INTRODUCTION TO SUMMARY REPORT
City Island, part of Community District 10 in
the Bronx, is located at the western end of Long
Island Sound, with a narrow bridge connecting
it to the eastern shore of the Bronx. It is only
about a mile-and-a-half long and a half-mile wide
at its widest point, and the island's main street,
City Island Avenue, runs the length of the island
from the bridge to the southern end at Belden
Starting in the early nineteenth century the
island's location on the Sound and near New York
City helped to create a thriving local economy
based on water-dependent industry, trade and services.
The practice of oyster cultivation in the United
States is said to have originated here, and was
an important part of the island's economy until
pollution and politics ended it by the early twentieth
century. From the middle of the nineteenth through
the better part of the twentieth century City
Island's main industry was boat building, along
with ancillary trades such as sailmaking. All
kinds of wooden boats were built here, ranging
from small skiffs to large cargo schooners. City
Island gained a reputation for the finely crafted
cruising and racing yachts built and serviced
here; its place in history was sealed when it
built five America's Cup winners in a row.
During the First and Second World Wars, City
Island boatyards remained busy with Navy contract
orders for small vessels such as minesweepers
and landing craft. After World War II boatbuilding
declined as an active industry on City Island
and many of the boatyards have been converted
to other uses. Today the island is primarily residential,
and is best known for its popular seafood restaurants.
Several marinas, yacht clubs and marine businesses
continue to operate on the island. But over time
the economy of the island has shifted away from
marine manufacturing to one dominated by marine
services and restaurants.
In 1994 New York State designated City Island
as one of 17 "historic maritime communities"
along Long Island Sound. The state Historic Centers
of Maritime Activity Act recognized that each
of these communities possesses a special heritage
that arises from its location on the Sound and
from its tradition of maritime and water-related
activities. To varying degrees and in different
ways in each community the maritime heritage is
palpably present. On City Island, it is evident
in a bustling marina, the remnants of an old pier,
a graceful waterfront promenade, a cluster of
carefully maintained nineteenth century homes,
or just a tantalizing glimpse of the Sound. These
are examples of "historic maritime resources,"
broadly defined. They help to give City Island
and other historic maritime communities their
special character and often a special economic
niche, and are thus valuable, often deeply cherished
assets to the community.
Of the 17 historic maritime centers, three are
located in Westchester, three in Nassau, and eight
in Suffolk. City Island is the only such community
located in Bronx County, and in fact the only
one that is part of New York City rather than
its own incorporated village or municipality.
Each historic maritime community has its unique
set of issues, resources, community concerns and
overall planning goals. Thus the Act envisioned
that each community would take stock of its historic
maritime resources and eventually develop its
own plan, tailored to the community's special
needs, in order to determine how best to protect,
manage and celebrate them.
In 1998 the New York State Department of State
awarded a grant to the Department of City Planning
to conduct the City Island Maritime Heritage Preservation
Study as part of the New York City Waterfront
Revitalization Program. The grant provided the
opportunity to explore and define City Island's
maritime heritage, to identify the community's
historic maritime resources, and to consider ways
in which to preserve and enhance those resources.
This report, along with the accompanying technical
reports, reflects the results of the work that
was done on different aspects of the City Island
Maritime Heritage Preservation Study. The summary
report analyzes a range of issues affecting the
community and recommends zoning and planning strategies
to address them. The technical reports include:
Maritime History of City Island and There is an
Island: City Island's Growth and Development.
These narrative research papers help to establish
what it means to refer to the Island's "maritime
heritage" from a historical standpoint. They
focus on City Island's past, and reveal the island's
lively and fascinating history.
Island Maritime Industries Assessment,
prepared by the Department's consultant on the
study, the planning firm of Buckhurst Fish &
Jacquemart. This report examines the current state
of City Island's water-dependent businesses and
uses, particularly marinas and yacht clubs; describes
the issues impacting on their viability; and explores
ways to strengthen them and ensure their continued
presence on the island for the future.
These reports, as well as a preliminary survey
of the island's architecturally significant buildings
to be issued separately, reflect an attempt to
take stock of the island's historic maritime resources
in many of its aspects and to lay a foundation
for further discussion and community-based planning
efforts. These reports do not constitute the Department's
master plan for City Island. Rather, they lay
out a "menu" of opportunities, elements
of which the community can decide to pursueor
not. In addition, these reports may serve as reference
tools that might be used in a variety of ways.
The historical narratives can help to
acquaint newcomers to the island's history, increase
long-time residents' awareness as to some of the
finer details, and foster community pride in the
Island's illustrious heritage. They can also provide
a basis for further research and be used in conjunction
with applications for historic site designations.
Marinas and other water-dependent businesses
can use the Maritime Industries Assessment report
as a keystone document for working together to
address their common needs and to enlist the support
of elected officials and others to help solve
some of the problems.
Community organizations seeking funding
for certain programs may wish to include relevant
portions of the report to lend extra support to
their grants applications.
Finally, this package of reports is the tangible
evidence of the work that was performed on the
City Island Maritime Heritage Preservation Study.
But there was a very important intangible result
as well. The study provided opportunities in which
community members could participate in structured
yet informal forums in order to discuss some of
the island's issues. This was particularly true
of the two Public Workshops that were conducted
as part of the Maritime Industries Assessment.
During these workshops, marina owners, yacht club
representatives, residents and others actively
participated in small roundtables on selected
topics and then assembled into a larger group
to share their views and ideas. The evening forums
were well-attended, lively and very positive events,
and the Island Current's timely and detailed
reports on them informed a larger audience. Community
members were instrumental in helping to frame
the issues considered and ultimately the recommendations
a map of City Island Land Use