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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Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is making a big push to get the federal government to spend more money on lead removal programs. Specifically, Schumer is pointing to the city of Syracuse is a prime example of why more money needs to be pumped into controlling and removing lead from older homes.

At least 675 children in Syracuse had high lead levels in their blood last year. It’s a symptom of an old housing stock filled with lead paint that wasn’t banned until 1978. To remedy this, Schumer has a two-pronged strategy to get more federal remediation money to central New York.

Sudipto Sarkar / Flickr

The Great American Smokeout this week urges smokers to give up smoking for at least one day, in the hopes it leads to quitting for good. Nowhere is that message more important than in some of the more rural communities in upstate New York.

Episcopal Diocese of Central New York

The issue of gay marriage is at the heart of a disagreement in the Episcopal Church in upstate New York. An Albany Bishop has banned same-sex marriage in his diocese, going so far as to say in a letter to the Albany Diocese that the church has been 'hijacked by the 'gay rights agenda,'" with Satan at the source of this division in the church. 

But the Bishop of the Central New York Diocese strongly disagrees.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A collaboration between the city of Syracuse and Syracuse University’s X Lab has helped the city recoup more than a million dollars in back taxes.

The initiative undertaken between the X Lab team and the city focused on the letters that go out alerting property owners that they are behind in their taxes. What they found out, was that letters with handwriting on the envelope were more likely to be opened.

Once opened, a different way explaining a late tax bill made a difference. according to X Lab Managing Director  Joe Boskovski.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Onondaga County Democratic Committee Chair Pam Hunter hopes to unite the local Democratic Party in the wake of Election Day.

An energized progressive movement has been at odds with the party, evidenced by a couple of Democratic primaries earlier this year where the party-backed candidate lost. Hunter said she does not like splitting the party into different tables.

Onondaga Historical Association

A focus this Veterans Day has been on World War I.  It was 100 years ago, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the guns of World War I were silenced with an armistice. Central New York has been remembering its part in what was once called the war to end all wars.

WRVO News File Photo

Another series of statewide elections in New York Tuesday resulted in another Democratic sweep, and with a two-to-one voter registration margin in the state, mostly because of New York City, it’s clear the GOP has a steep hill to climb.

WRVO News File Photo

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is sticking by his decision not to get involved in supporting a particular option to replace the aging Interstate 81 viaduct through Syracuse. 

His counterpart, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), went on record last month standing behind the street-level community grid option. Schumer said his job is not choosing an option, but providing the funds to pay for it. 

"I don’t believe it’s my job as a Washington senator to say to a community, you have to do it this way," Schumer said. "Let the community decide, and I’ll try and get the dollars."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

While the Democrats took control of the state senate, central New York’s 50th State Senate seat will most likely be staying in Republican hands. Bob Antonacci has about a 3,000 vote lead over Democrat John Mannion in the race for the seat left vacant by longtime State Sen. John DeFransisco, who is retiring. But Mannion has yet to concede as he waits for absentee ballots to be counted. 

Antonocci admits it would have been easier to be a freshman lawmaker had his party retained control of the Senate.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

24th District Republican Congressman John Katko wasn’t knocked over by the “blue wave” that saw Democrats take control of the House in yesterday’s election. But his re-election does mean he will be in the minority when he returns to Washington.

Katko says it will be a "new adventure," but promised to deal with the partisanship in Washington in a bipartisan way.

"I am putting up with all this crap in Washington because I’m trying to say there is a way to get along with the other side,” Katko said. “And I’m going to keep working on that as long as I’m in Congress.”

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

The emergence of a coalition of voters united by opposition to the policies and personal style of President Trump faces its first big test today. This anger over the Trump presidency has been corralled into sophisticated and robust voter mobilization tactics.

If today’s vote turns out to be a watershed election in U.S. electoral history, it could be traced to the emergence of left leaning grassroots activists and individuals, who have coalesced around outrage over the President Trump.

nysheriffs.org/Ellen Abbott

As a highly contested midterm election season comes to a close on Election Day, there’s one race in Onondaga County that may be flying under the radar.

The choice for Onondaga County Sheriff is between a political novice and an incumbent looking for a second term. Sheriff Gene Conway, a Republican, has held the job since 2015. He’s been in local law enforcement in several capacities, as a village police officer, a sheriff’s deputy, local police chief and finally sheriff. He said people should judge him by what he has done.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The tragic ties that bind Syracuse, N.Y. and Lockerbie, Scotland are stronger than ever, 30 years after Pan Am Flight 103 crashed in the tiny village after a terrorist's bomb exploded on the plane.

Colin Dorrance was an 18-year old off-duty police officer on the way to a Christmas party on Dec. 21, 1988, when he saw the aircraft plunge into his small village. He was one of the first responders on the scene of the terrorist bombing that killed all 259 people on board, and 11 people on the ground.

WRVO News File Photo

Joanie Mahoney begins her new job at SUNY ESF and Upstate Medical University in Syracuse this month, and she expects a smooth transition into a job that was created for her.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Syracuse City School District is joining forces with the American Heart Association to try to fight childhood obesity.

According to the AHA, about 37 percent of Syracuse City School District students are overweight or obese, higher than the nationwide average of 30 percent. So, it is taking a fundraising program called Growing Healthy Hearts and adapting it to five elementary schools in the district. 

Thomas Favre-Bulle / via Flickr

The state’s teacher union is trying to figure out how to deal with an impending teacher shortage in New York.

"Our teachers are nearing retirement, many of them. And we have seen a decline in the enrollment of teacher prep programs by as much as 47 percent," said Jolene DiBrango, Executive Vice President of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT).

DiBrango said the shortage is being seen across the state, and across a number of different areas.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Dozens of central New York School Districts are coping with a rash of cyberattacks that has put data about students at risk.

There have been nine recorded cyberattacks on the Central New York Regional Information Center (CNYRIC) since April. It provides technological services to the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES and the nearly 50 school districts it deals with. CNYRIC Chief Technology Director Pam Mazzaferro said BOCES identified the attacks early on, so no there was no data breach, but said they were well crafted attacks.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Boosters of drone technology in central New York are hoping the federal government comes through with some new research dollars in the coming months.

When lawmakers go back to Washington for a lame duck session, they are expected to approve a first-ever funding stream earmarked for research into unmanned aircraft systems.

That would place $6 million up for grabs to the nation's seven Federal Aviation Administration-designated Unmanned Aircraft Systems test sites, including the one at Griffiss International in Rome. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News file photo

After 11 years, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney leaves office this week to start a new phase of her career with SUNY ESF and SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. 

In January 2008, Mahoney became only the 3rd county executive in Onondaga County history, and she had a plan for staying there.

One of the battlefields on Election Day will be races for the New York state Senate. Democrats are hoping to corral a majority so they can control all three branches of government in New York State. One of the most closely watched races will be in central New York.

U.S. House of Representatives/Julio Urrutia

Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) and Democratic challenger Dana Balter faced off their first debate Wednesday, which was hosted and streamed by Syracuse.com.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A six-month old jail unit in Onondaga County dedicated to housing prisoners who are also veterans is proving to be a success.  

Gary Bixler became addicted to opioids during a stint in the Army while recovering from an injury. A drug related crime has left him serving a lengthy jail sentence at the Jamesville Correctional Facility. He said being part of a special unit for vets that offers perks and special services has made a big difference in his life.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Electronic medical records have replaced paper records in most health settings, but in the huge and varied medical world, there is room for improvement.

Greg Kenien, cardiologist and chief medical information officer at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, has a bird's-eye view of the changing world of medical records.

“Ultimately, the potential is enormously for the good, but we’re having some growing pains now,” Kenien said.

U.S. House of Representatives/Julio Urrutia

Political ads are one of the battlefields in many of the crucial midterm races for Congress this year, and the race for central New York's 24th Congressional District is no different.

Lance McCord / Flickr

It’s time to get a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over the age of six months get the vaccine by the end of October. Central New York health officials are emphasizing there are no reasons to avoid the shot.

Only about one in three upstate New York adults get their flu shot according to BlueCross BlueShield. Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta said that is unfortunate.

WRVO News File Photo

As central New York deals with a higher than average suicide rate, a prevention program is providing hope for the future. The Psychiatry High Risk Program at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse focuses on youth and young adults at high risk for suicide, and has started out with extraordinary results.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Advocates for the disabled are looking for help from candidates for office this election season. 

Every election season central New York groups like Disabled in Action, ARISE, and Aurora, pepper candidates with questions about issues dear to their community. This year, they say those issues are requiring urgent care.  

Sally Johnston, the Advocacy Coordinator for AccessCNY, says on the federal front, stability of Medicare and Medicaid is key. On the state front, Johnston said changes in state policy have created issues, especially when it comes to housing.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There’s a new master's program at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse that could help families with autistic children in central New York. 

It’s called a Behavior Analysis Studies program, and it trains students to provide therapeutic services to individuals with autism and related disorders. 

Onondaga County Health Department

The number of children exposed to lead in the city of Syracuse has dropped significantly in recent years. 

The problem that leads to lead poisoning in cities like Syracuse is the old housing stock. Before 1978, lead paint was often used to paint homes. 90 percent of housing in the city can have lead paint that needs remediating. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)


Onondaga County could take over a dying shopping mall in central New York, if its owners don’t pay back taxes by an October deadline.

The county has placed ShoppingTown Mall in DeWitt on a list of tax delinquent properties that will be auctioned off October 22. Moonbeam Capital Investments has owned the nearly-empty mall in the center of DeWitt since 2013, and now owes close to $8 million in back taxes.