A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: City Island

New York City can be quiet. New York City can be peaceful. And, most surprisingly, New York City can be quaint.

This is what one learns when one ventures far to the east of Riverdale – to City Island, on the other side of The Bronx. A small mile-and-a-half-long island in the Long Island Sound, City Island has developed a reputation for being New York City’s only “small fishing village.”

The nautical atmosphere on City Island is real. There are countless seafood restaurants and seafood shops – many of which are located directly on the water.

At the heart of the island is City Island Ave., which runs the length of the island from the City Island Bridge at the north end, all the way to the southern tip of the island.

City Island Ave. is an ideal walking destination. Along this strip are the Island’s small businesses, which include antique shops, restaurants, grocery stores and an unexpectedly large number of tackle shops.

Near the corner of Fordham St. is City Island’s center of commerce. This is where the greatest concentration of shops and restaurants are located, including the humble City Island Diner, Papa John’s Deli and the New York Public Library.

Located near this intersection is Kaleidoscope Gallery, a novelty toy and nic-nac store. Kaleidoscope Gallery features a wide collection of novelty items, including locally made candles, soaps and home décor.

city island 2
Photo by Stephen Zubrycky

On City Island Ave., just north of Hawkins St. is Filomena’s Pizza, an old-school slice-joint which offers a plethora of traditional pizza variations.

At the south end is Sammy’s, which occupies several blocks on either side of City Island Ave. In addition to serving up classic American seafood variations, Sammy’s and its constituent restaurants (Sammy’s Fish Box, Sammy’s Shrimp Box, and others), offer sweeping views off either side of the island.

Next to Sammy’s is the storied Lobster Box restaurant, another American-style seafood restaurant which overlooks the Long Island Sound.

For a dose of City Island history, the City Island Nautical Museum offers exhibitions on the Island’s history and fishing heritage. Located on Fordham St., just east of City Island Ave., the museum is open on Saturday and Sunday.

City Island is home to a handful of parks. At the north end of the island, near the City Island Bridge, is a small community park, with many benches overlooking the Sea Shore Restaurant, the Pelham Bay and the mainland Bronx.

City Island is not accessible by subway, only by car or bus. City Island Road, the aptly named road which connects the bridge to the mainland, is especially quaint. The road winds through several traffic circles in a woodsy atmosphere in Pelham Bay Park, New York City’s largest public park.

The atmosphere on City Island is much different from the atmosphere of the rest of The Bronx – or of New York City, for that matter. It’s more suburban, it’s more quaint, and it’s markedly quieter. The sidewalks are empty (during the non-summer months). The atmosphere is really more reminiscent of a New England shore town.

It’s no wonder that one of City Island’s epithets is “Martha’s Vineyard with a Bronx accent.”

City Island provides a getaway – a quick escape from the chaos and sensory overload that can be characteristic of New York City life.

However, as one crosses the City Island Bridge, one can very plainly see the tall spires of the Manhattan skyline – an ever present reminder that this is still New York. And that is the beauty of this place – a small, homey place to get away to – without really having to get away.