Originally inhabited by the Siwanoy Indians, City Island was purchased by Englishman Thomas Pell in 1654 and remained sparsely populated for a century. Brit Benjamin Palmer had bigger plans when he purchased it in 1761, changing the name from Minefer’s Island to City Island. However, the Revolutionary War halted those plans, and the island would remain rural until oystermen and shipbuilders arrived some 60 years later. Still, in 1960 it was the last community in New York to get dial telephone service.
While the residents are a mixture of rich, poor and middle class, all living next to one another, the island is 90 percent white.
Anyone born on the island is known as a “clam digger” while non-natives are called “mussel suckers.” The west side of the island offers views of Manhattan, but the island’s rural feel is affirmed by its wildlife, including aquatic birds, deer, coyotes, and turkeys.Find City Island apartments
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Landmarks include the Samuel Pell Mansion, not far from the St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, where “Arsenic and Old Lace” was filmed for TV in 1969. The City Island Theater Group offers shows year-round, and The City Island Historical Society and Nautical Museum offers a look into the island‘s past.
Its ideal setting has made City Island attractive to filmmakers. Some of the movies shot here include “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” with Katherine Hepburn, “Awakenings” with Robert DeNiro and “City Island” with Andy Garcia.
Seafood is a must here, and the Lobster Box is somewhat legendary for that. The Black Whale is famous for its desserts, and the City Island Diner -- where parts of the Michael Douglas film “Solitary Man” were filmed -- is connected to an Irish pub.
A small bridge leads to the island via City Island Avenue. Many of the streets end in private beaches, yacht clubs or marinas. The MTA runs two express buses from the island to Manhattan during the morning and evening rush, taking roughly 50 minutes to reach Midtown. The regular Bx29 bus connects the island to the Pelham Bay Park subway station, which is 50 minutes from Midtown.