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

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Central New York Diaper Bank has distributed 660,000 diapers to needy families in the area since it was founded in 2016. That may sound like a lot, but it’s not enough to cover the need.

Michela Hugo, founder of the CNY Diaper Bank, said diapers are expensive and when a family can’t pay for new ones, there’s no public safety net for them.

"So when families run out they can’t rely on food stamps, they can’t rely on WIC, they can’t rely on any other sources to rely on that cost," she said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Onondaga County lawmakers have been poring over potential renovation plans this month for Syracuse’s minor league baseball stadium, NBT Bank Stadium.

The county needs to figure out how much it needs to spend to keep the New York Mets in central New York. The baseball team, a year ago, became the parent club of the Syracuse Chiefs. Deputy County Executive Bill Fisher said the important part of this project is making the stadium, which has been called one of the worst in the International League, attractive enough so the Mets will stay on for the long term.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

If voter turnout is any indication, last week’s primary race in central New York could mean a more active electorate is in the making. 

Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny estimates 24 to 25 percent of registered Democrats came out to the polls in Thursday’s state and local primary. That’s a lot more than usual for a state and local election.

"It was 8 percent in 2014, 8.6 percent the last time we had a governor’s primary," said Czarny. "So to have 24 percent in Onondaga County is incredible.”

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council

A hot and humid end of summer could result in dampened fall colors in parts of New York this fall. 

Taryn Bauerle, an associate professor of plant science at Cornell University, said temperature and moisture are the major drivers of fall colors. 

"If these trees have a lot of water available and pretty warm temperatures, they just aren’t going to shut down and produce that fall foliage as quickly than we might usually expect," said Bauerle. "So we could potentially have a delayed fall foliage showing and a bit muted as well.”

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

In what could be a stunning victory, Democratic challenger Rachel May leads incumbent state Sen. Dave Valesky by 600 votes in Thursday’s Democratic primary election in the 53rd State Senate District. May did not declare victory Thursday, and Valesky did not concede. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

A rare Thursday primary in New York means voter turnout will likely be low, but one official thinks it will still be higher than the last state primary in September 2014. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Democratic congressional candidate Dana Balter is using a Texas court case to highlight what she claims is complicity by her opponent, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), in the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse remembered 9/11 and those lost in the terrorist attack at a somber ceremony at Forman Park. A moment of silence stretched on for 17 minutes -- the time between the first and second attacks on the twin towers in New York City 17 years ago.

Mayor Ben Walsh says it was powerful.

"Oftentimes we get caught up in our day to lives and daily activities,” Walsh said. “And standing in silence for 17 minutes and reflecting back on that day, on those we lost and those who still serve, it was very touching.”

Sometimes silence says more than words.

J J / via Flickr

Syracuse Common Councilors Monday approved the latest contract between the city and police department, but it was not without some concerns.

Lawmakers voted 7-2 to approve a contract for 2016 and 2017 that include two-percent raises each year. But while they agreed on this pact, many lawmakers have eyes on the next contract, which is being negotiated now. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is running in a primary Thursday against Democratic challenger Cynthia Nixon. But during campaign stops in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo Monday, Cuomo focused on President Trump, and didn't mention Nixon once.

In Syracuse, Cuomo railed against  the Trump Administration’s stand on immigration, abortion, and sexual harassment, before encouraging the mostly union crowd to vote on Thursday.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The number of police officers in the city of Syracuse that wear body cameras will jump significantly by the end of the year, thanks to a $300,000 state grant. 

City of Syracuse

The city of Syracuse has started taking steps to "demystify" local government, according to Mayor Ben Walsh.

A new performance management program is now online, that can tell citizens of the city what goals government has, and whether they are being reached. It can be as basic as how quickly potholes are patched, to whether the city is duplicating services by sending workers to the same scene more than once. 

Walsh said this tool will help the city be more accountable to taxpayers.

WRVO News File Photo

The Syracuse City School District and the Syracuse Police Department will work together to make sure students who suffer trauma outside the classroom get the support they need when they go to school.

A program called SOS will launch when school starts Thursday. Syracuse Common Councilor Susan Boyle says it’s essentially a communication program, that lets the police alert school officials when a child is a victim of violence or is a witness to a crime.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

2018 was another record-breaking year for the New York State Fair near Syracuse. 1,279,010 people visited the Fair this year, smashing last year’s record by 10 percent.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Pediatric specialists from Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse will start taking to the air this month if there is a seriously ill or injured child more than an hour from Syracuse. 

Mercy Flight Central has provided air medical services for adults in central New York and across the state for more than two decades. The non-profit is now teaming up with Golisano to include pediatric specialists on board. Upstate University Hospital interim CEO Robert Corona said it fills a gap.

Albuquerque Film Office / Flickr

Onondaga County is among counties in New York State gearing up for major changes as the Raise the Age legislation goes into effect next month.

Chele Farley for Senate Facebook Page

A shout-out from President Trump has given a boost to a long-shot hopeful in the New York Senate race.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Central New York anti-war protesters are taking aim at a defense contractor with offices in the town of Salina.

The suburban Lockheed Martin facility is the focus of these protesters carrying signs accusing the company of having blood on its hands. Ariel Gold of Ithaca said a recent Saudi bombing using U.S. made weapons has prompted this gathering.

"They profit from such things as this recent massacre of 40 children on a school bus in Yemen and it was  Lockheed Martin weapons," Gold said. "We’re here to say no more.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Solar energy advocates are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to change the way the state determines compensation for solar projects.

The problems began about a year ago, when the Public Service Commission replaced net metering with a policy called the Value of Distributed Energy Resources, or VDER for short. Chris Carrick, the Energy Program Manager at the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board said the new policy ultimately reduces the worth of solar power.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Onondaga County lawmakers are considering a local law that would ban “aggressive soliciting” from panhandlers on the streets and sidewalks of central New York. 

Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon has been circling around this issue since he was a common councilor in the city of Syracuse more than a decade ago. He said the idea is to focus not simply on any panhandler, panhandling is protected by the First Amendment, but what he calls aggressive actions.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Schools across central New York are considering some of the safety initiatives proposed by the Onondaga School Safety Task Force. One is a simple training technique that could have saved lives in the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

A program called “Stop the Bleed” is one of the recommendations in the task force report. Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said including it was a no brainer after considering one fact.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro is on the road this week as his race against Gov. Andrew Cuomo picks up steam. Moliaro and his family are crossing the state looking for votes in an RV, and one of the first stops for the family of five on Sunday was the New York State Fair. 

Molinaro said this kind of trip allows him to meet all kinds of New Yorkers, and that he's hearing many of the same things

"You go anywhere in the state of New York, and people usually have two things to say. 'Lower my taxes and end corruption'," said Molinaro.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

As central New York politicians met with Gov. Cuomo and his staff this week for the opening day of the New York State Fair, the topic of a major project that looms over central New York kept coming up.  

It’s one of the biggest public works projects to take place in central New York in a generation. How to deal with an aging section of Interstate 81 in downtown Syracuse that ferries thousands of vehicles through upstate New York every day. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

New York will soon have the only nationwide commission that investigates prosecutorial misconduct.   

Syracuse-area state Senator John DeFrancisco wrote the legislation, which was signed by Gov. Cuomo this week. It creates an 11-member commission that can look into claims of misconduct by prosecutors. 

DeFrancisco likens it to a commission created 40 years ago that did the same thing with judges.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to unveil the new $62 million Expo Center when the New York State Fair begins it’s 13-day run Wednesday morning. It's part of a major revitalization of the west end of the Syracuse-area fairgrounds.

While the Expo Center may be the biggest, brightest draw to an underutilized part of the fairgrounds, the Fair has spent $10,000 to get fairgoers visitors to that part of the property using another gambit.   They’ve rented a ride called the Observation Tower that will be free to fairgoers.

Upstate Medical University

A new treatment available in Syracuse for a certain kind of breast cancer can eliminate weeks of radiation therapy. 

This new treatment, called intraoperative radiation therapy, essentially combines radiation therapy with surgery. Upstate Cancer Center breast surgeon Dr. Lisa Lai said after a tumor is removed, a balloon is installed in the spot left by the tumor. Then, a radiologist delivers a big dose of radiation therapy in that spot.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Drunk driving crashes are on the decline in New York State, according to the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. But at the same time, the number of crashes involving drug impaired drivers is on the rise.  Now the state is increasing the numbers of highly trained officers who can identify the signs of drug-impaired driving.

In My Father's Kitchen

Access to health care is important for individuals overall physical, social and mental health. But there are barriers for many Americans according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion -- including the high cost of care, inadequate insurance coverage (or no coverage at all), or lack of available services. As Ellen Abbott reports, there are attempts in many communities to remove these barriers.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Some changes will be coming to the 2018 version of the New York State Fair, which starts August 22. Most of it is part of the second phase of a $120 million plan to revitalize the fairgrounds.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Some New York lawmakers are among those criticizing a TSA proposal to allow thousands of passenger a day to board commercial flights at smaller and mid-sized American airports without TSA screening. 

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) says scrapping this kind of security would be a disaster waiting to happen. He sent a letter to the TSA administrator asking that current passenger screening be maintained, suggesting the idea risks national security in the post 9-11 world.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) agrees, and expects there will be congressional oversight on this.