Several years ago I posted a walk around Chinatown, ending by expressing delight in how a walk of a few blocks in New York City can lead to an environment just as new as you might get by taking a lengthy plane ride. However, in all my time in the city, I had somehow never managed to make it to the Lunar New Year celebration until recently when I went to Chinatown to celebrate the the beginning of the Year of the Dog. My daughter and I arrived about an hour ahead of the parade start on a cold and drizzly day, and were able to be right up against the barricade. By the time the parade started, though, the crowd was packed for at least a block, so I do recommend getting there early if you choose to go.
Traditions for the Lunar New Year include the color red (symbolizing joy as well as virtue, prosperity, and truth), giving money or presents in small envelopes, and making noise to scare off evil spirits. Dragon or lion dances also represent a way to scare off bad things and welcome in a safe and prosperous new year. All of these are represented at Chinatown’s parade. Being at the front of the crowd, my pockets were stuffed by the end with small envelopes filled with tea or candy, fortune cookies, and even a red folding reusable shopping bag with the year of the dog on it. People watching the parade had bought small popping firecrackers that were set off by throwing them against the ground, and huge tubes that shot confetti for 10 or 20 feet.
The parade started out with the NYC police and fire departments, including (incongruously, to me at least) firefighters in kilts with bagpipes playing “76 Trombones.” The rest of the parade was much more what I had expected, however.
The Dragon/Lion dances were my favorite parts of the parade. My daughter pointed out that at times the dance seemed to be very similar to twerking!
The Year of the Dog was prominently celebrated, including a few actual dogs. People born in the Year of the Dog are said to share characteristics with dogs, such as loyalty and exuberance.
I loved this dog made up entirely of balloons.
This group held a series of cut outs of various breeds of dogs.
Another dog, this time a person in costume.
I was interested to find out that this Year of the Dog (a Brown Earth Dog year) is predicted to be a good year, but an exhausting one. The antidote to a stressful year is apparently to wear at least some red every day. I tend to do that already, so here’s to a good Year of the Dog!
As a New Yorker, it was thrilling to watch One World Trade rise for about a decade before its official opening in 2015. I have written before about this revitalized area of the city, now including the Oculus, Westfield and Brookfield shopping areas, and One World Trade, in addition to the reflecting pools on the footprints of the original towers of One World Trade and Two World Trade and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
On a recent cold and clear January day, I visited the One World Trade Observatory and found that it really does provide an enjoyable perspective on the city for those who live here or know it well, in addition to the traditional role of being an attraction for tourists. The entrance to the Observatory is well signed, and can be found either by entering the building from street level on the West Street side or by coming through the Oculus and traveling underground through the Westfield Mall, coming from the east. Tickets can be purchased in advance (which I recommend to save time) or at the ticket office. Tickets are scanned, and then you go through airport-level security. Not only is this not surprising, but it is what we should want security to be, entering such an iconic building. If they find something they don’t allow in the Observatory (my companion had a bottle opener/corkscrew) it is kept until you return, at which time you produce the claim ticket and get it back. As you enter the queue for the elevators, they have done a wonderful job of immersing you in the process of building One World Trade with video interviews from those who helped design and build it. You walk through an example of the Manhattan schist that forms the foundation of this and other skyscrapers in the city. Finally, it is time to enter an elevator.
In the elevator, the walls are full length video screens, which start out showing Manhattan island around the time of the first Dutch settlement, and proceed forward in time as you ascend the building. The elevators are fast – 102 floors in 47 seconds! – and my ears popped both going up and coming back down later. When you exit the elevator, you are in a room with a long horizontal video screen. When everyone is in the room, it plays a short film about everyday life in New York. The real drama, though, occurs at the end when the screen rolls up to reveal the actual view from the top of the building – it was truly thrilling and a great way to present the panoramic view.
So how high up are you? One World Trade is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, standing 1776 feet tall (that height was no coincidence!) but counting the spire, so your height is a little over 1300 feet from the ground. When you are in the Observatory, you are let out on the 102nd floor, which primarily serves as a place to offer iPad guides for rent. Walking down one flight to the 101st floor, there is a restaurant, bar, cafe, and of course the obligatory photo session (you don’t have to participate, and don’t have to buy any photos even if you do).
The 100th floor is the main viewing area. There is also a gift shop – of course – and a presentation geared mainly toward helping visitors to the city figure it out, called City Pulse.
There is also an area that makes it seem as if you are standing on glass looking all the way down to the ground, but it’s simulated.
The real joy of being on the observation level for those who already know and love New York City is to experience an entirely new perspective on the city. If you have ever flown into LaGuardia passing by Manhattan, you get an idea of what the views look like, but unlike peering from a plane, you can spend as much time as you like figuring out all the details of the view in each direction.
Because of the location of One World Trade all the way at the southern tip of Manhattan, some of the most spectacular views are looking north. That is what they show you when the screen is initially lifted on the 102nd floor to reveal the view.
Looking due north, you can see many iconic buildings – the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, 432 Park – but also can witness the topography of Manhattan Island. Due to how far below the surface the Manhattan schist gets from a little north of the financial district until midtown, you can see the shorter buildings covering SoHo, Greenwich Village, and Chelsea before taller buildings blossom again. It was fun to see Broadway angling across all the street grids, and to find the Washington Square arch and Times Square. To the east you can see Long Island City in Queens.
North and to the west you see the Hudson River, the piers along the river, and then the massive construction at Hudson Yards in Midtown West. The impact of this development on the city once it is completed can’t be overstated. Across the river to the west, you can see New Jersey.
Looking east, you can see over other tall buildings in lower Manhattan to view the Brooklyn Bridge, and then north of that, the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, and much of Brooklyn.
The Southern exposure leads to a lovely view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York harbor, with more of New Jersey stretching out behind them to the west.
I spent about an hour enjoying the views on the 100th floor. I would recommend going around once slowly, orienting yourself to the different views, and the circling back again even more slowly to look for details. I think many times we who call New York City home only experience certain attractions if we have visitors from out of town to show around. This experience, however, I found to be much more than a tourist attraction, deepening my understanding and enjoyment of the multifaceted architecture and topography of this magnificent city.
New York City is so much more than the skyscrapers of Manhattan (although I do love them). I recently found it is possible to get to a place in the upper reaches of the Bronx via subway, and feel as if I had taken a trip out of the city to upstate New York for the day. Wave Hill is a public garden overlooking the Hudson River (and across the river to the Palisades of New Jersey) in Riverdale. I visited there this autumn, taking the #1 train to the end of the line (West 242 Street) and being transported to Wave Hill by a free shuttle van that picks up near the subway at 10 minutes past the hour. You can also get there via Metro North, taking the Hudson Line to Riverdale and being picked up by a free shuttle bus.
Wave Hill was built in 1843 as the country home of a NYC attorney. Teddy Roosevelt’s family rented the estate during the summers of 1870 and 1871, and the city boy’s exposure to such beautiful natural scenes no doubt inspired his later love for the outdoors, leading to the creating of the National Park system. Mark Twain later leased the estate from 1900-1903, and conductor Arturo Toscanini lived there from 1942-1945. In 1960, the family who owned the estate gave it to the city of New York, and Wave Hill was incorporated as an non-profit organization. It is now open year-round, except for holidays, with shorter hours during the colder months and longer ones during the summer ones.
Walking to the welcome center, it is hard to believe you are still within the five boroughs of New York City.
The Visitor’s Center has local items (like honey of different colors depending on which flowers the bees were supping from) for sale, and a very upscale restroom (I was impressed by the golden sinks and fancy wallpaper!).
You can go into the various greenhouses as well as exploring the vast landscaped gardens.
There are many different places to sit and enjoy the quiet and the scenery.
There were lily ponds, and several cats roaming the grounds.
The feeling, the sounds, and even the scent of the air, varied from area to area within the large estate.
The most spectacular viewpoints, of course, are those overlooking the mighty Hudson.
They have a lovely cafe on the grounds, featuring local farm-to-table fare (on the right above is avocado toast with lovely radish slices on top).
After several hours at Wave Hill, I was reminded of the concept of “forest bathing” – the idea of walking among trees and nature as a health practice like going to a spa. (Learn more here.) I certainly felt cleansed, mentally and physically, after strolling through all the gorgeous dense trees and gardens.
I’m sure they change these maps out seasonally, but here is the autumn one to give you an idea of the layout of Wave Hill and some of the details. You can also find plenty of information to plan your trip at their website.
One of my favorite places to go in London is Borough Market, with so many different foods to explore that I never get tired of returning. New York City has many great markets as well, Chelsea Market and Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side being two I particularly love. A new market recently opened in downtown Brooklyn, and having been there, I highly recommend that anyone check it out.
The DeKalb Market Hall is close to many subway lines (A-C-E at Hoyt, 2-3 at Hoyt, 2-3-4-5 at Nevins, or B-Q-R at DeKalb). I took the Q from the Upper East Side and was there in about 45 minutes. With the Q, you take the outside route over the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn, with some great views of lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn thrown in. The City Point building is just off the Manhattan Bridge (entrance on Flatbush Avenue) and has a Target, Trader Joe’s (that so far does not seem to have the lines of the ones on 14th Street or the Upper West Side), Century 21, Flying Tiger (check this out if you’ve never been to one; you will discover 100 items you didn’t know existed and now must have), and Alamo Drafthouse (an absolutely perfect cinema with waiter service to your chair, including an extensive drink menu). The DeKalb Market Hall is in the basement of the complex.
Once you get to the market, take a walk around once or twice to get your bearings – there are so many choices that it can be a little overwhelming.
Guss’ Pickles still makes real fermented pickles, in many flavors, the way they did at their original spot on the Lower East Side. You can ask for a sample of anything. If you love pickles (and I definitely do), don’t pass this up.
So many choices – from juice bars, to mini doughnuts, to ice cream, to Katz’s deli, to healthy selections, to classic hamburgers and more.
I highly recommend the burger at Andrew’s Classic Roadside – really delicious and not overpriced.
In addition to all the things to do in the City Point complex, the Market is about a 15 minute stroll to the gorgeous Brooklyn Heights waterfront (see my previous blog about this area here). If you live in the area, the DeKalb Food Market is a great everyday addition to your choices for eating out. If you are a visitor to NYC, check it out and explore the surrounding area as well – you could easily spend a day doing it. And if you are a NYC resident, but not of Brooklyn (like I am), I believe it’s worth the trip. I enjoyed my time at the Market and will return soon.
Once home to an insane asylum, prisons, and a smallpox hospital, Roosevelt Island was originally called Hog Island and later Welfare Island before being renamed for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1971 (a decision that certainly helped make it seem a more palatable choice to those considering living there!). Only 2 miles long and 800 feet or less wide, this island, lying between Manhattan’s Midtown and Upper East Side and Queens, is owned by the city of New York but now has numerous rental buildings, one coop, and one condo (all landlease buildings, leasing the space from the city on a 99 year lease negotiated in 1969). Accessible via subway (the F line) but more famously by the Roosevelt Island tram, it is simultaneously very close to Manhattan and also a little isolated and remote. As I enjoy exploring a neighborhood by taking an unplanned walk (a dérive), I headed to Roosevelt Island this spring to see what living here might be like.
The Roosevelt Island Tramway was intended to be a temporary way to entice residents to the neighborhood during its residential development. Opened in 1976, it makes over 100 trips per day, between the hours of 6 AM and 2 AM (every 15 minutes most of the day, but continuously during rush hours). Although not operated by the MTA, it uses the MetroCard and offers free transfers to the MTA system.
When on the tram, you can’t help to imagine what it would like if the tram were to stop mid-journey (or something worse, thanks to the 2002 Spider Man film!). There has never been a Green Goblin attack, or anything similar, but the tram has been stuck before. The worst instance of this was in 2006 when two trams were stopped midair for seven hours due to an electrical outage. Rescue baskets were sent to the trams, but each could hold only 15 people, so the evacuation of the trams took a very long time. Following an extensive 2010 overhaul, there have been no similar incidents on the trams.
The large (unphotogenic) construction site just south of the tram is the new Cornell University Tech Campus, due to open in 2017.
Walking along the river, cherry trees blossom and frame a view west to Sutton Place in midtown Manhattan.
It is impossible to miss the creepy ruins of the old Smallpox Hospital on the way to the Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island. Opened in 1854, and closed a century later, the Gothic Revival building fell into disrepair. Now added to the National Register of Historic Places, a stabilization project is underway and it will one day be open to the public (hopefully only in daylight hours).
Opened in 2012, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park celebrates the former president as well as his famous 1941 speech about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Designed by the renowned architect Louis Kahn, it is a beautiful and spare park with spectacular views of Manhattan, including a direct view of the United Nations.
Heading back north and past the tram station, Roosevelt’s Island Main Street unfolds.
Built in 1798, Blackwell House is the sixth oldest surviving home in New York City.
1888 Chapel of the Good Shepherd, on the National Register of Historic Places.
There is a free red bus around the island, and it was easy to return via the F subway, one stop to Lexington and 63rd.
As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Roosevelt Island had a population of 11,661. Roosevelt Island has relatively affordable rents and prices compared to midtown Manhattan, and the buildings are largely full-service buildings with amenities such as swimming pools and gyms. Many apartments feature the kind of spectacular view of Manhattan found in red-hot Long Island City, Queens. I found the small town atmosphere of Roosevelt Island to be very unique. Along Main Street was everything a person would need – an apartment, groceries, a library, public school, and so on. Just a few hundred feet from midtown Manhattan, it felt like being in a small town anywhere in the United States. Less distant in terms of a commute from central Manhattan than many parts of the five boroughs, it still feels a world away – the skyscrapers of Manhattan a bit like a mirage just across the East River.
When I started this blog almost three years ago, the second post I wrote (after the initial one describing my basic writing concept) was about Yorkville. This sub-neighborhood of the Upper East Side (you could describe it as the upper-upper-east-east side) is undervalued, in my opinion, as it is lovely, quiet, and convenient. The biggest complaint about Yorkville has been the long walk to the Lexington Avenue subway, but with the recent opening of the Q (Second Avenue subway, see my blog post about it here) that criticism is diminishing. In fact, between the opening of the Q and all the fantastic new development apartment buildings coming up in the area (Citizen 360 and The Kent, to name just two I have visited in the past month), I believe the days of Yorkville as a value play may be coming to an ending over the next few years.
Today it snowed. Schools and many business closed, and I went out in the afternoon for a walk around my beloved Yorkville. It has never looked lovelier!
The street blocks tend toward older tenement buildings, while the avenue blocks hold the larger apartments, particularly in the area between Third and York.
The absolute crown jewel of the Yorkville neighborhood is Carl Schurz Park, with two dog runs, a large children’s playground, the East River Promenade, and plenty of meandering paths.
Gracie Mansion, one of the oldest homes in NYC and the official residence of the mayor, is at East End Avenue and 88th Street, within the park.
I have often thought that the Henderson Houses, a series of landmarked townhomes opposite Carl Schurz Park, create some of the prettiest blocks in the city.
There’s something about this Gothic row of homes gazing out to the park that makes them seem like they are an illustration from a fairy tale.
It’s very quiet in the area of Yorkville near the park. The only other part of Manhattan that feels this peaceful and removed to me is the Beekman area, also along the East River, but in the 50’s.
On this afternoon, the park (like Central Park a few blocks away) was filled with sledders. Yorkville is a neighborhood filled with, and friendly to, children, and dogs, but also with older people and young singles looking for a rental bargain. I suspect that within a few years, Yorkville will be seen not as a place to search simply for value, but a neighborhood sought after and desired for its own unique characteristics.
The rivalry between the great US city on the East Coast (New York) and the one on the West Coast (Los Angeles) is, in my opinion, partially true but largely fabricated. You can find great restaurants, nightlife, and art in either. New York has snow; Los Angeles has smog. Los Angeles clearly wins for beaches and weather; New York is the victor in the live theater domain and has Central Park. While in general the cost of renting or purchasing a home in Los Angeles is less than in NYC, there is a variety of housing choices at price ranges from moderate to extravagant in both cities (you will nearly always get more space in Los Angeles, though, since NYC is severely physically restricted in how it can expand, especially Manhattan island). However, there is one giant difference that completely shapes the experience of living or visiting each city: NYC is the quintessential walking city (and the experience of walking in it was my motivation to begin this blog), while LA has the ultimate car culture. On my numerous visits to LA, I have often commented that the one thing that would prevent me from ever living there is that I hate having to drive everywhere. On a recent trip, however, I decided to take a few walks and see if a quality walking experience could be found in the city of angels.
I was staying downtown at 7th and Grand, and decided to walk to Wi Spa, on Wilshire and S. Rampart. According to Google maps, this is a walk of just under 2 miles, and I routinely walk 5 miles or more per day in NYC. This route was a fairly direct one since Wilshire was just a block parallel to 7th, but almost immediately I noticed the difference between walking in NYC vs. LA. This route had me walking next to and in close proximity to heavy traffic most of the time.
In addition, unlike virtually anywhere I walk in NYC, I was alone on the sidewalk for most of the time despite being surrounded by people in cars. I recalled Ray Bradbury’s story, “The Pedestrian,” set in the future where a lone walker in the evening was so unusual that the protagonist of the story ended up being carted off by the police for a psychiatric evaluation. Although born in Illinois, Bradbury was an Angeleno for most of his life, and I wonder if a similar solitary experience walking in the city inspired him to think of this story.
Eventually I went by MacArthur Park (yes, the inspiration for what has been called “the worst song ever written,” although I have a fondness for it since I recall enjoying the number in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” on Broadway). Although it had some lovely areas, the only people I saw also enjoying it were living in a sort of tent city there.
Shortly after MacArthur Park, I was at Wi Spa. If you are in Los Angeles and would enjoy an authentic Korean spa experience, this one can’t be beat (I have never been so clean as after a scrub there).
The view of downtown Los Angeles walking back was pleasant, but it did occur to me that just as Los Angeles has widely varied neighborhoods, the experience of walking would also vary from place to place. For my next dérive, I went to Santa Monica. I drove there, but the Metro Expo line can also take you there as of this past spring.
It occurred to me while in Santa Monica that perhaps no one was walking on Wilshire because there wasn’t much to see! There were plenty of people walking in Santa Monica.
The Third Street promenade is just east of the Santa Monica pier, and has shopping, dining, and street entertainers (my favorite to date were the skateboarding bulldogs I stayed to watch one time – very talented).
Walking back from a stroll along the Promenade and back, I turned along Ocean Avenue.
Again, plenty of walkers, plenty of places to eat and shop. The ocean just across the street, and the sun warm. Not bad!
Heading over one block west, I found the Hotel California . . . somehow smaller than I had imagined for a place filled with people who can “check out, but can never leave.”
The ocean front walk, even on a week day, was busy with walkers, bicyclists, and skateboarders.
Walking back, I took the sandy stretch at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, heading back toward the pier. A very different experience than the walks I routinely enjoy in NYC, but there was something magical about the sounds and textures of this walk (I would never dream of talking off my shoes to walk in the city, not even in my beloved Central Park). Los Angeles is vast, and sprawling, so while it is not practical to walk to get from place to place as it can be in New York City, there are wonderful places to walk – you just have to drive to get there.
For most of the past decade, I lived east of Second Avenue on the Upper East Side, meaning that virtually every day I had to run the gauntlet of construction barricades and debris to get elsewhere in the city. Discussion of creating a second subway line of the Upper East Side to equal the two that run along the Upper West Side had begun shortly after the elevated line had been torn down along Second Avenue in 1919, and any of us who rode the most crowded lines in NYC (the 4-5-6) could see the need. Preliminary work began in 1972, but was suspended due to budgetary constraints until 2007. Ten years later, service began on January 1, 2017, and I couldn’t wait to ride on the first day the Q train ran.
More than a week prior to the trains running, the neighborhood was invited to visit the 96th Street subway stop to see the station. It was surprisingly thrilling to walk into the new station. All the new stations are expansive, clean, and filled with art. I appreciate the entrances as well.
A few more photos from the community preview:
“Excelsior” is the New York State motto, and means “still higher” or “ever upward” (a little ironic as you descend lower into the ground, but I know, it’s about the meaning rather than to be taken literally).
And of course, the United States motto “E pluribus unum,” meaning “Out of many, one” – fitting for New Yorkers who despite their many differences are united as citizens of the city.
I love how the tenement buildings on Second Avenue can be glimpsed through the glass entrance when leaving the station.
On January 1, about 2PM, I entered the station at Lexington and 63rd (but actually on Third and 63rd!) to ride the Q from 63rd to 96th on its first day of operation.
It was actually thrilling to see the train come into the station.
At 63rd Street, the art is by Jean Shin.
Pulling into the 72nd Street Station.
At 72nd Street, the art is by Vik Muniz.
Pulling into 86th Street.
At 86th Street, the art is by Chuck Close, using tiled mosaics to create his familiar portraits.
“Our next and last stop – 96th Street.”
The artist represented at 96th Street is Sarah Sze.
Some of the trains have special decorations:
In the few days since the Second Avenue subway has opened, I have ridden it multiple times, and have been impressed by the convenience and efficiency of the line. I have been telling customers for years that real estate on the Upper East Side east of Third has been a value play and that prices will likely go up with the completion of the subway, and I think that will prove itself true over the next few years. The flip side of this, of course, is that Yorkville may find itself less of a bargain for renters or first time buyers, but this is inevitably the cost of improvements in any neighborhood – they benefit those who bought at lower prices and are ready to sell, but may force some renters out or lead some to be priced out of the area.
In the far distant future, they may extend the line through East Harlem up to 125th Street, and that, along with recently announced redevelopment plans along Second, Lexington, and Madison Avenues in East Harlem, could completely transform that area as well. New York City is constantly changing, and the successful completion of the Second Avenue subway shows that even developments that seemed like a mirage shimmering in the distance can become real – and, eventually, even routine.
Just as the first chilly gusts of wind arrive to remind us that harsh winter days are ahead, New York City puts on its December finery, showing off with light and color to distract us from the season of dark and cold ahead. While the traditional pleasures of the department store windows, Rockefeller Center decorations, and Radio City or NYCB Nutcracker shows always delight, one of my favorite things about this month is walking down residential streets and seeing the lights we have put up in our own homes – to warm ourselves but also send warmth out to others passing by. The following photos are from the 2016 holiday season (see my post in 2015 here and my post from 2014 in Dyker Heights here):
The Rockefeller tree by day (wonderful) and night (spectacular).
Skating at Rock Center.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular finale and living nativity (love those camels!).
Inside the Art Deco masterpiece, Radio City Music Hall.
Saks Fifth Avenue, seen from Rock Center.
Heralding angels leading up to the Rock Center tree.
A private townhouse in the East 60’s.
It’s hard to capture the lights of the city at night with an iPhone, but I do feel that nighttime is when the city is at its best – and this is particularly true for December, where we push back the darkness as best we can with arrays of light. I absolutely love the poem that Travel and Leisure Magazine commissioned from New York poet Rowan Ricardo Phillips, A Tale of Two Cities:
City above the city and city
Below the city. The diners, theaters,
Dance spots and dives all late-light strobed life
Sumptuous as solitude that knows it’s not
Loneliness like the blue blue-green peacock
Who gales open, waits, doubts and does not doubt.
There is a city above the city
That thinks of you as you think of it: sky,
That you are the sky to it, and these buildings,
Iridescent in thick night like flora
And fauna, are its clouds. We all are part
Of some other distant constellation,
A chanced-on font you see on a marquee
When you look out and then up,
When you think the thought that gets caught in air
And rises from your head like steam in the thaw—
That is the city above the city
Calling out to you through the blued spectrum,
That veiled feeling you keep to yourself of
The time you stood on a street and could swear
Some part, some magnificent part of you
Had just turned into a fish and opened
Up upwards into the darkness, the light,
The darkness, the light, the darkness, the light.
Most of us lucky enough to live in New York City love the aspects of the city that make it unique – the tall buildings, the pace, the endless array of entertainment. However, we may also seek out a chance of pace every now and then, travelling to the Caribbean, the Berkshires, or the New England coast. What I recently discovered is that it is possible to take a mini-vacation to what seems to be a small New England fishing village – but without leaving the five boroughs. As I remarked in my posts about Coney Island and Governors Island you can feel as though you have left the city for the price of a swipe on your Metrocard – and that is true for a trip to City Island in the Bronx.
Driving to City Island is easy, but to get there via public transportation (as I did), take the 6 Pelham Bay subway train to the last stop, Pelham Bay Parkway and catch the Bx29 bus for a quick ride to City Island Avenue.
Originally settled by the Lenape and later by Europeans in 1654, it was connected to the mainland by ferry until the building of a bridge in 1873. From about 1860 to 1980, City Island was a center for boat building and yachting, and three yacht clubs remain on the island to this day.
City Island Avenue cuts down the middle of the island, lined with quaint shops, art galleries, and restaurants. At every cross street, you can look in either direction and generally see a block of houses or low-rise apartments leading to the water.
On the first Friday of every month, there is a free trolley to pick up visitors from the subway stop and take them to City Island Avenue. They give out a discount card valid for that evening, and often shops and galleries will have free treats to hand out along the avenue.
City Island Avenue is just over a mile long, so an easy and pleasant walk. At the very end, when it dead ends at the water, there are two competing seafood restaurants with ocean views.
City Island has a resident population of just over 4000 people, many associated with nearby Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The brilliant neurologist and author Oliver Sacks lived on City Island until his recent death, and some of the film based on his book Awakenings was shot on the island. City Island is a real estate bargain (due in no small part to its remoteness) – houses selling for under $300/sq ft, on average, and a three bedroom house can be rented for about $3000/month.
Alice Payne wrote about the history of City Island in her book Tales of the Clamdiggers. Clamdiggers are people born on City Island (Musselsuckers are those living on the island born elsewhere!). The rest of us are, I suppose, simply visitors, ready to take a break from the everyday and experience one of the most unique corners of the great city of New York.