“We cannot continue to uphold zoning for ‘character’ to such an extent that we leave communities stunted for growth AND community members on the streets and in unstable situations.”

City Island
An evening view of the Northern tip of City Island from Orchard Beach.

City Island—a middle-class, predominantly white, mile-and-a-half-long island section of the Bronx—was made a Special Purpose District in 1977 by NYC’s Department of City Planning (DCP). DCP’s zoning intent is for City Island’s housing and economic development activities to preserve and uplift City Island’s nautical heritage.

Unfortunately, for the last 46 years with this special purpose district in place, City Island has only shown a continued decline in nautical and waterfront-related businesses. DCP’s intent is failing. City Island lost the last NYC sail loft earlier this summer to Westchester.

And basic quality of life provisions have been stunted by the flawed zoning strategy, too. City Island’s public transit access is abysmal. The city should use federal aid to immediately put a ferry stop in this special purpose district, as Larry Penner suggested. We should also bring the second ferry repair yard onto City Island. Good local industrial ferry repair jobs that the Brooklyn Navy Yard can’t accommodate are currently going to Connecticut instead (no shade to CT, but we have Bronxites and New Yorkers that need access to these good industrial jobs).

City Island has no Universal Pre-K. City Island’s commercial corridor has a high chronic vacancy rate. We need more affordable housing options.

I’m excited to buoy a City Island of Yes, where we take this unprecedented moment to plan for and build the housing and economic development activities we need and are interested in growing across New York City.

City Island will never have the thousands of nautical and waterfront jobs and industry it once had. It’s sad but true, especially since we didn’t cultivate it when it needed investment the most.

It’s also true that New York City has a real housing demand and supply is limited and not sustainable for our 21st century environment.

We have approximately 100,000 people in our shelter system, including asylum seekers fleeing violent countries who need safe, secure housing to stabilize their conditions immediately. We have NYCHA residents in abysmal conditions and New Yorkers held behind bars at Rikers Island because they were born into a system that was made for them to fail.

We cannot continue to uphold zoning for “character” to such an extent that we leave communities stunted for growth AND community members on the streets and in unstable situations.

My fellow City Island neighbor, Adolfo Carrión Jr., commissioner of NYC’s Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD), knows the value of creating more affordable housing in every neighborhood and has decades of expertise managing large-scale affordable housing plans and economic development strategies.

My Councilmember, Marjorie Velázquez, has shown bold initiative towards a City of Yes, negotiating for strong new development in our district that includes good jobs and more affordable housing for our older adults.

There is hope for New York to address City Island and all the other areas of New York City where the zoning is failing its current and future New Yorkers. I am eager for a more equitable land use process and re-development of New York for the next generation. I am ready to start planning a City Island of Yes with various stakeholders.

Lauren Nye is a sixth generation New Yorker, with a decade-plus of experience in New York City’s community and economic development sectors, and a capstone project that analyzes City Island’s land use designation as a special purpose district.