rutland, just south of Fort Drum, has struck the largest deal yet.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Earth Day 2015 is also the day the New York State Assembly began its transition to a paperless system. Assemblymembers have been given iPads to read bills electronically, and supporters say it will save millions of dollars, and trees.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle announced the change on the Assembly floor.

“Today we begin officially with tablets,” Morelle said.

Getting rid of the piles of paper that clutter members’ desks each day required a Constitutional Amendment, which voters approved last fall. 

nysfair.org

State officials begin the master planning process for a new look State Fair next week. Armed with $50 million of state funds from the recently approved state budget, fair officials can get the ball rolling on proposed fair improvements they hope will transform the aging fairgrounds into a premier, multi-use facility.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Volunteer fire departments in central New York are having a difficult time getting enough trucks out of their firehouses.

When a call comes in at night, the Baldwinsville Fire Department is able to roll two trucks from each of its three stations. But district chief Tom Perkins says during the day, when volunteer firefighters are at their day jobs, it’s usually just one, "but they’re not going to be fully staffed."

Perkins says fewer volunteer firefighters in central New York also means departments no longer able to always back each other up during a major call.

nysfair.org

The New York State Fair is having trouble signing acts for the Grandstand Stage this year. Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner says usually by this time of the year, the fair has the lineup for the grandstand pretty much in place. While several big name acts have been announced at Chevy Court, like Nick Jonas and Meghan Trainor, only country singer Eric Church has committed to the grandstand so far. 

Unplug for Earth Day

Apr 22, 2015
Samuel M. Livingston / Flickr

Some SUNY ESF scientists say a booming world population and over-consumption, are the earth’s biggest enemy.  But they say there are things humans can do on a an individual level that can make a difference in the big picture.

With a world population expected to top eight billion in a decade, professor Chuck Kroll, of the department of environmental resources engineering, looks at all those humans and the resources they uses as the biggest environmental threats out there.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News File Photo

The final stretch of the New York state legislative session began as more accusations arose about potential wrongdoing by top legislative leaders.

The session began with a closed door meeting by Senate Republicans, the first time that the majority party members met together since the publication of a New York Times report that says federal prosecutors are investigating Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and his son, for possible corruption.

A new federal law is allowing disabled Americans a chance to work and earn money without risking losing their government benefits.What's called the ABLE Act is already offering people with disabilities more independence and opportunities.

Michelle Wolfe, of Oneida, works at the Arc of Madison Cortland in Oneida. Before the ABLE Act passed last December, working extra hours and saving some money was a problem.

"I was told I could only have $2,000 in the bank, otherwise, I’d lose everything,” said Wolfe.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The head of the state’s largest teachers union predicts that the legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo will have to revisit new teacher evaluation laws passed as part of the state budget, now that almost one fifth of students have opted out of the tests.

New York State United Teacher’s President Karen Magee says the boycott of the third through eighth grade English tests by nearly 20 percent of New York’s students will undermine the new teacher evaluation system that relies more heavily on the controversial standardized tests.  

Julia Botero / WRVO News

All units at Fort Drum will likely deploy overseas within the next 13 months. That’s according to the military base’s new commanding general, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Bannister. He sat down with local reporters last week to address what’s in store for soldiers stationed at Fort Drum. 

Bannister said the changing nature of the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is changing  the way troops are deployed  at Fort Drum.  They will still go to those countries but they will also go to other strategic locations around the world.  

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The New York state legislature returns for the second half of the legislative session, once again under a cloud of corruption, and with numerous unsettled issues.

The session begins Tuesday, after the spring break, and this time it’s the leader of the Senate who is the focus of a federal corruption probe. State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos confirmed that he’s the target of an investigation, after The New York Times reported that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has convened a grand jury that is looking into some of the senator’s business dealings, as well as those of his son.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News

Law enforcement and elected officials have again found themselves trying to keep ahead of an outbreak of synthetic drugs in central New York.

Local legislative action and federal law enforcement raids of area head shops three years ago quelled a rash of overdoses in upstate New York on synthetic drugs, often called bath salts.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There have been recent calls for the suspension of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Start-Up NY economic development program.  Those that do follow first-year statistics that show millions spent on promoting a program that’s created just over six dozen jobs.

According to the Start-up NY yearly report released earlier this month, $53 million was spent on marketing and advertising for the program. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul says to look further than just those numbers.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The state attorney general is hoping some new provisions to his bill to cut down on the number of foreclosure properties in upstate cities will help it become law.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman first started going after what he calls “zombie properties” last year. The clever name for homes that sit boarded up in the foreclosure process for long periods of time helped gain buzz, but the bill to put more responsibility on banks to take care of the properties they seize, didn’t go anywhere.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There’s been a spike in the number of people heading to emergency rooms in Central New York, for treatment after using synthetic marijuana.     

Christine Stork, clinical director of the Upstate New York Poison Center, knew there was a problem when she came to work last week.

Great Lakes Cruise Company

A luxury cruise ship on its maiden voyage up the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Chicago will stop in Clayton this May. It will be the first visit there for the MS Saint Laurent. The ship’s new route will bring it to the Thousand Islands village almost a dozen times this summer, each time with as many as 200 people aboard.

Medical malpractice is a difficult issue for both patients and doctors. The frequency -- and threat -- of lawsuits have changed the way medicine is practiced, to some degree. This week on “Take Care,” WRVO’s health and wellness show, hosts Lorraine Rapp and Linda Lowen speak with health care attorney Chris Stern Hyman of the Medical Mediation Group in New York City. Hyman discusses how frequent medical errors occur and how the healthcare industry has responded.

Lorraine Rapp: What is the legal definition of medical malpractice?

JECO photo / via Flickr

College graduation season is nearing and along with finding a job, student debt is also on grad’s minds. One program New York is hoping will help and keep those grads in the state.

Upstate New York is known for its idyllic college campuses, but its towns and cities struggle to keep those young people around once they graduate, as they’re drawn away by jobs and more trendy cities.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse-area National Guard Reserves are preparing for the worst this week.  Troops are in New Jersey, taking part in drills that mimic manmade and natural disasters.

The full-scale disaster exercise means 180 soldiers with the National Guard’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Syracuse boarded a military convoy Thursday to head south to take part in the exercises. They joined guard members from across New York and New Jersey.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There continues to be a shortage of organ donors in New York State and central New York. The donor council at Upstate University Hospital is urging the community to learn about the issue, and join the organ donation registry.

Ken Teegardin / Flickr

Sen. Charles Schumer used this year's tax deadline to call for more help for the victims of tax refund fraud, which he said is the most common form of identity fraud.

The New York Democrat told reporters Wednesday that he is pushing legislation that would create a new resource at the Internal Revenue Service for the victims of refund fraud, which he says affected 70,000 New Yorkers and 2.3 million Americans last year.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

With some successes but little political momentum, organized labor and low wage workers are continuing to call for a $15 minimum wage. 

Brittany Buffman once earned minimum wage in a job at the dining halls of Syracuse University. She says union efforts to pump pay the college allowed her and her husband to buy a house and raise a family.

This week, a bipartisan team of New York state senators announced a round of four hearings around the state addressing the heroin epidemic.  The state poison control center received 255 calls about toxic exposures to heroin throughout upstate New York state last year. 82 of those toxic exposures were from Onondaga County.

State senators are turning to police, doctors, and their constituents for proposed solutions to the increase in deaths from opioid overdoses.

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