Tales of Yesteryear
Island resident Ruby Dill taught kindergarten at P.S. 17 from the 1920s to the 1960s. P. S. 17 was located at 190 Fordham Street, which now houses the City Island Nautical Museum and has recently been designated a New York City landmark. Many Islanders remember Mrs. Dill with great fondness, although they recall being quite intimidated by Mrs. Fitzpatrick, the principal!
August Belmont’s transit company, the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), which is still in existence, built and operated the famed and fated City Island monorail, which operated from July 1910 until April 1914, the first of its kind in New York City. An experimental monorail displayed at an exposition in Virginia in 1907 impressed the IRT management, which obtained permission for a similar electric monorail to run from the Bartow station to the City Island bridge, through what is now Turtle Cove. Although dubbed “The Flying Lady,” the monorail car fell over on its first run because it went around a corner too quickly, and operation was suspended until November. It never achieved the success the IRT had hoped for, so in 1913 the line was converted to an electric trolley system, and the tracks from the park to Belden Point were converted to standard gauge. The monorail stopped running in April 1914, and the IRT sold the company to the Third Avenue Railway. A few months later the last horse car in the Bronx stopped operating, and a few minutes after that, the first storage-battery car began its run from Bartow Station to City Island.
Fishing has always been a favorite pastime on City Island, first from the original 1873 City Island bridge and then, because fishing was not allowed from the new bridge, from the long pier at Belden Point, the southern tip of the island. When that pier was demolished in the 1960s, fishermen had few options other than to rent a boat or go on a party boat to fish, a situation that continues to exist except for those with access to private beaches.
Cook’s Diner was an island institution for many years. It opened in the 1930s between Bay and Fordham Streets on the east side of City Island Avenue and survived many changes in later years, as Spouter’s Inn (famous for its pies), Tijuana Trolley (a Mexican restaurant), Shanghai Express (a Chinese restaurant), and others. It was demolished and replaced after the turn of the 21st century by the Library Bar (now closed).