Long time City Island resident and community activist Susan Bellison is a member of NYC's Waterfront Management Advisory Board. Susan was recently appointed to the 12 member advisory board by NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg and sponsored by Bronx councilman Jimmy Vacca.
Bellison is sharing the following proposal with City Island Images, so we may publicize the City Island Gateway Project.
Proposal for the City Island Gateway Project
By Susan Bellinson and Linda Baldwin.
Below is a proposal for Lot #149 on the northeast side of the City Island Bridge. Since writing this proposal, the city has budgeted for a new bridge to City Island and we are hoping to incorporate this project into the design of the new bridge, making the entrance to City Island inviting for visitors from everywhere and making City Island a destination for tourists who want to enjoy what the Bronx has to offer.
Much of the property is owned by the city in easements and the parts that are private are sold for tax liens. The property is presently in receivership with an attorney named Joan Iacono in Bronxville. It has been “for sale” now for several years but it seems that it is impossible for an individual to purchase the property due to the many complications surrounding it. At this point, it is a liability for the city. This proposal involves the city acquiring the entire property and some property across the street that is empty, for a parking lot and then leasing out the various concessions to private owners who would pay rent to the city.
City Island, NY is a restaurant haven with many successful restaurants already open for business. People wait sometimes for hours in traffic to eat in these restaurants. On any given night people from all walks of life populate these places to eat very expensive seafood meals. The property at 663 City Island Ave. is the first establishment one encounters when coming on to the island At present, the property is derelict with old boats, containers, broken down buildings and until recently was home to squatters living in squalor. Much of the property is owned by the city of New York including the site of the large building and part of the parking lot. The promise this property holds is vast. Listed below are the plans that we propose.
1) Clearing and renovating the buildings on the property and repairing the dock which was rebuilt after the north east storm in 1992.
2) In the small building on the eastern end of the property - making a snack shack on the dock for kids and families with ping pong tables and games, and kid friendly but healthy foods. There will be indoor and outdoor seating for this area which will be enclosed in inclement weather but still outside. This can be done first as it is small and simple and can begin producing income while the larger building is being renovated.
3) Renovation of the large building will include:
Maintaining an historic, maritime appearance which is attractive and colorful.
a. The first floor restaurant with kitchen, bathrooms and a bar. The restaurant/bar will serve simple, healthy meals different from the meals the seafood restaurants on the island offer. There will be fine coffee/tea bar, specialty breakfasts including healthy choices, lunch and dinner menus which can be packed up to go or to be eaten inside or on the dock in good weather. The dock is 350 feet long and about 15 ft wide and provides a large amount of outdoor seating space where diners can enjoy views of the sunset, the City Island bridge, Pelham Bay park and Orchard beach. There are not much better views anywhere in the city.
b. There will be facilities for dock and dine where boaters from around Long Island Sound will be able to pull their boats up to the dock and spend the day enjoying City Island and surrounding park areas. Food could be delivered by launch to neighboring boat yards.
c. The second floor has 7 rooms which will be designed as retail boutique space for artisans and small businesses. Rents on these rooms will be affordable.
d. The third floor will be an apartment for a care taker/dock master so that someone will live on the property and take care of it.
4) We propose bike rentals and can provide maps of the various greenway trails that lead right from the City Island Bridge to points all across the city and Westchester. We see this as a destination for tourists to begin their exploration of the city in parts they may never have thought to visit before.
5) Tours of the Bronx can begin here as a starting point. People can come for a meal and do an organized tour after eating.
6) Kayak and fishing boat rentals and/or wildlife tours Could sell bait on the dock as one of the concessions.
7) Human powered boat launch next to the bridge bringing easier access to the water for those with their own boats.
8) Small ice cream kiosk in the Summer on the dock for people stopping by to enjoy the waterfront and have a snack.
9) Creating a place for art and music concerts, poetry readings, etc. It can be a gathering place for culture and starting place to access nature; a place where people can come with their families or on a romantic date. Employees from surrounding hospitals and businesses can meet there for dinner after work. It will bring more jobs to the area for all types of people and will bring rent and revenue for the city of NY. It will also help to bring prosperity to City Island businesses by increasing foot traffic on the island.
10) Incorporating a walkway from this property, under the new City Island Bridge to the other side of the island which is now parkland-the Katherine Scott Promenade- so that people don’t have to cross over City Island avenue to enjoy the front end of the island.
11) There is empty property on the other side of Bridge Street where a parking lot would need to built. Without adequate parking, this project will not be well received by the City Island community-one already sensitive to traffic congestion in the Summer.
The vision is for doing something beautiful and green with this property by preserving view corridors, improving public access, creating recreational space, promoting family activities, healthy foods and using solar and/or wind power for some of the energy needed to run the establishment.
The potential for this property is immense and in line with almost every aspect of the NYC Waterfront Revitalization Program entitled vision 20/20. This proposal is included in the city’s plan but the recommendations include only doing a feasibility study at this point. It is hoped that with the support of the community, this idea can become reality in the not to distant future.