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 News (file photo)

The city of Syracuse this week begins the process of putting a law on the books that addresses lead poisoning. Officials hope it can make a dent in the city's high rate of lead exposure in children.

Currently, the presence of lead in rental housing isn’t a code violation. The city can’t force landlords to replace poisoned lead paint on walls, doors and windows. That would all change if a new ordinance is approved, according to Syracuse Common Councilor Joe Driscoll.

Ellen Abbott

A spit test that can help doctors diagnose autism in young children, is now on the market. It was developed in part, by researchers in Syracuse.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Get ready for a longer New York State Fair this summer.  This year's state fair will be extended from 13 to 18 days. When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the proposal as part of his annual budget message this week, Fair Director Troy Waffner was already at work.

"We immediately put in offers on four or five acts for the ten spaces we have to fill on Chevy Court, and the five spaces we're going to have to fill on the Experience Stage," he said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A central New York high school student is one of 300 finalists in one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competitions for high school seniors. Max Du, a student at Fayetteville-Manlius high school, turned his love of science and fixing things into a project that could improve the connection between wind power and the power grid.

The 17-year old came up with his project after touring a wind farm.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A much needed inpatient psychiatric unit for teens is opening up this week in central New York at a time when suicide rates for children and young adults is skyrocketing.  Officials say this is only the first step creating better access to child and adolescent care in a time of crisis.

City of Syracuse / Twitter

It was a year ago in his State of the City address, that Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh introduced the idea of the Syracuse Surge, a massive development plan meant to lift parts of the city out of poverty. During this year’s address, Walsh said Syracuse is surging, but noted there are still things to be done.

Healthy Families Onondaga Facebook

There has been progress and improvements in the health of babies in the City of Syracuse, according to recent statistics. But there is one area that Onondaga County health officials want to work on going forward. 

Nyasha Boldon, project director of the Syracuse Healthy Start program, said there is one group of worrying statistics when looking at numbers from 2018; a lag in the time it takes women to begin prenatal care.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A new semester has begun at Syracuse University, and Chancellor Kent Syverud’s annual winter message Monday focused on the drama of last semester, when a series of racist and anti-Semitic incidents fueled fear and anger that the university wasn’t doing enough to make a diverse student body feel safe.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A new law goes into effect Wednesday that will allow people who were adopted as children to get a certified copy of their birth certificate, allowing them to see information about their birth and biological parents for the first time. For central New York state Assemblywoman Pam Hunter, the new law is personal.

Hunter had her annual mammogram earlier this month and noticed a sign on the wall.

"It said 'do you know your cancer risk?'," she said.

Hunter couldn’t answer that question, because she is adopted.

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Immigration activists are holding up a Syracuse family as an example of how an aggressive immigration policy is playing out in upstate New York. 

Justino Vixtha was detained by federal immigration officials on his way to work last May, based on a 20-year old deportation order. He hasn’t left a federal detention center in Batavia since, waiting for a court date in a system clogged with increasing deportation orders and arrests. 

All Justino's wife Melissa wants is a chance to get bond set so he can come home to her and their three daughters.

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Onondaga County is taking the first step towards raising the county’s hotel occupancy tax from 5% to 7%. Raising it would allow officials to properly market the Syracuse area as a tourist destination, according to Visit Syracuse CEO Danny Liedke.

"Right now we’re probably spending somewhere between $350,000 and $500,000. Our competitors are easily spending five or six times that," he said. "So if we get to a million marketing dollars, we’ll not only catch up with them but we’ll be a legitimate player."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

There was a learning curve for Syracuse area State Senator Rachel May in her first year in office. But she’s been able to figure things out and become a powerful voice for central New York. 

Baldwinsville School District / Facebook

For the first time in 20 years, a band from New York state has marched in the Rose Parade in Pasadena California on New Year’s Day, fulfilling a dream for one central New York band program for years.

The Baldwinsville Bees have been very busy this holiday season. Hot off a trip to Pasadena, California to perform at Bandfest, a band competition before the Rose Bowl parade.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

The Central New York Diaper Bank distributes one million diapers to needy families every year. But even as the nonprofit grows, it’s still not meeting a staggering need. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Officials in the city of Syracuse hope a new online, interactive road rating map will more clearly show conditions of streets across the city.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Legislation that will boost business for an Oneida County cutlery manufacturer is waiting for the president's signature. The SPOONSS Act was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed the House and Senate this week.

The bill will require the Department of Defense to only buy stainless steel flatware made in the United States.  That’s a big boost for Sherrill Manufacturing, which is the country’s only remaining flatware maker. CEO Greg Owens said they currently only sell forks, knives and spoons to the Navy.

Rep. John Katko / Facebook (file photo)

Congressmen in two of central New York’s swing districts will be voting along party lines in this week’s impeachment vote in Washington.

Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) announced Tuesday morning that he will vote with a majority of Democrats to impeach President Trump. As recently Monday, he said he wasn’t sure how he was going to vote, but admitted it was one of the toughest decisions of his political career. And he promised that the politics of running as a Democrat in a district that voted overwhelmingly for Trump three years ago, doesn’t play into his decision.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

Ground has broken for a new hospital in downtown Utica.

It will take about three years before the hospital is ready to admit patients to a facility that will gobble up about 25 acres of property downtown. At a ground breaking ceremony yesterday, Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri suggested this new hospital will be transformational for the region.

"This gives us an opportunity not only to be on the map, but an area where people want to live, want to work and want to play, because we have a state-of-the-art medical facility," Palmieri said.

Learn The Risk

A local infectious disease expert is criticizing a billboard in Syracuse, paid for by an anti-vaccination organization.

The billboard, along I-690 West near Midler Avenue, features a picture of a boy with the words, "My healthy 4 year old died after his routine vaccines.” It’s sponsored by Learn The Risk, a non-profit organization that believes vaccines are not as safe and effective as medical experts say. Messages like this worry Jana Shaw, a physician at the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse.

Daniel Paquet / Flickr

Flu season is ramping up across central and northern New York. The state health department has declared the flu “prevalent” across the state, and local figures back that up.

The Onondaga County Health Department starts keeping flu statistics in October. Since then there have been 152 cases reported, but the numbers recently started accelerating.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

An e-commerce startup in central New York is offering holiday shoppers a chance to show some pride in Syracuse, as well as give back to the community. The SYR Clothing Company is open for orders. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A program meant to fight childhood obesity in some Syracuse City Schools is expanding, and adding a new component.  The Growing Healthy Hearts program will soon be in seven schools in the district, which has a 37% childhood obesity rate among students.

The program emphasizes the importance of eating right and being active in order to stay healthy.  Emanie Cook, a fifth-grader at McKinley-Brighton, likes it.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

The race for the soon to be vacated 50th state Senate seat is on.

When state Sen. Bob Antonacci won a judgeship on Election Day mid-term, it essentially opened the door for Democrat John Mannion to gear up his campaign team for another shot at the job. He lost to Antonacci in 2018 by two percentage points. Mannion, a high school science teacher, announced his candidacy last month.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

According to the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Central New York’s annual report, the number of people living on the streets and in shelters in a three-county area is down 6% in the calendar year that ended in September. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign is an iconic holiday sight every year. This year, the agency is trying to keep the campaign relevant by adding some new technology options for giving.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse is pulling out all the stops for this year’s tree lighting ceremony Friday, which for the first time ever features an artificial Christmas tree.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Hancock International Airport in Syracuse is preparing for big crowds this week. Today will be the first day with at least 10,000 passengers moving through the airport.

According to airport officials, there will be a 17% increase in Thanksgiving week travelers this year compared to 2018. Airport Executive Director Jason Terreri said it’s not just crowded planes, but new flights either arriving or departing from Hancock.

Catherine Loper / WRVO News

There are connections between what we eat and how we feel, and the growing field of culinary medicine looks to capitalize on that link by joining the foundations of nutrition science with teaching people how to cook healthy, tasteful meals. 

One North Country doctor’s office is taking it to the next level by offering patients cooking tips and techniques from a teaching kitchen that’s part of their clinic.

WRVO News (file photo)

The city of Syracuse is looking at existing policies for reporting and addressing race and hate incidents after racist graffiti was discovered behind a Syracuse community center, and belatedly reported to police.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Update: Chancellor Kent Syverud has agreed to 16 of the 19 demands from student protestors and international students. In a message to members of the Syracuse University community sent early this morning, Syverud wrote that he agreed to 16 of the demands as written and has suggested mior revisions to the remaining three.