City Island may be the only neighborhood that runs its ferry on land.
Named for the neighborhood’s nautical culture, the “land ferry” — a minibus spruced up with blue paint and wood paneling that dates to 2015 — offers riders a free tour of the 1.5-mile-long island, including stops at a host of artistic and musical sites.
“[Visitors] are kind of in shock that a place like this actually exists,” said Paul Klein, vice president of the City Island Chamber of Commerce. “It’s like a small, New England fishing village in the Bronx.”
From April to December, the blue bus picks up passengers at the end of the No. 6 train in Pelham Bay Park on the first Friday of the month, beginning at 5:30 p.m., and makes hourly loops until 9:30 p.m. The bus tour kicked off two years ago.
The bus stops first at mainland Bartow-Pell Mansion, a mid-19th century landmarked estate that hosts live music shows and serves wine and cheese on Friday evenings.
The “ferry” then heads across the City Island Bridge and onto the island, where riders may board and disembark as they please. The bus’ guide offers helpful tips and info along the way about restaurant specials and other events.
Klein said many City Island establishments extend their hours to accommodate the ferry’s load, with several arts venues putting on special programs.
Klein’s Kaleidoscope Gallery shows off his custom-designed jewelry, souvenirs and other art products.
Nearby Focal Point Gallery holds exhibit openings on the first Friday of the month, according to owner Ron Terner.
“I always get interesting people and interesting artwork,” said Terner, noting that he opened his gallery 43 years ago while looking for an alternative to “snobby” Manhattan venues.
He has since made a practice of never turning away an artist.
“If they have the courage to show their work, it needs to be seen, and up it goes,” Terner said. “That’s what City Island is all about.”
The Starving Artist Cafe and Gallery has also built a business around offering musicians a place to play late into the night, according to owner, Elliott Glick. Besides coffee and sweets, the establishment sells handmade jewelry and visual art pieces.
“We’re a must-hear,” said Glick, noting that he provides one of the few venues around for singer-songwriters. “We don’t do bar bands.”
Glick recommended the monthly tour, noting he enjoyed riding the bus home one evening.
“The land ferry, I know firsthand, is fun,” Glick said. “They had wine and Champagne for us.”