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

The New York State Fair opens its gates for a 13-day run today, with more than a million visitors expected to descend on the Syracuse fairgrounds.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Surgeons from 18 upstate hospitals and health agencies hope changing the way they prescribe medication can impact the opioid crisis. 

Jason Smith / WRVO News (file photo)

New York State will add relief to homeowners to a program meant to rebuild and recover from record high water levels along the Lake Ontario shoreline this year.

Local governments and businesses have already submitted applications for part of the $300 million Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, also known as REDI. Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said his city’s application focuses on raising parts of the Wright's Landing Marina, as well as other improvements to the marina and the International Pier.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Water levels on Lake Ontario are slowly dropping, but are still at record high levels. During a stop in Oswego Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to boost tourism along the lake, at a time when communities are still experiencing flooding.


There's a push to make sure everyone in the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County is counted in the upcoming census. A special committee has been formed to support a comprehensive census count.

Upstate Medical University

There could be more health professionals working in rural or underserved areas if an Upstate medical University program works out. The idea, according to nursing professor Sherri McMullen, is to place students in a community on a long term basis. In this case, nursing students will be working with the ConnextCare medical group in Oswego County.

"They’ll be going to this particular office and maybe several offices in the ConnextCare area, so they’ll feel comfortable, understand the workflow, and the expectations of a nurse practitioner in a rural community," said McMullen.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

As America ages, more studies are being done on how activity can help reduce the impact of illness and chronic disease. Research shows both physical and mental exercise is a kind of medicine for older adults.

90-year old John Murray lives with his wife, in a senior living community near Syracuse. On any given Monday, he takes part in four different programs.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

New York State is in the midst of reimagining the 200-year old Erie Canal. A series of public engagement sessions is looking for ideas about how to bring the four historic canals into the 21st century.

"We’re really looking at what the canal is, what it has been, but what it could be," said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton.

He said hundreds of people have made suggestions already, ranging from movable ice rinks to canal side arts festivals.

Stratton said likes the idea of a portable ice rink available to communities along the canal.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The annual "Cycle the Erie Canal" tour continues to grow, bringing more and more visitors to the historic path. This month, hundreds of bicyclists followed the storied canal on a 363-mile ride.

Clanging bells and the smell of hot dogs roasting welcomed bikers at the halfway point of the ride at the Camillus Erie Canal Park earlier this month. This year’s event, put on by the statewide nonprofit Parks and Trails New York, attracted riders from 39 states, Canada and Australia.

Auburn native, Bruce Gillolly, who is 77, has a personal reason for joining the ride.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There will be a new feature to the Syracuse skyline in the coming weeks. One of the tallest cranes in the country is coming to central New York as part of Syracuse University's renovation of the Carrier Dome.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Central New York could be getting a boost in its fight against lead poisoning, following a visit to Syracuse Friday from Ben Carson, President Donald Trump's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Carson got an earful about challenges facing a community where 11% of children test positive for lead poisoning. He believes it is an issue that can be solved.

"It's something that if we focus on appropriately, and we do the appropriate types of treatment, we can get it under control," said Carson at a roundtable discussion Friday.

John Tann / Flickr

There are a number of initiatives taking place around the region to fight the spread of ticks. Beyond things like culling deer, research is playing a key role in dealing with ticks and the diseases they can carry. 

Jason Smith / WRVO News (file photo)

Syracuse is joining more than two dozen cities across the country in a program that provides free professional financial counseling to residents. 

Valerie Hill of Syracuse was in a bad way, financially. A failed marriage that left her credit score in shambles, a mountain of medical bills and unexpected funeral expenses after her sister's death was overwhelming. She realized she needed help, and found it at the fledgling Financial Empowerment Center in Syracuse. She said professional counselors offered her a plan to get out of debt.


The Town of Vernon planning board has rejected the appeal of its denial of a permit to hold the Woodstock 50 music festival at Vernon Downs. The board made its unanimous decision Tuesday night, exactly a month before the festival’s start.

The town denied a permit application last week for a festival Aug. 16-18 at the Vernon Downs racetrack and casino, saying the application was incomplete and filed too late.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

If you see some turquoise bikes tooling around the streets of Syracuse, they’re part of the city’s new bike sharing program, the first of its kind in the state.

The big buzz about the bikes as the program kicked off, is the fact they aren't just any bike. They are e-bikes. Neil Burke, Syracuse's transportation planner said each bike has a pedal assist component.

“What this does is provide you a boost with an onboard battery, to really get you up to speed, and flatten those hills out," said Burke.

Residents had a chance to try out the bikes earlier this week.

Let Ideas Compete / Flickr

There were no surprises in a report about the City of Syracuse’s finances from the State Financial Restructuring Board. But Mayor Ben Walsh says it offers the city a template going forward, which they hope to move ahead on.

The review offers several suggestions to make city spending more efficient and offers some state aid to help move those ideas along. Some -- like upgrading the city’s payroll system -- is something Walsh knew needed to be changed the first day he walked into the mayor’s office.

Onondaga County

The lake once called the most polluted in the country, could be getting closer to becoming a beach destination for central New Yorkers. But not everyone is on board with the idea of swimming in a former Superfund site. 

At a recent public meeting, Onondaga County announced results of a survey that showed almost 32,000 people would be willing to go swimming in a potential beach at the Willow Bay area of Onondaga Lake.

Upstate University Hospital

Individuals who may have been exposed to HIV, now can go to a pharmacy in central New York for medication that prevents the disease from developing. 

Onondaga County

Onondaga County lawmakers are expected to decide whether the county will go after a landowner in Geddes who hasn’t paid taxes in three years.

WRVO News File Photo

As high water continues to cause damage along the Lake Ontario shoreline, members of the International Joint Commission, the U.S./Canadian organization that helps control water levels, are at times defending Plan 2014, that many blame for high water. But they are also open to the idea that some tweaks to the plan could mitigate the flooding in the future.  

The debate raging along the lakefront essentially comes down to this. Is devastating flooding in two of the last three years the result of near record amounts of rainfall? Or is it caused by Plan 2014?

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There was a different kind of signing ceremony in Syracuse in June. Instead of committing to a sports team, high school and college students committed to jobs.

It looked like a letter of intent signing ceremony for athletes. Nine high school and college students sat on a special platform with banners and hats emblazoned with logos in front of them. But instead of a sports team, they signed letters of intent to take a job at a local tech or manufacturing company.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

The use of telemedicine is taking off in upstate New York, at least for patients of one major health insurer.

Dr. LouAnne Giangreco, chief medical officer at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in upstate New York, said the numbers have been remarkable over the last two years.

“Back in 2016 in the health plan, we were seeing 5,000 visits a year,” Giangreco said. “It’s grown, it’s tripled to almost 15,000 visits in 2018.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

County Executive Ryan McMahon hopes what he calls the "ongoing soap opera,” involving back taxes on Shoppingtown Mall in Dewitt, is over by the end of the year.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Among those struggling with record high lake levels and rain along the southern shore of Lake Ontario this year, are those who make their living from water tourism. Businesses that line Little Sodus Bay are having the same problems this year as they had in 2017, the last time the lake level was this high.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

People wanting to live in downtown Syracuse continues to drive the revitalization of the area. According to the Downtown Committee of Syracuse's annual report, there has been a 70% increase in the number of people who call downtown home over the last decade.

Right now there are 4,000 downtown residents, and there’s not much room for more, with a 99% occupancy rate.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Big changes are coming to Syracuse as the state prepares to replace the elevated portion of Interstate 81. At the same time, the community that was shattered by construction of that highway will be reborn. The non-profit Blueprint 15, which will be in charge of that transformation, has found a leader to turn plans into reality.

Vincent B. Love grew up in Pioneer Homes, a public housing project that lives in the shadow of I-81. He remembers the community that was known as the 15th ward, before the highway was built.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) toured flood ravaged portions of Lake Ontario Monday, and he’s presenting a three-tiered plan to deal with the record high water levels.

Standing just a few feet from puddles, piled-up sandbags and flooded docks at a marina in the Cayuga County village of Fair Haven, Schumer spoke to worried lake residents.

“If you look at the marina we’re standing in, you see the devastation. And things are particularly dire here in Fair Haven and Little Sodus Bay, because some of the critical infrastructure has collapsed," Schumer said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Early voting won’t be the only changes come election time this year. Onondaga County will be going high tech when it comes to poll books.

Gone will be the days of an election worker flipping through one of those big poll books voters have had to sign before casting a ballot in Onondaga County. Michele Sardo, Republican elections commissioner, said electronic poll books will replace them this year on Election Day.

"So when you go to a polling place you won’t be signing on paper,” Sardo said. “It’s going to be an iPad type of thing.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Crouse Hospital has opened a new clinic that will help new moms get through one of the biggest obstetric complications there is, postpartum depression and psychosis.

The women who walk into the new clinic suffer from more than the “baby blues,” a brief hormonally induced period of sadness after giving birth. 

"They start to feel guilty, they feel people would be better off without them, they feel societal pressure, they’re not sleeping," said Christine Kowaleski, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Crouse who has counseled women with these symptoms for years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

State lawmakers go back to Albany Tuesday as the end of the legislative session nears.  The focus is on the state Senate, which is in democratic hands for the first time in decades, and whether it can shepherd through some longtime progressive initiatives.

One of the no-brainers Syracuse-area state Sen. Rachel May expects to pass, is legislation that will expand voting rights. Right now plans for automatic voter registration is stuck over details, such as when residents would be able to decline registration.