Gritty Bronx enclave City Island wants to become the Martha’s Vineyard of the outer boroughs. But can they pull it off?
- Last Updated: 11:48 AM, June 6, 2012
- Posted: 11:12 PM, June 5, 2012
Drive five minutes through Pelham Bay Park — with its two golf courses and 13-mile shoreline — and you’ll stumble upon picturesque City Island, the last stop on the bus driven by Robert De Niro’s character in 1993’s “A Bronx Tale.”
This unique Bronx neighborhood, surrounded by marinas and moored boats, is home to fewer residents (about 4,300) than nearby Orchard Beach has parking spaces (5,600).
But if local business owners have their way, it will soon be the biggest attraction in the five boroughs.
“We’re looking for Manhattanites,” says Chamber of Commerce vice president Paul Klein, owner of City Island’s Kaleidoscope Gallery. More specifically, the organization wants penthouse types, who might otherwise head to Martha’s Vineyard for the weekend, to put City Island on their list of urban escapes. “A lot of [tourists] who come to Manhattan are overwhelmed. We give them a chance to chill out.”
Plagued by empty storefronts and petty crime in recent years, City Islanders are now making a concerted effort to draw day-trippers to their enclave. As part of that effort, the Chamber of Commerce and the New York City Association of Hotel Concierges are organizing City Island Day — a tour for concierges — on June 26.
“People who come tend to eat and leave,” says Barbara Dolensek, vice president of the City Island Historical Society.
“They drive to the end,” agrees Barbara Dennis, a Historical Society board member, referring to the southern tip of the 1.5-mile-long island, where there are five restaurants — including the famed Tony’s Pier Restaurant — within steps of the sea wall. “They miss the cluster of stores [in the middle of the main avenue] because they don’t walk.”
To encourage just that, this year the Historical Society created a self-led walking tour with 25 places of historical interest. You can grab a guide at the Nautical Museum, where there’s a section devoted to the America’s Cup.
The town describes how you can visit the South Minneford Yacht Club, a former shipyard, and the landmarked Delmour’s Point, where “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” were filmed. Afterward, you can grab a cone at an old-timey ice cream stand, or buy a piece of artwork from Kaleidoscope or Focal Point galleries — all a mere 16 miles from Midtown.
If wandering on foot isn’t your thing, the Bronx Seaside Trolley, which runs to City Island from the Pelham Bay 6 train stop (hourly from 5:30-9:30 p.m., on the first Friday of the month), will take you on an hourlong loop.