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Batter Up!

Hear that call! The time has come for one and all to Play Ball!

Clara Cook of Pine City

Who doesn’t love the early 90’s movie, “A League of Their Own,” starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis? If you haven’t watched it, run out to your nearest video store (yes, I am one of those people who still rent DVD’s) … or take the normal route and download or stream it. Without giving too much away, the movie is a depiction of the early days of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) that Philip Wrigley founded after the start of WWII as a way to keep baseball alive while the majority of men were at war.

Watching the movie for the first time as a teen, I imagined being alive during WWII, wondering whether I’d be a Rosie the Riveter type or like Rosie O’Donnell’s foul-mouthed but hilariously funny character. Turns out I am neither of those today but instead am a grantmaker (definitely not foul-mouthed).

Fast-forward to around 2008 when I begin working for the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes. One of the first grants I remember reading was for the Southport Cinderella Softball League. The applicants intended for the grant help bring back the league after a hiatus of several years. Some committed volunteers from Elmira’s Southside didn’t want to let another year pass without a league for girls who want to learn how to play one of America’s favorite games.

As I read the grant, I couldn’t help but remember the movie, so I did a quick Google search to see if any local women had played in the first female professional baseball league. Success! Clara “Babe” Cook, an Elmira (specifically, Pine City) native, played for the 1943 Rockford (IL) Peaches, one of the league’s premiere teams. This was incredibly fascinating news!

Here’s what I learned: Clara took an early interest in the game and played sandlot ball with her brother and some friends. An employee from the old Remington Rand spotted Clara and urged her parents to let her play ball. After graduating from Southside High School, Clara worked for the Rand and organized a team for the company. It was at that time she was spotted by a AAGPBL scout who invited her to join the league.

One of the original sixty founding members, Clara “Babe” Cook was a lefty pitcher with a 3.40 ERA in 45 innings of work (1944). She played for the Kenosha Comets, Rockford Peaches and the Milwaukee Chicks from 1943 to 1944. While playing for the Milwaukee Chicks (below), Clara and her team mates won the 1944 league championship.

1944 Milwaukee Chicks

After playing for two years, Clara returned to Elmira and to her job at the Remington Rand. Ten years later, she moved to California, where she worked for an aircraft corporation. Elmira called her back home for retirement, where her passion and love for baseball continued. In Southport, she coached and mentored young women interested in baseball. In 1975, Clara was inducted into the Metro-Elmira Sports Hall of Fame (link to Chemung County Sports Hall of Fame). In 1988, she was part of the unveiling of the permanent display, Women in Baseball, at the Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown, NY.

When I watch the movie now, I have a real sense of pride knowing that one of our own played in the league. One of our own helped to keep baseball relevant and alive for people and families who love the sport during some very dark days. One of our own worked to inspire so many other young girls who played in sandlots on long summer days. I do wonder from time to time about whether Clara was like one of the characters from the movie. (Geena Davis’s character “Dottie” was one of my favorites.) But then I think she was just a girl from Elmira who loved baseball and that is good enough for me.

Sara Palmer

The Unmitigated Joy of Roller Skating

I really don’t have the words to describe how fortunate we are to have Joycrest Skating Rink here in Elmiraland.

The exterior of Joycrest belies the amazingness that awaits you inside.
I mean, thank you from the bottom of my heart to whoever chose to keep this place intact. It is perfect in almost every way.
This is before the rink really filled up one December Saturday.
EVERYONE IS HAVING THE BEST TIME.

Yes, you can do the hokey pokey.
Mid-century modern decor!
The fonts alone are worth the cost of admission.
It’s a great place to learn how to skate, or to test your muscle memory from 30+ years ago, for example. Really, truly, if you find yourself in need of an activity this winter, go!

Oh, and they have pickle ball courts too.

4 New Places to Live

Libertad is a revitalization of the former Jones Court apartments on Baldwin Street.

If you are curious about the opportunities for new housing, this update is for you. For the first time in years, we are witnessing construction around the city … and it is heartening to watch buildings rise from the ground or come back to life in a variety of neighborhoods. (Please note that this information is current at the time of blog posting and is subject to change).

100 West Water

Market-Rate mixed-use development downtown with Chemung River views

Rochester-based Park Grove Realty is the developer behind the 100 West Water Apartments, which will feature 51 market-rate apartments on three stories above ground-floor office and retail. This project is downtown Elmira’s first new construction in decades and will open March 2019. The ground floor will be home to engineering and design firm Labella PC and other businesses to be determined. For more information, click here for the 100 West Water website. The building is adjacent to the Promenade on Water Street between Railroad Avenue and Main Street.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, tree, bridge, outdoor and nature

The river views from the upper story apartments are spectacular. (courtesy
City of Elmira Code Enforcement on Facebook).

Libertad

Affordable housing with support services within walking distance of downtown

Vecino Group is the developer transforming the former Jones Court complex into Libertad, which will have 91 affordable rental units (including 20 reserved for homeless veterans) and support services. The project is located adjacent to EOP and Ernie Davis Park, on Baldwin and Dickinson Streets. The target date for completion is April 2019. Potential tenants may contact EOP at www.cseop.org or 607.734.6174.

Chemung Crossing

New and renovated housing units in a walkable neighborhood on South Main Street

As stated on the developer’s website, Chemung Crossing is one of the first of its kind in the area, a $15.1 million mixed-use project on South Main Street across from Aldi and adjacent to Gerould’s Pharmacy and Teall’s Tavern. This project includes six new multi-family homes on Henry and Harmon Streets and the rehabilitation of two historic buildings, totaling 45 affordable housing units and 2,482 SF of commercial space. The housing will be income-based and targeted for individuals and families earning from $13,520-$22,400. Housing Visions is accepting residential applications now (315.472.3820 or jstmark@housingvisions.org) and expects to complete the project in March 2019.

Maple Avenue Apartments

New Housing Community to open for seniors in early 2019

CDS is constructing a new senior apartment complex on Maple Avenue in Elmira, with one-bedroom apartments, a fitness complex, laundry rooms, computer stations and other amenities. AIM Independent Living Center is accepting applications for the apartments with availability at the time of this post. The organization will provide ongoing support services for residents in partnership with NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. The CDS Facebook page featuring renderings of the units is here.

Other recent and future housing includes several developments by Capriotti Properties, including the Richardson Row Homes and the Foster House, both on West Water Street, and the Historic Werdenberg Apartments on the corner of West Water and Main Street. Capriotti Properties will also be revitalizing the Arnot Carriage House thanks in part to a New York Main Street awarded December 2018.

Complete Street Grid

Chemung County Complete Streets

A “complete street” refers to the inclusive method of improving roads and the infrastructure around them for all users. This means improving access for motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and those who utilize public transportation. Complete streets are equitable, allowing adults, children, the elderly and the disabled to use road and sidewalks more safely.

Governor Andrew Cuomo passed the Complete Streets Act on August 13, 2011. Since that time, more than 300 New York State municipalities have passed complete streets laws and policies at the county, city, town and village levels. Click here for a list of all municipalities in NYS that have adopted Complete Streets policies.

How is this relevant to Elmiraland, you might ask? The City Council adopted a Complete Streets policy in June 2018, effectively stating the local commitment to a more equitable use of roadways. Going forward, this policy may help the City secure additional funding for the design and construction of safer streets and a network of paths for bicycles and pedestrians. (View the Star Gazette article here).

What makes a street “complete”?

Complete Street Grid

Various methods and investments in infrastructure make up a complete street. These may include:

  1. Visible and safe sidewalks and paths
  2. Distinguishable bicycle lanes
  3. Clear signage
  4. Well-maintained crosswalks
  5. Traffic calming methods such as medians or curb bump-outs
  6. On-street parking
  7. Bicycle infrastructure
  8. Bus lanes

These solutions can range in price (from low-cost to high) and implementation (some municipalities could paint bike lanes on their streets in a few days while other strategies such as dedicated cycle tracks or light rail could be years in the making.) The one thing all of these characteristics have in common is that they improve safety for all users.

Why do we need complete streets in Chemung County?

To increase safety.

Bicycling and walking through busy areas can be intimidating, especially since American planners and engineers a generation ago designed most cities and roads to cater to cars. As a result, many cities and neighborhoods are not particularly pedestrian- or bike-friendly. Within Elmira, the city is working on several projects downtown to slow traffic, install bike lanes and upgrade sidewalks; for example, the pending improvement of West Water Street is an example of a complete streets project.

To increase social engagement.

Many stakeholders are working locally to improve our older mixed-use neighborhoods while creating a more vibrant downtown with a variety of housing types and attractive amenities to attract and retain residents. Making the streets more comfortable for all users and providing them with opportunities to interact with one another will help make Elmira a more attractive place to live and visit!

To increase connectivity and equity.

Complete streets are responsible for more than improving travel infrastructure. Complete streets work to enhance connectivity, filling gaps within low-access communities (those that may currently lack sidewalks, bike lanes or transit options). Like all communities, the municipalities within Chemung County can benefit from social, economic and environmental goals that complete streets help to promote. The strategies mentioned above help to foster strong communities and economies.


Social

Complete Streets provide a means for social interaction between residents and business owners who end up sharing public spaces more frequently. The City of Elmira and Chemung County are already promoting some complete streets strategies through implementation of the City of Elmira Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) strategies.

Economic

When people feel comfortable walking, biking, and parking in commercial areas, they are able to spend more time contributing into the local economy.

Environmental

Users of local infrastructure will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (primarily through auto-related pollution) when public transportation, biking, or walking is safe and comfortable.


For communities to be livable, their public spaces should make everyone feel welcome. Photo:
NACTO.org

Chicken Wings from the Elbow Room in Elmira, NY

The Best Wings in Elmira (a brave opinion)

Upstate NY, “the hotbed for hot wings” as I’ve often called it; where every city has their own local spots that the citizens will say have the best wings out of anywhere. Elmira is no different.

I’ll start off by saying you can’t go wrong with any of these five options when you’re on the hunt to get your wing fix, but if you have lived in Elmira for any extended period of time, I’m willing to bet you know which two will be at the top. It’s an argument as old as time: Elbow Room vs. Bernie Murray’s. Everyone has their personal favorite, the place they need to go if they’ve left town for a while and need to get their favorite Elmira meal to make them feel right at home. I go back and forth between the two and have spent many sleepless nights deciding which one I will publicly claim as number one.

Well, I’ll stop wasting your time with the ranting and start wasting your time with my rankings. Here it goes:

1. Elbow Room

Like I said, this was an extremely difficult decision, but Elbow Room edged out Bernie Murray’s and the others for the top spot. The wings are amazing and what really pushed it over the top for me was the bleu cheese. While it isn’t part of the actual wing, it is part of the overall wing experience and given how close the two were, that is what broke the tie for me. The wings are crispy, delicious, and just all around fantastic, can’t beat ‘em! Preference: Hot with an extra bleu cheese (stingers if I’m feeling crazy)

2. Bernie Murray’s

Another establishment that is vital to the wing culture in Elmira, amazing wings that come out hot and crispy every time. What makes them a little bit different than Elbow Room is the sauce; the taste is pretty similar to Elbow Room but the consistency is a bit thicker which makes them stick to the wings better. Not sure if it’s less butter or how they go about it, but it’s fantastic. Look for them to contend again in 2019. Preference: Medium

3. OIP

This may be considered a sleeper pick – you don’t always hear them in the conversation for the best wings, but I personally love them (the pizza is amazing, too). The char grilled wings are delectable, and are great for when you’re looking for a change up from a normal wing. If you haven’t tried them yet make sure to move them to the top of your list. Preference: Garlic Parmesan

4. Pudgie’s

The wings at Pudgie’s remind me a lot of Elmira. To the outside eye maybe not the prettiest, maybe a little messy, but once you get familiar with them they will hold a special place in your heart forever. For Elmira natives, you’ve probably eaten these wings at pretty much every birthday party you’ve been to since the beginning of time. A party pack also makes for a great recovery Sunday meal if you spent your Saturday night at one of the local watering holes, as Elmirans have been known to do. Preference: Medium

5. Green Derby

I’m breaking the traditional mold here, and I may catch some heat for it, but that’s the risk you take when you get into hard hitting journalism pieces like this. Number Five for me is the popcorn chicken at Green Derby. Some might say that they aren’t wings, and this very well could be true, but I couldn’t write this article without including them, so feel free to berate me in the comments. Some prefer the larger boneless wings, but for me the popcorn chicken has been incredible every time, a true can’t-miss meal. Preference: Cattleman’s Gold

That’s my list; it ended up being a bit longer than I originally anticipated but it’s tough not to ramble when you’re discussing something you’re passionate about. I look forward to hearing about what I may have missed, or what your personal favorites are!

Opinions bravely contributed to Elmiraland by Mav Timson.

Brie and Hank - Chemung River - STEAM Ahead

Full STEAM Ahead

Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math, that is. A collaboration between eight Chemung County agencies is mid-way through a year full of free and seriously awesome programming for kids at three Elmira community centers.

Frontline, Transformations, and Southside community center kids get to do hands-on and creative activities:

  • The first program was Sept. 20th at the Southside Community Center when the Science and Discovery Center, in Elmira, taught the children at the center how to build cardboard and wooden ribs, that when joined together, form a lightweight, but sturdy wing.
  • The Chemung County Historical Society focuses on birds and local history, like the story of the last Labrador Duck killed in Elmira; and the heavy use of birds and feathers in ladies’ hats during the Victorian era. Kids get to create their own bird-friendly hats!
  • Tanglewood introduce students to live native owl and hawk, and share how birds live, eat, nest, fly and migrate.
  • Community Arts of Elmira and the students use birds as inspiration for art and poetry projects to be displayed at a public reception at the end of the program.
  • Chemung River Friends teaches the students about the fish hawks that live and nest on the Chemung River, and leads students on a guided hike to a river osprey nest.
  • At the Corning Museum of Glass, students go bird watching in the museum’s galleries, identifying birds in glass and exploring how birds inspired glassmakers throughout history.

The program is financed with a $4,682 grant from the Triangle Fund in Corning, and a $500 grant from the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes. 

Well, the kids are having a blast, learning a ton, getting their creative genius on, and exploring outside. Tanglewood educator Laine Sempler has been impressed with the children participating in the program: “The way I teach a lot of times – I ask questions, and they teach me, so I get to know what knowledge the kids already have and where we can keep investigating. At Transformations, the older kids were really engaging the younger kids and encouraging them to ask questions and fill in the gaps. The older kids were great models in science! All of the children really enjoyed meeting Sophie the Great-Horned Owl as well – their eyes were almost as big as hers!”

At the end of the year, the children will have a gallery opening to show community members what they have created and learned over the course of STEAM Ahead Chemung.