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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.


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.


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


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:

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.

Chemung River - Elmira, NY

Chemung County’s Free Water Park

Did you know that Chemung County has a FREE water park?

It’s called the Chemung River. It winds through our backyards and offers thrills, adventures and discoveries — on and in the water and along its banks and trails.

You can paddle, fish, wade and cool off in the river current. You can hike, bike, cross-country ski, watch birds and click spectacular nature photographs on the trails, levees and grassy banks. The river’s 10 public boat launches make it easy to access and enjoy paddle trips for a few hours to a few days.

We sometimes forget or don’t appreciate nature’s flowing water park.  Too bad, because it’s a convenient and accessible destination for fresh-air recreation, education and a reconnection with nature and the river valley’s serene beauty.

That valley is a magical place where water, air and soil come together in a trinity of habitats brimming with plants, animals, fish and awe-inspiring wonder.  You never know what you will see or experience, but you will always come away with good memories and river tales.

Our water park is a convenient place for outdoor exercise and for hands-on-and- feet-wet education about our environment, our place in it and our responsibility to protect and respect it.

The water park is open year-round, but the busy season begins this month when thousands of local folks, families, tourists and sportsmen and sportswomen take to the water and trails to enjoy some of Chemung County’s greatest natural resources – water, trails and outdoor recreation.

Our region is water wealthy. We are rich in rivers – Chemung, Tioga, Conhocton, Cowanesque, Canisteo and Susquehanna — and blessed with the Finger Lakes. Unfortunately too few people enjoy these blessings.

I invite you to do so. Hike the Chemung River trails in West Elmira or the grassy winding levee on the city’s Southside. Paddle a canoe, kayak or paddle board on the water. Ride a bike or walk your dog on the hard-paced dirt trails or the flat and grassy river plains.

Drop a hook, line and worm in the water and maybe catch a walleye, bass, pike or pan fish. While you wait, look for soaring bald eagles doing their own fishing, turtles sunning on a log or great blue herons standing stilt-still in the riffles.

Need a rest? Sit in the grass with your feet in the water and simply watch and listen to the river flow. Feel the breeze caressing your cheeks, the sun warming your shoulders and the cool water massaging your toes.  There is no prescription medication that’s relieves stress and wash away the day’s annoyances, than river sitting. And there is no co-payment.

All it takes is your decision to give it a try. Visit our river, enjoy it and discover what it can do for you, your family and our community.

It’s free, accessible, open 24/7, no waiting in long lines, you never know what you are going to experience and you will learn much about the outdoors and yourself.


This has been a guest post by:

Jim Pfiffer
Executive Director, Chemung River Friends 

FLX House, Finger Lakes House, Elmira

FLX House Review

On a snowy, wintry night, sometimes you give into inertia and pile three to twelve blankets on yourself and extend a chilly digit or two out from underneath your heat nest only to affirm with a click “Yes, Netflix, I am still alive, if not necessarily well, and I do indeed want to watch another nine solid hours of this series.” (Just… just me?)

But sometimes I’m brave enough to stomp out into the snow. Recently, I walked over to the Finger Lakes House, a very short walk from the historic West Side and from downtown.

“Sometimes” is going to become “very often” if the restaurant keeps up with their fascinating revolving tap options, deep B-side cuts from the region’s breweries, and straight-up delicious food.

Anyway, my ear muffs and I are glad we went out.


There were too many obscure, interesting, mysterious options to limit myself to a pint. So my husband and I went for two flights – me and my dark porters/stouts/interesting reds, and he with his might-as-well-be-bludgeoned-by-a-pine-tree hoppy IPAs. There was a striking diversity of breweries represented on the menu, some I’d not heard of before, and a ton of beers that I know I’ve never seen at Wegmans. Finger Lakes Whiteout Wassail was my favorite of my flight – beautiful rich walnut color and a little burnt spice scent on top of a mellow brown ale.

Rotating taps and the enthusiastic curation of the region’s beer renaissance means I will be coming back often to see what’s new.


POTACHOSSSSSSSSSSS. (Kettle chip nachos + three cheeses!) Their take on beer cheese dip with carrots, apples, and soft pretzels was so rich that we cleaned the bowl in minutes.

On a less dairy-indulgent note, we also ordered the sweet potato flatbread with a drizzle of balsamic and it was an amazing savory addition. The food is sized to share several small plates – if they have that flatbread again, we’re each ordering our own next time, and we’ll share one of the cheesy options.


Will demand another investigative journalism trip to the Finger Lakes House. Will be walking over there again in the snow soon!

The house itself is a gorgeous remodeled 1870s row house, just cozy and charming from the pretty tin ceiling down to the long wood table with a custom inset of local river rocks. The level of care in the dining room echoes the owner’s devotion to the local beer and wine.  A sweet respite from the snow and sure to be a sunny space as the days get longer in spring and summer.

It’s an easy five-minute walk from the First Arena to the restaurant. On-street parking is limited; there is a small parking area for customers immediately adjacent.

Puppy by a Selfie Bench

Riverside strolling: Exploring the Lackawanna Rail Trail Expansion

After driving by the parking area on Water Street exit roughly two thousand times and each time thinking, “I really ought to go investigate that soon,” I finally made it down the extension of the Lackawanna Rail Trail. The trail has been an easy bike ride through the city for a few years now, and the extension from the Water St. parking lot to the Lowman crossover opened in November 2017.  The trail is a very gentle 8.7 miles from one end to the other – ideal for bikers, joggers, and wheelchair friendly (built to ADA standards). The trail is not plowed in winter, which means if good powder falls and you’re quick on the draw, it’s probably a very nice cross-country ski. Because it’s flat and straight, so it’s easy to get into a groove and hold a steady pace.

If you’re less speedy and more curious, then it’s an unexpectedly great walk. You might think that an urban trail that follows the highway would be boring and bereft of nature, but hey, it’s the opposite! Armed with my binoculars and leashed dog, I moseyed along looking into the woods. Because the trail is balanced between the highway and the edge of the river, where there traditionally has not been much in the way of foot traffic, the wildlife still seems unused to humans (and dogs) coming right up to into their habitat. I saw dozens of species of birds, including a juvenile bald eagle and a red-tailed hawk with a talonful of squirrel, and even more bird nests – at least ten Baltimore Oriole nests, hanging like little baskets of dryer lint from the spindliest of twigs. The bright black-and-orange songbirds will be livening up the trail soon as they migrate back in spring. This forest-river ecotone is rich with wildlife! My dog found fox scat, and didn’t to eat it or roll in it, so it was a glorious day for both of us.

And what I absolutely loved the most after the eagle sighting was the ability to linger and take in the bend in the river. I adore that view upsteam – roughly just before the exit sign to Elmira heading west on I-86 – but since I usually just the briefest of sidelong glimpses while zipping home on the highway, I’ve never gotten to really relish the view. I can tell you now with confidence that it’s a beautiful sunset on that bend in the Chemung. Well worth the hour-ish walk on the Lackawanna trail.

Three surprises from my stroll:

  1. Impressive number of birds, from songbirds to waterfowl to raptors.
  2. Highway noise not bad at all! For a walk immediately parallel to the highway, the traffic noise wasn’t very loud. I’d suspected it would be more unpleasant but I was able to tune it out easy, and you’d be able to carry a conversation with no trouble.
  3. There are lovely benches along the trail for resting. But – this is totally mystifying to me – they face the highway. If I were inclined to sit and rest along this trail, my personal preference would be to look out over the Chemung River, watch some osprey fishing, see some folks enjoying a canoe paddle, take in the autumn foliage on a warm day. But the benches have you sitting and observing the traffic. Though once I asked my dog to sit in front of the scenic river, and walked over the other side of the trail to take her photo at the bend, it occurred to me…. they might be… selfie benches!