When I was spending a lot of time in City Island, there were a handful of people who would often compare this Bronx neighborhood to Cape Cod or some other New England coastal region. Immediately, my internal BS Detector would start flashing Code Red. It was obvious to me that the person stating this had never been to Chatham, Stonington, or whatever town they were comparing it to. Rather than start a drunken argument, I would usually try to make nice-nice by continuing to mind my own business and eat my halibut.
The release of the movie City Island, has my detector flashing once again. I have not seen the film, but my Google Alert box is flooded with reviews that describe the island as a "quaint New England fishing village". Some even give the impression that it is located in the middle of Long Island Sound, with a fishing armada supplying the seafood restaurants dotting it's shore.
Like most of Long Island Sound, City Island had it's share of oystering and lobstering. It's real claim to fame however, was shipbuilding. Numerous yards lined the eastern side of the island that built, outfitted, and repaired large yachts. Eight of these boats went on to win the America's Cup. That is an impressive legacy, and the City Island Nautical Museum does an excellent job at presenting it.
As for the New England comparisons? The island has some narrow streets with a few colonial and victorian homes, but so do lots of towns. Through careful editing, filmmakers can portray it as a much quainter place than it is. I think Tom Andersen put it best when he said: "It doesn't (look like a little fishing village). It looks like the Bronx waterfront".
I remember how disappointed I was when I first saw the movie, Mystic Pizza. Sure, it was fun checking out a young Julia Roberts, and seeing parts of Mystic on the big screen. But I was really turned-off by how the film portrayed the town as some ethnic theme park, where the girls married young; the boys all went fishing; and everybody ate Lobstah. Hardly very accurate.
Eventually I will make it to the theatre to see City Island. But if Andy Garcia's neighbor is a tuna fisherman, and the house has a widow's walk, I'm heading for the exit.
City Island Nautical Museum: (highly recommended museum)
Google Search: City Island Quaint New England Fishing Village
This Sphere: It Might Possibly Be Worth Going To City Island
Historic Pelham: Early Years Of City Island
New York Times: Movies Filmed On City Island
SOUNDBOUNDER: Pelham Cemetery, City Island
photo credit: City Island Nautical Museum