TORCHED! City Island Museum vows to rebuild front porch

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Your webmaster has written and spoken often about the sad state of affairs that overdevelopment has left us in, especially in Flushing. Every historic property in the city not under the protection of the somewhat flighty Landmarks Preservation Commission is under the gun from rapacious and greedy builders who, it seems, wish to erect a high rise apartment building on every corner and a Starbucks on every other corner.

I have not examined at length the other enemy of historic buildings, the vandals, the graffitists, and the people who, for lack of a better word, or the desire to keep things family-friendly here in FNY, I call the Destroyers. They trash because they get a momentary thrill, or they vandalize because they are angry and they believe we, and the other people in their community, are to blame.

City Island

From the ForgottenBook:

Located on a spit of an island in Eastchester Bay in the extreme northeast Bronx, City Island is a transplanted New England fishing village seemingly beamed into the New York Metropolitan area. City Island was privately owned, first by the Pell family and then by the Palmer family, from 1654 until it became a part of the town of Pelham, in Westchester County, in 1819. The island became a part of New York City in 1895. City Island is chock full of antique shops, art galleries, and seafood restaurants, most of them arrayed along City Island Avenue. Its street grid is arranged much like a fish skeleton, with City Island Avenue the spine and the 24 streets intersecting it as the bones, making exploration on foot easy.

The City Island Historical Nautical Museum is at 190 Fordham Street, in City Island’s old PS17, with artwork and exhibits chronicling the island’s near-250-year old history of shipbuilders, fishermen and America’s Cup yachtsmen. The Museum owns one of the world’s largest collections of maritime-themed books as well as watercolors of Orchard Beach, City Island, Hunter Island and other local sites by Prof. Harold V. Walsh, painted in the 1930s. Above: ForgottenTour 9, May 2002, City Island Museum

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The Nautical Room is devoted to City Island’s rich history as a boatbuilding, oystering and yachting mecca, while the School Room depicts a classroom of the 1830s. Its densely packed shelves and walls, filled with newspapers, books, advertisements, scrapbooks and memorabilia are testimony to City Island’s colorful history.

On Friday, July 13, 2007, the Museum’s front porch (where ForgottenFans posed for the tour team picture on ForgottenTour 9, above) was torched by vandals, possibly from fireworks. It took 60 firefighters (many of which had to enter the island from the one bridge that runs to the mainland) to douse the blaze which decimated the porch as well as the Museum’s exterior. There was smoke and water damage to some of the exhibits and other apartments in the building also sustained damage.

Teens Eyed in Museum Blaze [NY Daily News]

The Museum, on its website, says “we will not be able to reopen to the public for a matter of weeks, if not months.” (as of August 2, 2007).

Lovers of historic buildings now face a two-front war both with overdevelopers and neighborhoods’ insurgent vandals and “destroyers.” They each have one thing in mind: to utterly alter the face of NYC neighborhoods, either to seemingly improve them, or to simply make a mark. Each must be fought: in the streets, and in the courts.

Island in the City; ForgottenTour 9 [FNY]

If You’re Thinking of Living in City Island [New York Times]


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