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

Onondaga County is putting the finishing touches on the latest improvements to the St. Joseph’s Health Ampitheater at Lakeview as the summer concert season begins. It’s year four for the Amp, which has found its footing after a controversial start, according to County Executive Ryan McMahon.

"Look at our 2018 season. We had over 200,000 tickets sold. We had over a $25 million economic impact," said McMahon. "The facility itself made almost $300,000. The majority of parks don’t make money, this made money."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The number of veterans and military-related students at Syracuse University continues to grow. And SU officials believe the construction of the new National Veterans Resource Center will do more to help the 5% of the campus population that’s currently connected to the military.

Katy Quartaro spent eight years in the Marines before choosing a college, and SU hooked her right away.

WBFO (file photo)

There could be a major shakeup in the leadership of the Republican Party in New York state this summer. Onondaga County Republican Party Chair Tom Dadey is among those calling for a change atop the party leadership in the state.

Ed Cox, a 72-year old Wall Street lawyer and son-in-law of former President Richard Nixon, is facing a spirited race from Nick Langworthy, who heads the Erie County Republican Party. Cox has held his position for the last decade, and Dadey said no Republican has won a statewide race during that time.

WRVO News File Photo

SUNY ESF in Syracuse is ready to use the community grid option for replacing the Interstate 81 viaduct as a research opportunity. Interim President David Amberg said the proposal, which the state supports, offers more than 100 ways for students and staff to use their expertise.

"And not merely the aspects of where the community grid is, even as they expand 481 to become the new 81, a lot of wet lands a lot of forests," Amberg said. "There’s just a lot of touchpoints for our faculty to weigh in on and help make sure that we get the most out of this project."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse is joining a movement calling on New York state to divest $13 billion from its public pension fund currently invested in fossil fuel companies.

Specifically, a majority of Syracuse Common Councilors want State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who is in charge of the state’s $200 billion retirement fund, to divest the largest 200 fossil fuel companies from the state’s portfolio over the next five years. Syracuse Common Councilor Joe Driscoll said it’s a win-win proposition.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse University is establishing an institute that will devote itself to questions about autonomous technologies and the impact they have on everything from cities to individuals. 

Autonomous systems are those where no human is directly involved in an activity, like self-driving cars, drone delivery and smart home technologies. David Van Slyke, dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse, said these technologies are developing faster than the policies and rules that govern them.

Payne Horning / WRVO News (file photo)

As New York prepares for potential flooding along the Lake Ontario shoreline, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is encouraging communities to take some long-term steps to prevent flooding in the future. 

Cuomo wants to see some long-term investment into flood prevention that he believes is caused in large part by climate change.

"These changes in climate are going to continue, and I can’t tell you how many times this is a 100 year flood event.  It seems like we have a 100 year flood event twice a year," Cuomo said earlier this week while in Sodus Point.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Public access to Onondaga Lake will take a big step forward this fall. A public boat launch will open up the cleaned waterway for the first time in decades.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

State officials say they are on alert and ready for potential Lake Ontario flooding in the coming weeks.

In Sodus Point Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a series of steps the state is taking to prevent flooding in the event of a rain storm later this week.

"We have the National Guard on call, we are starting to deploy a structure called an Aquadam, which is basically a temporary dam that can be put in place along properties," Cuomo said.

WXXI News (file photo)

Now that the state Department of Transportation has released a draft environmental impact statement on the future of Interstate 81 in Syracuse, Central New Yorkers are flipping through thousands of pages, explaining why the state is advocating the community grid option for replacing the elevated viaduct in downtown Syracuse. 

So how does an interested citizen approach it?

John Tann / Flickr

Syracuse residents are optimistic that a growing deer and tick population can be brought under control with the latest plans from city officials.

Nina Andon-Mclane lives near Nottingham High School on Syracuse’s Eastside. She looks forward to tending to her garden this time of year, but ever since a herd of seven deer moved into her back yard, not much is left.

"The tulips are gone. The hostas are gone. Our vegetable garden is no more," said Andon-Mclane.

More importantly, the deer leave behind thousands of ticks, which carry Lyme disease.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Syracuse Surge is getting a boost from its biggest private sector contribution yet. The city has won a $3 million grant as part of JPMorgan Chase’s Advancing Cities Challenge.

City officials call this is a pivotal moment for the Syracuse Surge, Mayor Ben Walsh's plan to boost the city's tech sector. This funding will help advance the initiative, at the same time making sure that prosperity from it is shared among the poorest city residents. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Syracuse Common Council has a few issues with Mayor Ben Walsh’s proposed budget. Lawmakers are concerned about a 3.5% tax increase included in the spending plan.

Councilor Joe Carni said he’s not comfortable with taxpayers footing the bills for new programs and initiatives that are pushing up taxes. And when it comes time to vote, he said he’ll be proposing some amendments to the budget. 

"We need to make sure we are spending our tax dollars as efficiently as possible, and focusing on an austerity budget instead of pushing the bill on our taxpayers," said Carni.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There are still 19 months to go before Election Day 2020, but there are already three Democrats looking to unseat central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) next year.

Earlier this month, Navy veteran Roger Misso became the first Democrat to announce a run for the seat. On Monday, another Navy veteran, Francis Conole, joined the race. Tuesday night, Dana Balter became the third Democrat to announce a run for the 24th District seat. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

The planning work has started on the first STEAM school in central New York. The former Central Tech building on South Salina Street in Syracuse, should be hosting its first students in the science, technology, engineering, arts and math high school by the fall of 2021.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Another partial collapse of an almost century old railroad bridge in Syracuse has local officials looking for answers. 

The city of Syracuse closed part of South Geddes St. late Thursday after drivers noticed falling concrete from a railroad bridge. It follows a partial railroad bridge collapse on South Clinton St. last summer. The road reopened to traffic Friday afternoon.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media File Photo

New York State’s recently passed budget took aim at a couple of environmental issues, like banning plastic bags and recycling commercial food waste. The Onondaga County Resource and Recovery Agency or OCRRA, is ready for the changes coming over the next few years.

About 1.5% of the local trash stream is made up of plastic bags, adding up to around 5,000 tons of material a year. OCRRA spokeswoman Kristin Lawton said it may not sound like a lot, but eliminating the lightweight bags would have an impact.

Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital

Doctors in Central New York are keeping a close eye on the measles outbreaks in the New York City area, because they say it’s not inconceivable that the virus could make its way to upstate New York.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse's Howie Hawkins could add running for president to his already long electoral résumé, forming an exploratory committee to test the waters for a presidential run.

As a Green Party founder, Hawkins has unsuccessfully run for everything from Syracuse Common Council to governor of New York state to U.S. Senate. After retiring last year from his job with UPS, and after finishing third in the race for governor, his plan was to read a couple hundred books.  But then Green Party leaders asked him to run for president.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) wants to get to the bottom of a broken Veterans Affairs program, that’s meant to provide support to caregivers of vets and their families.

Quintyn / Flickr

Onondaga County is developing a new tobacco prevention initiative with the help of some funding from the state health department.

The county has won a $2 million grant that will spearhead anti-smoking efforts in Onondaga, Cayuga and Oswego Counties. All of those areas have smoking rates substantially higher than the state average, pointing to the specific need for this kind of program in Central New York.  Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said it’s ultimately an issue of poverty.

St. Joseph's Hospital

A preterm birth initiative spearheaded by St. Joseph’s Health aims to cut down on the number of premature babies born in central New York.

Some pregnant women in central New York are getting more than the usual questions during prenatal doctor’s visits. They’re also getting  quizzed about tobacco use, alcohol and substance abuse, stress management, and oral health, which are all risk factors tied to a preterm birth.

Sudipto Sarkar / Flickr

Anti-smoking advocates are cheering state action that will make it harder for teens and young adults in New York state to access cigarettes and e-cigarettes. 

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation passed by the Senate and Assembly, the state-wide age to buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, will jump from 18 to 21. Lawmakers have also slapped a 20-percent tax increase on the liquid used in e-cigarettes. 

WRVO News File Photo

The Syracuse City School District is hoping to use technology this year to let residents have a voice in the budget making process.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Maple producers are in the midst of their 24th annual Maple Weekend program in New York State. Farms across upstate are opening up sugar shacks so visitors can watch clear sap from a maple tree morph into mouthwatering maple syrup. The industry is growing, but also in the midst of a major transition.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga Community College in Syracuse is starting up a groundbreaking program that attacks the issue of the high cost of textbooks. 

Students at OCC spend an average of $615 on textbooks every semester. Senior Allison Guzman-Martinez said she has struggled with the costs, and she hears it from fellow students.

"They can’t go to the library because they have a full time job. And I hear these conversations, and they're not abnormal to hear, they’re normal to hear, here at school, because the prices are insane," said Guzman-Martinez.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse has put together a package of initiatives meant to attack the issue of housing instability.


The Greater Syracuse Land Bank, which buys blighted properties and sells them to be redeveloped in central New York, is looking at its biggest budget deficit ever, and without help, could be out of cash in two years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

A new era of baseball in central New York starts when the brand-new Syracuse Mets take the field for the home opener, April 4.

Don Waful’s baseball watching days in Syracuse go back almost a century to the Syracuse Stars.

"I saw some minor league games here in Syracuse when I was 10 years old," Waful said. "I’d say 1925.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

As central New York continues to wait for a state study on the future of Interstate 81 in downtown Syracuse, a group that wants to keep a high speed Interstate running through the city is sharing some three-year old data it says supports it’s view.