The City Island Branch Library has the distinction of being the very first public library to serve the outer boroughs. The library, which is currently located between Bay and Fordham Streets, was established in 1911— the same year as the main branch on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.
On the outside, the building is somewhat evocative of a tugboat — portholes and all. On the inside, you’ll find the largest collection of maritime fiction and non-fiction books in New York City. The more than 1,000 tomes comprising the collection cover a variety of nautical topics, including the America’s Cup, boat construction, lighthouses, naval history, pirates, and shipwrecks.
When the library was enlarged and renovated In 1997, a patio was added in the backyard. For the past five years the Garden Club of City Island has used part of the backyard for a public garden, which it helps the library staff ftend and water. The productive little plot yields salad fixings (lettuce and cherry tomatoes), herbs (basil, spearmint and oregano) and assorted veggies (cabbage, carrots, eggplant and leeks) and fruit (strawberries, watermelon). As Garden Club volunteer Yolanda Cirulli told The New York Times in a 2011 interview, “Not only does this library feed the mind, but it also feeds the body.”
Gary Makufka, a staff member at the library, says that at the end of the summer, “we invite the public to take home a little of each” crop. Last summer, however, “the weather was not cooperative so we didn’t have much of anything.” He adds, “But there’s always next year.”
Hope, like garlic, springs eternal.
File under: Things I didn’t know about the Bronx, Garden clubs and libraries are wonderful. ~AR