City Island celebrates iconic bridge’s history

The new exhibit contains many paintings and photographs, as well as video, depicting the old City Island Bridge that was recently taken down to make space for a new causeway.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

City Island’s treasury of nautical history is holding an artistic exhibit before the island’s now demolished iconic green crossing fades into memory.

The City Island Nautical Museum’s ongoing exhibit of paintings, video, photographs, etchings and postcards is now on display, celebrating the razed bridge that served as the community’s only access point by road from 1901 to December 2015.

The museum’s original plan had been to display one of the bridge’s finials, which are a decorative toppings, that the NYC Department of Transportation plans to at some point release to their care, said Barbara Dolensek, vice-president and administrator.

Since it was yet not available, and the bridge was still fresh in the minds of visitors and residents alike, the plan to display works of art took shape, she said.

“City Islanders have been very upset to lose the bridge to begin with, and it has always been a feature for local artists,” said Dolensek.

Aside from a handful of professional artists, including Cheryl Brinker, most of the works came from City Island locals, she said.

The 114-years of the bridge’s history was about more than just a bridge: many of islanders used it to define themselves, and where they are from in the world, she said.

“There is a large quotient of emotional commitment to this bridge, which is really interesting, said Dolensek, adding “It is an image that has to do more with City Island’s sense of itself than anything else.”

To attract visitors to the museum’s exhibit, Dolensek turned to Joseph Burck Jr., a local artist adept in a variety of mediums, including acrylic and clay. He builds large displays from Legos.

Burck was asked to create something for a vacant storefront’s window on City Island Avenue near Hawkins Street used to advertise the museum to visitors, and he created a Lego sculpture for the museum’s promotion.

The black replica of the 1901-era bridge includes both the footings of the old bridge, the superstructure and roadway. It is black to symbolize mourning, he indicated.

Burck was not necessarily intending to build a Lego structure.

“I was sitting in my ‘Lego room,’ playing with the pieces and thinking about the scaffolding on the bridge; I realized that I can make this out of Legos,” said Burck, has a holiday display in the same vacant storefront next door to Kaleidoscope Gallery.

James Breen created a 10-minute video presentation to accompany the exhibit, with footage like the last ceremonial walk over the bridge on December 18, 2015 and clips from just before the bridge’s demolition.

“The focus was to show the bridge in the best light I could show it, the way someone would want to remember,” said Breen.

Breen and his brother Tommy plan on creating a full-length documentary about the demolition of the old bridge and the building of a new causeway, which is now under construction.

The exhibit opened on Sunday, July 30.

The museum, located at 190 Fordham Street, is open on weekends and by appointment for most of the year. They can be reached at (718) 885-0008 and their website is

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Joe Burck created a lego sculpture of the bridge that is being displayed in a storefront that’s near the museum on City Island Avenue.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

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