City Island Diner. Image via NY Daily News.

City Island – even to New York locals – feels idyllic, a world away from the commercial and cultural hub we tend to envision when we think of “the city.” The small town getaway and resort, located in the northeastern corner of the Bronx, is considered by some to be one one of the best kept secrets. Its charm may lie in the fact that it gives off a nautical vibe: you’ll notice the standing boats and the abundance of seafood restaurants available. Or maybe it’s just that the rent is actually affordable. Whatever the reason, City Island has piqued our interest.

Here are 10 secrets about this quaint, waterfront neighborhood:



We’ve been following the Lowline project for several years and the organization is one of our partners in our tour, the Past, Present and Future of the NYC Subway, which provides docent-led access to the Lowline Lab. In July, the Lowline received city approval a little less than four years after the project began. The Lo-Down recently released the 156-page proposal that the Lowline submitted this past February in response to NYCEDC’s Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the former Essex-Delancey trolley terminal site that the world’s first underground park will be located in.

The Lo-Down notes that although the proposal was only supposed to be accessible via applications under the Freedom of Information Act, the Lowline wanted it publicly accessible and allowed for its release with approval from the NYCEDC. You can view the whole proposal embedded below, but first, a few highlights.


new-york-public-library-nypl-new-book-train-stephen-a-schwartzman-buiding-research-milstein-stacks-bryant-park-nycPhoto by Jonathan Blanc/NYPL

We’ve come a long way from the plans to completely destroy the stacks under the New York Public Library‘s Stephen A. Schwartzman Building at 42nd Street-Bryant Park. Not only are those 125 miles of stacks staying put, storage is actually being expanded and the Rose Reading Room is about to complete a comprehensive restoration. There will also be a new book train system, developed by the design and architecture firm Gensler and built by the New Jersey-based firm, Teledynamic. It’s intended to deliver research materials from the Milstein Research Stacks–now with a capacity of four million volumes–to the first floor and the Rose Reading Room.


harlem-african-burial-ground-task-force-nyc-untapped-cities5Conceptual (night) rendering of the Original Harlem African Burial Ground Footprint. All images via the Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force

Since the Village of Harlem was founded in 1660, it has served as a major residential and cultural center for communities of African descent. Still to this day, many New Yorkers are unaware of the historical significance of the neighborhood and the role of freed and enslaved Africans who helped build it. On a sacred Lenape tribal site near Harlem River and East 126th Street, the remains of at least two individuals were found (one likely to be a woman of African descent) underneath 2nd Avenue and 126th Street, the site of a modern day bus depot site.

The NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is now working in close collaboration with the Speaker’s Office and the Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force to redevelop the site and build a meaningful memorial to ensure that a hundred of years of neglect will not erase the contributions of those who are buried there.


20-exchange-place-banking-hall-wpa-murals-skyscraper-downtown-manhattan-observation-deck-film-locations-inside-man-nycWPA murals inside the banking hall at 20 Exchange Place

Other skyscrapers in the Financial District have received more attention in recent years, notably 70 Pine, but 20 Exchange was more than press-worthy when it opened. The building was completed in 1931 with state of the art conveniences, including “refrigerated water,” recessed radiators built into the structure, plate glass windows, telephone outlets. At the opening of 20 Exchange on February 24th, 1931, the building was deluged by visitors – an hourly average of 3,851 guests, reported the New York Times.



20 Exchange is one of the lesser-known Art Deco-era skyscrapers in New York City’s Financial District but made a big splash when it first opened in 1931 as the fourth tallest building in the city. It also held the distinction of being the very tallest building in New York City with a stone facade. It was built on a plot of land that you can find on the earliest known map of New Amsterdam, the Castello plan.

Built as the headquarters for City Bank-Farmers Trust, 20 Exchange has interiors that are truly stunning and are still preserved today. Most of the building was converted into residential in the mid-2000s, allowing the public to see the opulent lobby again, but there are plenty of places still off-limits to the public. We recently took a tour with building management to get some of the secrets and fun facts about 20 Exchange. Here are ten of our favorites: