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Traveling While Black: City Island, Bronx, NYC Edition

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

DISCLAIMER: In an effort to shed light on a lens that I travel everywhere with, I decided that it was important for me to explicitly talk about My Black American Traveler Experience. I want to stress that everyone has their own experiences and biases traveling to any country. Therefore, my experience may not be your own. In specifying the Black American identity, I acknowledge that while there are some commonalities in experiences as Black people, there is also a privilege of being an American. I am supplementing my thoughts and experience with a context on demographics as I think it is important to paint the whole picture!

In this blog, you can learn about:

  • Do people live on City Island?

  • How safe is City Island?

  • What is race and ethnicity in City Island?

  • Are there Black-owned businesses on City Island?

  • What are the Black-owned businesses in City Island?

One would think, “oh, it’s the Bronx,” why write a post, right? The demographics may actually surprise you -- I know it did for me!

Table of Contents


What I Expected

Be plentiful with Black and Brown folks like the rest of the Bronx.

My Reality

Hold Up! Why am I seeing so many white people? “Oh lord, I see Blue Lives Matter Flags waving….”

A. Treatment & Safety

As a Black person, I had my guard up walking certain streets. The jarring part was going down a quiet residential area and seeing mainly 🇺🇸 flags and Blue Lives Matter flags. It made my guard go up immediately. However, I did also see BLM and LGBTQ flags too. I was actually treated quite well by locals -- I recall feeling quite welcomed in the mini-park where the clam chowder festival was being held. Many locals would start conversations with me and even compliment me on various articles of clothing and accessories I was wearing.

I do want to make a disclaimer, while I was treated well while exploring City Island, I have not felt the most welcomed online. For example, when I published my City Island articles, literally two days later I received an email from someone who works on City Island (going to leave it vague) that led me to question the sincerity as it started with "I just saw your travelogue on City Island, and while I’m glad you had a good time here and wish to spread the news about the island, there are a great many errors in what you wrote" and then went on to list a bunch of errors. While I made the majority of the corrections as I do not want to spread misinformation, the one thing I did find interesting was I had to point out and correct the person that in fact the one Black-owned business I featured is in fact local to the island as the owner lives on City Island but operates as an online business. I also found it interesting and very telling that I never received an answer when I asked "I was curious if there are any minority owned businesses on CityIsland?"

Months later, I received an email from someone with no introduction, no greeting, or no context stating "You left out <insert a specific local business>." This oddly enough came around the same time I was emailed about being featured in a news article about a Black-owned business opening on City Island.

I say this to say it feels the Island is VERY protective of its people, its businesses, and the narrative told. I just want to be transparent about my experience -- again, this is based on my personal experience.

B. Language

In terms of language, it was easy to get around because everyone spoke English.

C. Vibe & Culture

It gives a full small town, charming vibes with a New England feel. The New England vibes are reflected in everything from the architecture of houses to the small boutique shots to waterside views. The extra friendly hospitality also reminded me of New England.

D. Visibility

I saw a lot of Black and Brown folks at the seafood spot, Johnny’s Reef. As I moved to the center, I saw mainly old white people who were SUPER lovely and hospitable. Some started random chats with me. I did see other Black and Brown folks as vendors when I walked along City Island Ave. I could not help but wonder if there was not a fair going on, would I not have seen many Black and Brown people on City Island side from Johnny's Reef? Aside from the local vendors, customers at Johnny’s Reef, and random car drivers blasting super loud music, I did not really see people who looked like me visible on the streets of City Island.

Black Stats in City Island, NYC

  • As of the 2010 US Census, the island had a population of 4,362.

  • 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙡 𝙢𝙖𝙠𝙚𝙪𝙥 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙡𝙪𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝘾𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙄𝙨𝙡𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙞𝙨:

    • 62.0% White (2704)

    • 2.9% Black (126)

    • 0.1% Native American (44)

    • 3.6% Asian (157)

    • *Latino = 29.9% of the population. (1304)

  • 𝙏𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙞𝙨 𝙞𝙣 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙨𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝘽𝙧𝙤𝙣𝙭:

    • 45.8% White

    • 43% Black

    • 3% Native American

    • 4% is Asian

    • *Latino = 54% of the population

  • As with many places in NYC and across the country, City Island was settled by European settlers, specifically by the Dutch, in 1614

Black History of City Island:

  • A New York Times article written in 1982 mentions there were no Black homeowners on the island until the late 1960s -- the first blacks to buy a home may have been Ivan Michael and his wife, Mary Johnson Lowe. “At the time, Mr. Michael, a lawyer, was a New York City Planning Commissioner, and his wife, also a lawyer, was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She is now a Federal District Court judge in Manhattan but still lives on the island.”

  • Although the total number of residents on the island had not fluctuated, the demographics have. In 1980, 23 were Blacks, 20 of Asian or Pacific origin, and 99 Hispanics. The majority were whites -- especially policemen and firemen who were trying to escape from the areas in the city they worked, or as the article described it as: “the crime-infested, arson-razed neighborhoods where many policemen and firefighters work.” However, over time, they could not afford to live on the island. Currently, there are 126 Blacks, 157 Asians, and 1304 Hispanics.

Overall: I felt welcomed yet less seen than I expected. This is a great lesson in not assuming all parts of an area will have similar demographics, in this case, the Bronx. Next time I would like to explore City Island from the lens of Black-owned or Black cultured City Island.

Black Owned Businesses

If you search City Island's Black-Owned Businesses you are not going to find any listings. That is very telling. Through word of mouth, stumbling on one and some deep Google searching, I have now learned about a few Black-owned businesses on City Island.

  • Seafood Kingz: This just opened in February 2022. I only found this out because a reporter from Bronx Times reached out to me for a story about this opening. News 12 also featured this business.

  • De L'or Cakery: After doing another research dive after City Island being brought to my forefront with the opening of Seafood Kingz, I discovered De L'or Cakery (marked by Google as Black-owned). It does not seem to have a specific spot on the island but it is a 5 Star Artisan Cake catering company that infuses Caribbean flavors into their baked goods.

  • Brazilian Hair Extensions: This discovery is also due to another search. Google marks it as Black-owned. They are a shop selling wigs, weaves, and braids.

  • Lashed by Blossomi Beauty: This discovery is also due to another search. Google marks it as Black-owned. This is an eye lash salon located on 626 City Island Ave.

  • The Bx Botanist: A native of the Bronx and now living in City Island, Serrina is a co-owner of @thebxbotanist, an online Bronx plant shop. She is from Bronx — humble beginnings — but built her way up with a career in construction. Now she lives on City Island! Check my interview with her below:

What has your experience been traveling while Black in City Island? Comment Below!


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