City Island: A nautical village in the Bronx


Walking down the quiet streets of City Island, you might need to keep reminding yourself, yes, you’re in the Bronx.

The architecture of the island, with its mix of cottages, shingled houses and Victorian-style homes, suggests a New England fishing village instead of New York City.

But though its island-vibe gives the impression of a vacation town, and visitors from other boroughs come to dock their boats on weekend evenings in the summer to dine at its seafood restaurants, businesses here not seasonal.

Instead, it’s a year-round residential town where, according to locals, everyone knows each other.

“If you sneeze, someone from a few blocks away will say ‘bless you,’” said Keith Trauceniek, 43, manager of the Seashore Restaurant at 591 City Island Ave.

There are plenty of places to get your fried fish fix, including Sammy’s Fish Box at 41 City Island Ave. and Johnny’s Reef, with gorgeous waterfront views, at 2 City Island Ave.

Well-dressed folks head to fancier places like the Sea Shore, at 591 City Island Ave., and City Island Lobster House, at 691 Bridge St., for more upscale meals.

And for those with different tastes, there are non-seafood restaurants such as Bistro SK at 273 City Island Ave., which claims to be the only French restaurant in the Bronx, and newcomer Archie’s Tap and Table, at 536 City Island Ave., known for its farm-to-table menu.

City Island Avenue is the island’s main artery; it runs the entire length of the neighborhood and is home to the vast majority of its businesses. The necessities of city living are all present — one gas station, one laundromat, two groceries.

The community is small, 1½-miles long by ½-mile wide, and is home to about 4,500 residents.

The island is located east of Pelham Bay Park and is connected to the mainland Bronx by bridge.

Many residents and visitors reach the island by car.

Its only school, P.S. 175, which serves 348 students in grades K-8, is also on City Island Avenue. High school students commute off-island for school, either by car or the Bx29 bus, which makes 10 stops on City Island and connects to the Pelham Bay 6 train station.

The rest of the island is almost exclusively residential. It’s a vision of small-town America with tree-lined streets and two-story homes with front and back yards.

Boating is a popular pastime for City Island residents. It has four active marinas — the Harlem, South Minneford, City Island and Morris Beach yacht clubs — where boaters from the island, as well as many others from locations such as New Jersey and Long Island, moor their vessels.

The New York Sailing Center at 231 Kirby St. offers instructional classes in sailing, including a three-day introductory course for beginners, and Jacks Bait and Tackle at 551 City Island Ave. rents out four-person motorboats.

But while it is a nautical place, City Island has no public beaches, though it does have several small, private man-made beaches behind locked gates at the dead ends of residential streets.

Residents of these streets can purchase a key to access to access the waterfront.

For the peace and quiet-seeking New Yorkers looking to make a move to the island, there are properties available — but they aren’t numerous, and they tend to sell quickly, according to Ramona Vincenty, a broker with Citi Habitats and City Island resident.

“You have the advantage of living in New York City, but it’s like vacation living,” she said. “When you cross that bridge you are in a whole different world.”

According to StreetEasy, the median sales price for homes and townhomes sold on City Island in 2015 was $430,000. The website had no rental listings for the island as of press time.

If sales prices seem low for such a picturesque community, Robert Carmody, 59, owner of Atlantic Emeritus Realty at 300 City Island Ave., said that is changing.

“Prices are rising ... but we are still in the Bronx, so prices are still lower than many other neighborhoods in the city,” he said.

He added that he is seeing an increasing number of young professionals with families relocate from Brooklyn and Manhattan to buy homes on the island.

Along with private houses, there are some new developments in the mix, such as On The Sound, a 43-unit condo complex that opened in 2015.

Despite the developments, the island has kept its small-town feel, according to locals like Paul Klein, 58, vice president of the City Island Chamber of Commerce and owner of the Kaleidoscope art gallery at 280 City Island Ave.

“This is an amazing island,” said Klein, a 22-year resident. “It’s such a bucolic place.”

Find it:

City Island is located off the east coast of the Bronx. The only road that goes to it is City Island Road, which goes over a bridge from the Bronx.

Ohana

500 City Island Ave.

A Japanese hibachi steakhouse that features a special eight-course dinner mixing in Puerto Rican cuisine.

Ohanany.com

City Island Diner

304 City Island Ave.

Hearty breakfasts, juicy burgers and egg creams keep the longtime locals happy at this neighborhood favorite.

718-885-0362

Bistro SK

273 City Island Ave.

Enjoy old-school French dishes like escargots persilles and confit de danard at the island's only French restaurant.

Bistrosk.com

(Credit: Linda Rosier)

Starving Artist Cafe and Gallery

249 City Island Ave.

A cafe/coffee house that has offered a space for local artists to display their work for nearly two decades. An eclectic lineup of live music on the weekends draws lively crowds.

Starvingartistonline.com

The Snug

302 City Island Ave.

Guinness on tap and the fish and chips are highlights at this Irish pub.

Facebook.com/TheSnugCI

Fella's

522 City Island Ave.

The spot for cheap beer and funny conversations with locals.

Facebook.com/FellasBarandGrill

(Credit: Linda Rosier)

Jack's Bait and Tackle

551 City Island Ave.

A City Island staple since 1945 offering four-person motorboat rentals and all the gear you need to reel in the big one.

Jacksbaitandtackle.com

239 Play

239 City Island Ave.

The new brick-and-mortar space for Dan Treiber, a lifelong City Islander who sells memorabilia off his website, dansparentshouse.com.

Dansparentshouse.com

Amadiz Cigar

470 City Island Ave.

Find a large selection of cigars hand-rolled in-store and imported from the Dominican Republic.

718-885-1363

(Credit: Linda Rosier)

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City Island Theater Group

116 City Island Ave.

Mostly-local actors bring to life a mix of classics and more recent selections of musicals and drama for reasonable prices at this island nonprofit.

Cityislandtheatergroup.com

City Island Nautical Museum

190 Fordham St.

Open on weekends, this public school-turned-museum details City Island's rich shipbuilding history.

Cityislandmuseum.org

Belden Point

Southern end of City Island Avenue

A newly-opened greenspace that offers spectacular views of the Long Island Sound.

(Credit: Linda Rosier)

Buses

Bx29, BxM8 Express

(Credit: Getty Images)

Median sales price: $413,500

Number of units on market: 16

(Source: StreetEasy)

(Credit: Linda Rosier)

The 1912 edition of "Richard III," the oldest American feature length film for which a complete print still exists, was shot on City Island. The waterfront home at 21 Tier St. was used as the location for the Tenenbaum family summer home in Wes Anderson's 2001 comedy-drama, "The Royal Tenenbaums."

(Credit: Linda Rosier)

A wall of memories is stretching down City Island Avenue.

During all the 42 years he has lived on City Island, photographer Ron Terner has taken pictures of its residents. He estimates that the number of portraits he has shot throughout his career number in the high hundreds.

Now Terner, 67, who is also the owner of the Focal Point Gallery at 321 City Island Ave., is displaying some of those pictures in public to honor his subjects who have passed away.

The memorial, which consists of 104 portraits posted on a wooden wall in front of a marina at 521 City Island Ave., celebrates the lives of the deceased City Islanders who he said helped shape the character of the community.

"I see myself as a keeper of memories," Terner said.

Two years ago, before a reunion scheduled for former City Island residents in August 2014, Terner began thinking about the many portraits he'd taken, and how a growing number of the people in his photos had passed away. He began applying some of his pictures to the rocks overlooking the Long Island Sound in Ambrosini Park, where the reunion was to take place.

The response from reunion-goers was overwhelmingly positive, so Terner approached developer Haim Joseph, owner of the City Island Avenue property, about posting the photos there. Joseph was enthusiastic about the project and Terner created the tribute in early 2015.

"When I first started there were about 80 pictures up," said Terner. "You can see how that has grown."

The wall, approximately half a block long, features a striking array of images. Black and white photos of aged men and women taken in the early 1970s sit next to newer, color pictures -- including some of teenaged City Islanders.

"It's depressing in one way, but nice in another," said Joe Burck, 72, a lifelong City Island resident and owner of JJ Burck Hardware and Marine, directly across the street from the memorial. "It can be hard to see so many people you know on the wall."

(Credit: Linda Rosier)

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Alex Pertsovsky, 34, a City Island resident since 2002, is the chef and owner of Archie's Tap and Table at 536 City Island Ave. Pertsovsky is a Culinary Institute of America graduate who worked at several of acclaimed French chef Jean-George Vongerichten's restaurants, including the now-closed Vong on East 54th Street in Manhattan. He opened Archie's last June, bringing his version of locally-sourced, upscale comfort food to City Island, where he lives with his wife and son.

What was your inspiration for Archie's?

It's named for my father, who was a yellow cab driver for 30 years and worked his butt off to put me through culinary school. That's why the seating along the wall is taxicab yellow, in honor of him.

Is running a restaurant on City Island uniquely challenging?

Yes. It's a tougher neighborhood to run a restaurant, for sure. People tend to come to the island by car, and there's not a lot of parking for small places like mine. But we are building a following.

Did islanders need variety from seafood eateries?

Absolutely. We have craft beer and try to source locally as much of our menu as possible. I think there are people who see the value in that, and are willing to take a chance.

What are your favorite recreational things here?

I like to go to the beach with my 2-year-old son and spend time with him. With Archie's I am trying to build something that, when he is older, he can look and say, "Wow, my dad did that."

(Credit: Patrick McGovern)

 

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