By Holly Dutton
In a tucked away corner at the nexus of The Bronx and Westchester County, one of New York City’s biggest developers is betting on an island of under 5,000 people.
Greystone, a commercial and residential development firm with projects all across the U.S., has several new development projects in New York City, including Waterbridge 47 in DUMBO, the Printhouse Lofts in Williamsburg, and 180 E. 93rd Street on the Upper East Side.
And now, the firm is dipping its toe into the waters of the Long Island Sound, building the first large-scale residential development on City Island in the Bronx in 15 years.
The development, called On the Sound, is a collection of 43 townhome-style condo units along the waterfront on the east side of City Island.
The complex is a mix of two, three, and four-bedroom homes ranging in size from 1,407 s/f to 3,345 s/f, and include private garages and driveway parking for each unit.
City Island in the Bronx is not unlike the The Rockaways in Queens– many residents are second and third generation, the area is known for its seafood restaurants, and it’s a small, tight-knit community. One big difference though, is its size.
City Island has a population of just 4,362, according to the 2010 Census, and is only 1.5 miles long by 0.5 miles wide.
The subway system doesn’t go to City Island – the nearest train is the 6 train, which ends at Pelham Bay Park. However, buses depart from City Island every 20 minutes and take passengers to the entrance of the 6 Train in about 10-15 minutes.
Several TV shows and movies have been filmed at City Island, including a 2010 movie starring Andy Garcia that was set and filmed in City Island (aptly titled “City Island”) that also won the audience award at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The island, which feels not unlike a quaint New England fishing town, has a variety of different housing stock, with everything from tiny clapboard homes to stately colonial mansions. However, the one thing the homes do have in common is that they aren’t new.
“There’s very, very little new development,” said Sona Davidian, a broker with McClellan Sotheby’s International Realty, which is heading the marketing and sales of On the Sound. “People are drawn towards brand-new, and we’ve gotten a great response right out of the box.”
Davidian said since sales began, several units went into contract immediately, and a steady flow of visitors have been coming through the project’s sales center, located on a main street in the tiny town. So far, 25 percent of the units have been spoken for.
“We weren’t really sure who it’d appeal to,” Davidian admitted. “But it immediately appealed to people in City Island itself.”
Sales at the project began about a month ago, and the first contract signed at the development was by a current City Island resident.
“People with young kids, brand-new couples, newlyweds, and a smattering of people retiring and like the idea of two-beds and two-baths on one level with no spare,” said Davidian of who has been interested in On the Sound.
One big draw has been the waterfront proximity, which is much pricier in other parts of the city as well as Westchester County.
“We’ve gotten a lot of people who are boaters, who have grown up in a boating community and are very drawn to the water itself,” said Davidian. The sales team has even gotten a call from someone in Sweden looking for an affordable waterfront home.
People from nearby neighborhoods in the Bronx, and even some from Astoria, Queens who are being priced out have taken interest in the units, said Davidian.
“There’s a lot of interest from people who are downsizing and want to be in a maintenance-free environment so they don’t have to shovel snow and mow lawns,” she said.
Construction has begun on the development, and the first phase of units, designed by Kutnicki Bernstein Architects, are expected to be completed this fall. Pricing for the units start in the upper $400,000 range and go up to $1 million.
Residences will include either a private garden or elevated terrace. Interiors will include gas fireplaces, Carrera white marble accents, GE stainless steel appliances, hardwood flooring, and walk-in closets.
Jeff Simpson, CEO of property development at Greystone, said the decision to build in an lesser-known area was a simple one.
“We saw a need,” said Simpson. “We like diversity, our risk is controlled. Here, we saw an opportunity to provide well-priced, high-quality product for New Yorkers with proximity to Westchester.”
And it wasn’t just new housing that was needed, but modern touches and amenities.
“If you’re someone who loves City Island and you want something new, there’s not much,” said Simpson. “And now you have a project that has waterfront amenities that’s in your backyard. It’s somewhat of a no-brainer if you’re looking to upgrade to new construction. For someone that doesn’t want to go through the process of renovation, it definitely provides a touch of modern living.”
The zoning of the development is 3A, which makes it more of a “suburban layout” than a typical midrise, and includes community amenities such as private clubhouse with elevated terrace, outdoor pool, playground, and fitness center.
“It’s a way to have a New England suburban feel but still be in the five boroughs,” said Simpson.
Greystone is targeting the end of next year for a completion date.