Scenes from Queens: Getting to the Open

by: Ed McGrogan | August 26, 2012

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The U.S. Open is more than just the matches, it's an experience. Each day, we'll highlight one part of what makes the Open the Open.

They say it's a nightmare to get anywhere in New York, and if you define New York as Manhattan, which we often do, you're pretty much right. But as a former resident of Forest Hills in the borough of Queens, I will remind you that the E and F subway trains don't stop and turn around upon reaching the East River; they go further east, to a part of the city with more than just avenues and streets—here, you'll find 41st Drive, 87th Road, and 164th Place—and green space larger than Central Park. That would be Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, home to the annual August extravaganza that is the U.S. Open.

Because Flushing Meadows isn't in the center of truffle-dense Manhattan, getting to the U.S. Open is a breeze—in relative terms, and this coming from someone who's traveled to the tournament by almost every means possible. The most popular mode of transportation, both in number of daily passengers and establishing shots on network broadcasts of the Open, is the much-maligned 7 train. Why is the purple-colored line on the subway system so disliked? Maybe it's because you're taken—if you embark in Manhattan—through some of the most graffiti-strewn parts of the metropolis, but my answer is: I don't know. There are far more unreliable trains than the 7, and the Flushing line is one of the few that grants riders cell phone use, being that it's above ground for the majority of its journey.

There are other options of conveyance for those located in New York City: There's the Long Island Railroad, a quicker ride to Flushing from Manhattan, but it has limited service and restricts riders to the narrow Port Washington line. Then there are taxis, which aren't a bad deal if you live in Queens or certain parts of neighboring Brooklyn. Best of all are the buses, depending on where you board. While stop-and-go, many routes avoid nightmarish bottlenecks; I recommend the Q23, which is then followed by a lovely walk through Corona Park. The only area of public transportation I'd avoid are the livery cars, purely for financial reasons (a ride from Flushing to Brooklyn set a friend of mine back $100, and that was after some haggling). Not that you won't see many of the wealthy night-match set taking black Town Cars home, of course.

This isn't to say that driving to the U.S. Open should be discounted. In fact, that's what I'll be doing today, and for the next 14 days (you just know a fifth consecutive Monday men's final is coming). It's a daunting proposition at first, navigating New York's poorly maintained and heavily trafficked thoroughfares, with mostly dilapidated and inconsistent signage serving as guideposts. Many would disagree; me, I find them charming. But that's after traversing the eternally-under-construction Whitestone Bridge and taking the busy Grand Central Parkway dozens of times.

So no, none of the ways to the National Tennis Center are as simple as a stroll across town—even straphangers must endure a lengthy walk after alighting. But after you travel that boardwalk, or pay your cab fare, or find a parking spot, and arrive at your destination, you can relax, watch great tennis, have something to eat or drink, and say to yourself, It could have been worse. I could have been taking NJ Transit or crossing the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey.

More Scenes from Queens:

Monday, August 27: Getting to the Open
Tuesday, August 28: Night Matches
Wednesday, August 29: Photography
Thursday, August 30: Autographs
Friday, August 31: Food at the Open
Saturday, September 1: Practice Courts
Sunday, September 2: Getting In
Monday, September 3: Staying Connected
Tuesday, September 4: Ball Kids
Wednesday, September 5: The Corporate Connection
Thursday, September 6: The Outer Courts
Friday, September 7: Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Saturday, September 8: Arthur Ashe
Sunday, September 9: Empty Corridors

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