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

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.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has criss-crossed the state over the last several weeks sounding the alarm that the state's two percent tax cap, which limits local government and school district spending, is more important now than ever and should be made permanent by the state legislature.

"This year because of the uncertainty out of Washington, and knowing that our taxpayers are taking it on the chin because of the loss of the state and local tax deduction (SALT), we think we need to come out even stronger and enshrine this two-percent tax cap and make it permanent," said Hochul.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A new state law that goes into effect soon will impact some homeowners across New York.

After April 1, you won’t be able to buy a smoke detector with removable, nine volt batteries in New York State. Instead, smoke alarms will be powered by a sealed, lithium battery that last 10 years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Hearings are underway in Syracuse that could lead to more charter schools in the city. There are four charter schools in Syracuse right now, and New York State is considering proposals for two more.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Some drug users in central and northern New York are using tiny test strips to determine if the heroin or cocaine they are about to shoot up contains fentanyl, a powerful opioid that is often mixed in with street drugs. 

Fentanyl is responsible for an uptick in drug overdoses and deaths in recent years. ACR Health in Syracuse is distributing the strips as part of its syringe exchange and overdose prevention programs in a nine-county area. Roberto Gonzalez, director of ACR Health's syringe exchange program, said it’s been well received so far. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) is setting a moderate tone as he settles into his first year in Congress, joining a coalition of fellow Democrats called the Blue Dogs. He is one of the co-chairs of the group that describes itself as fiscally conservative while supporting a strong national defense and bipartisanship.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

The city of Syracuse could be expanding a program that provides body cameras to all uniformed police officers. The pilot program ends in July, and the city will have to pay for it going forward.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Public transportation advocates in central New York are calling on state budget makers to put more money in this year’s spending plan for bus systems across upstate.

Centro, Syracuse’s bus company, has only had 2 percent increases the past few years from Albany. And even with a proposed 5 percent increase this year, transportation advocate Sharon Sherman said more is needed to properly serve the people who need to ride the bus. And that is no more apparent in Syracuse, a city with sky high poverty rates.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media File Photo

Onondaga County wants to get rid of a rule that lets certain sheriff’s deputies get the bulk of overtime at the Onondaga County Justice Center.

Officials stress the guards at the jail aren’t doing anything wrong. But some can double or triple their pay by signing up for overtime. The way they do that is through a rule County Executive Ryan McMahon called archaic.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A central New York business group is bringing some new compromises to the table as the region waits for a state report that could determine the future of Interstate 81 through downtown Syracuse.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Several hundred people turned out Thursday for the last of a series of hearings about the future of Interstate 81 through Syracuse held by Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus). The forum was held at Fowler High School, just a few miles from the elevated portion of the highway, which has reached the end of its useful lifespan. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Local law enforcement agencies are hoping Congress passes legislation that would allow funding for some cutting edge technology that identifies lethal illicit drugs like fentanyl. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The dispute between the state and local governments over revenue sharing funds called Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) continues. Local governments aren’t satisfied with the latest proposed compromise from the Cuomo administration.

Local governments are pleased that the governor’s office realizes how much local governments rely on AIM funding.

"What we’re not pleased about is the way it is proposed to be restored. The proposal would basically take from our county taxpayers right pocket, instead of their left pocket," said Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget will change the way the individuals with disabilities on Medicaid manage their aides, which has advocates upset.

The Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program, also known as CDPAP, lets New Yorkers who qualify for Medicaid benefits hire their own aides and manage their schedule. Sally Johnston, president of Disabled in Action of Greater Syracuse, said it has been an important way to keep people with disabilities independent.

Credit SUNY Polytechnic

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants the Mohawk Valley to be at the center of one of the next big things in the world of technology: quantum computing. And researchers at SUNY Polytechnic Institute and Rome Labs are already working on it.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

State Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter said she’s supporting the community grid option for replacing the elevated portion of Interstate 81 that cuts through downtown Syracuse. Her decision comes as a long-awaited environmental impact statement from the state is expected soon.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The city of Syracuse is hoping the state can come through with $12 million to help ensure the cleanliness of drinking water from Skaneateles Lake.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said the money would fund the extension of a water intake pipe deeper and further into Skaneateles Lake. There are a few reasons Walsh said this is necessary.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Travelers who fly out of Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport have a new way to get out west. United Airlines has added a direct flight from Syracuse to a major western hub.

CenterState CEO President Rob Simpson said surveys ask the business community each year what kind of air they want to see out of Syracuse.

"And for at least five years running, the number one destination our business community has asked for is direct service to Denver," Simpson said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

The city of Syracuse will kick off a new cycle-sharing program this spring.

The bright teal smart bikes, part of the program called SYNC, will hit the road in April. The city has struck a deal with Gotcha Bikes to provide the cycles. Neil Burke, transportation planner with the Department of Public Works, said 200 bikes will be located at 35 different sites across the city.

"They are mostly focused around our existing biking structure,” Burke said. “So, you’ll see them along the Creekwalk or along the Connective Corridor; places we already have bike lanes in place.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Changes are coming to Clary Middle School in Syracuse, the latest city school dealing with receivership, a state designation for persistently struggling schools.

Clary, on Syracuse’s south side, has two and a half years to show improvement in the performance of students, in order to get off the state’s watch list of struggling schools. It has taken the first step, a public hearing this week to let staff and families know what it means.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County is taking aim at the digital divide with the help of county libraries. $100,000 has been allocated for libraries to buy technology packs that will bring the internet into homes that don’t have it.

Janet Park, executive director of the Onondaga County Library System sees the impact of the digital divide first hand.

“When you come by our library sometimes at night, there will be people sitting in the parking lot, and I’ve had people thinking they’re up to no good. But they want our wireless," said Park.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

A voting reform package approved in Albany this year will have some costs to local governments. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon is among those calling on the state to fully fund the early voting portion of the package.

Early voting this year will allow voters to cast ballots in person 10 days before an election. McMahon said that is going to mean more expenses for the counties that run the Board of Elections.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Panhandlers in central New York will soon have a chance at a job as a day laborer, instead of asking drivers for spare change. In My Father’s Kitchen won the contract to run the Hire Ground program that is expected to begin this spring.

Corey Templeton / Flickr

With frigid temperatures and dangerous wind chills affecting central and northern New York over the next few days, health officials are warning residents how to stay safe in subzero temperatures. 

It’s all pretty much common sense stuff says Onondaga County Health Department Medical Director Quoc Nguyen said it doesn’t take much time for frostbite to develop in these harsh weather conditions.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Onondaga County continues taking the steps it needs to build a swimmable beach along the northern shore of Onondaga Lake. That includes a series of public meetings showcasing what it would take to create a beach along what was once called the most polluted lake in the country.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Towns and villages across New York State are joining forces to ask the state to restore funding for towns and villages that was mostly eliminated from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $176 billion budget.

Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) has been a stalwart revenue stream for towns and villages for years. Losing it leaves big holes in the budgets of central New York governments. The village of Solvay stands to lose $175,000, the town of Cicero will lose $178,000.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Updated at 10:30 a.m. Friday

Syracuse Common Councilors passed a Walsh Administration proposal today to clear snow from sidewalks in targeted high trafficked areas in Syracuse. The vote was 6-1. Councilor Joe Carni voted against it, saying while he is in support of the idea of the city removing snow from sidewalks, he said the lack of a general liability policy could leave the city vulnerable. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Syracuse Common Council put the final stamp of approval on a sales tax distribution agreement with Onondaga County Tuesday that will last for the next 11 years.

City lawmakers unanimously agreed to extend the current sales tax deal. Finance Committee Chair Tim Rudd called it a smart move.

"I think it’s a fair agreement for the city and it’s more than we could get if collected our own sales tax," Rudd said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh gave his second State of the City address in front packed crowd at the Redhouse Arts Center Thursday evening, and went into detail on what he calls the biggest economic growth initiative in the city’s history.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Local gender rights advocates are applauding passage in the state legislature this week of the transgender rights bill known as GENDA.

Mallory Livingston, a Syracuse Attorney and founder of the local group Transgender Alliance, has been personally advocating for GENDA for seven years now.

"This bill being passed is a kind of note of hope during a time for trans people where there seems to be a shortage of hope," said Livingston.