When exiting the terminus station of the 6 Train at Pelham Bay Park in The Bronx, one is surrounded by dilapidated strip plazas, high rise apartment buildings and the clotted arteries and exit ramps of I-95. Roughly ten minutes after hopping on the Bx29 at this very location, the scenery immediately transforms into a setting evocative of a small New England coastal village.
Once a part of Westchester County, today’s City Island is part of The Bronx; however, its regional color is more closely associated with a sleepy New England seaside community. Barely one and a half miles long, and only a half of a mile wide, this small stretch of land is connected to the mainland by one bridge and is home to 4,200 people. Upon exiting the bus at the corner of Fordham Street, the sweet smell of lobster and crab meat will lure any seafood aficionado down City Island Avenue past the countless quaint harbor side eateries. Because the island is driven by tourism, finding a quick bite on a clam-tight budget can be difficult; however, Johnny’s World Famous Reef located at 2 City Island Avenue is open during the spring and summer months and is highly recommended. An elderly woman pushing a whicker shopping basket across Ditmars Street outside of New York City’s only IGA Grocery suggested the City Island Lobster House for the best food and The Harbor for the best views. (A distant Midtown Manhattan can be seen from nearly all streets on the west side of the Island).
Aside from restaurants, City Island Avenue is defined by a small number of galleries, varied antique stores and non- franchise establishments such as the local pharmacy and hardware store. These family owned shops which are typically set in tiny, yet rustic two story houses dating from the early nineteenth century contribute to the atmosphere of a quaint New England town where the fences are picketed as opposed to wrought iron. Unlike the countless Catholic sanctuaries that ornately beautify the five boroughs, City Island is contrastive as it contains only a handful of simple wooden shingled and brick churches which are or once were Protestant.
Spring and fall are the best times of year to visit City Island as most establishments are open and the traffic is not heavily congested as it is during the peak summer months. The easiest way to access the island from Manhattan is to take the Bronx bound 6 Train to Pelham Bay Park Station and transfer to the City Island bound Bx29 bus. For more information about City Island, visit their website.