The next time you take a drive up the Cross Bronx Expressway, past Pelham Bay Park, hop off exit 8B, make a right, and you’ll find yourself in . . . Cape Cod?
Not quite, but the charmingly rickety wooden bridge, with its sign welcoming visitors to City Island, the “Seaport of the Bronx,” should be your first clue that your destination is more New England fishing village than sprawling New York metropolis. Boat makers here have built five America’s Cup winners, and yacht clubs, sailing schools, marinas, and even houseboats dot the shores of this picturesque nook overlooking Eastchester Bay and Long Island Sound. The teardrop-shaped Victorian lights illuminating City Island Avenue, the beautiful period architecture lining Schofield Street, and the near perpetual fog lend the area an anachronistic, Hopper-esque feel. Indeed, the area is so isolated that the Department of Transportation has misspelled at least one City Island street sign (just ask the residents of “Willim” Avenue) and the stretch of Minnieford Avenue between Fordham and Caroll streets remained unpaved until just three years ago! Despite the area’s provincial air, don’t mistake City Islanders for your average local yokels: City Island is home to three art galleries, a host of historical and maritime museums, antique shops, the best seafood outside of Le Bernardin or the Blue Water Grill, and the only authentic auberge français in all of New York City.
Main Drags: City Island Avenue
Transportation: Drive. Please. Taking public transportation to City Island is a logistical nightmare, but if you must, take the 6 train to Pelham Bay Park, then jump on the BX29 bus to City Island. You can also take the D or B train to Fordham Road, then take the BX12 to Pelham Bay, then take the BX29 to City Island.
Average Price to Rent: One-bedroom, $800 to $1200; two-bedroom, $1200 to $1600; three-bedroom, $1600 to $2000. Summer rentals are also available.
Average Price to Buy: This is City Island. There are no co-ops or condos. A one-bedroom house sells for about $250,000; two-bedroom, $300,000; and three-bedroom, $400,000.
Cultural Institutions: The Focal Point Gallery (321 City Island Avenue) showcases the work of emerging local photographers and sells handmade jewelry and crafts. The City Island Nautical Museum (190 Fordham Street) features guided tours, lectures, paintings, and memorabilia from the 18th century to the present. The North Wind Undersea Institute (610 City Island Avenue), founded by ’60s rocker Richie Havens and former Navy SEAL Michael Sandlofer, houses old scrimshaws, whale and shark bones, a 100-year-old tugboat, and rare sea animals. The Institute also helps nurse injured and ill marine animals back to health.
Best Restaurants: Cruise along City Island Avenue, close your eyes, and pick one. Standouts include the Original Crab Shanty (361 City Island Avenue), where you can get a platter heaped with lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, and scallops for $24.95. If your taste runs toward yummy yet inexpensive fried fish, sit at one of the outdoor picnic tables at Johnny’s Famous Reef (2 City Island Avenue) and take in the rowdy ambience and the unbelievable view of the Throgs Neck Bridge. If you like live music with your lobster, head to Tito Puente’s (64 City Island Avenue), where most nights feature live salsa in the spirit of El Rey himself. The venerable Lobster Box (34 City Island Avenue) boasts 17 different ways to serve shrimp and 22 for lobster.
Best Bars: The Boat Livery (663 City Island Avenue) is the kind of one-stop shop for beer, bait, and fishing tackle one would find only on City Island. Stop by for the $1 Buds or rent a boat from the owner and go fishing. When you hear the bartender’s bell signaling the start of happy hour, head to Rhodes Seafood Pub (288 City Island Avenue), where patrons request a plate of steamers with their suds.
Happenings: The City Island Fall Fair, held every year on September 21 to commemorate the birthday of the City Island Bridge, features arts, crafts, antiques, and a clam chowder competition between island eateries. Every August, Hawkins Street Park hosts the Taste of City Island, where local restaurants show off their culinary delights.
Local Politicians: City Councilwoman Madeline Provenzano, Assemblyman Stephen B. Kaufman, Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey, all Democrats, and State Senator Guy J. Velella, a Republican.
Crime Stats: The 45th Precinct serves both City Island and Co-op City. As of October 20, it reported 3 murders, down 2 from last year; 16 rapes, down 5; 158 robberies, up 15; 126 felonious assaults, down 20; and 249 burglaries, down 50.