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Queens got talent. United States Tennis Association employees set up mini courts in Corona Plaza and gave free instruction to youngsters this morning. Activities included lessons on basic skills, balance, and coordination, as well as ball-and-racket exchanges and tips on long-term athletic development. The participants used loaned mini-rackets and foam balls, and USTA employees imparted gifts and provided information on low-cost programs at the nearby Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (where the two-week US Open will take place starting on August 25th).

Then as a special treat, officials showed the permanent US Open singles trophies to the awed crowd. It was so much fun that the USTA will do it again in the same plaza next Friday, August 15th, at 10:30 am in conjunction with other activities such as healthy eating demonstrations, a merchant showcase, health screenings, and back-to-school discounts. Corona Plaza project manager William McCarthy hopes to offer these events weekly as part of his “Fridays Under the Seven” healthy living series. In the top photo, Assemblyman Francisco Moya holds the US Open men’s singles trophy, the same one that Rafael Nadal hoisted last year, in the second row, while City Council Member Julissa Ferreras shows the women’s singles trophy, which Serena Williams won last year. Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jack Friedman is in back right in a suit, while Community Board 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol is in suspenders next to him.  Check out more photos after the jump…

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Already in the second week of the US Open Tennis.com decided to pen a love letter to Louis Armstrong Stadium, the second-largest stadium inside the National Tennis Center. The stadium has its quirks:

The seats are cramped, the wind swirls inside, and there are no architectural or decorative touches to please the eye. Designed and built in minimalist, modernist 1964, it’s just a concrete bowl with enormous steel light fixtures towering over it… Armstrong has what city planners would now call “a circulation problem.” Outside of Rome, it may be the most restless tennis court in the world.

Louis Armstrong was once slated for demolition, but now plans call for a revamp, expansion, and a new retractable roof. (Because the stadium was built on a landfill, it never received a roof due to concerns that the soil couldn’t support the weight.) Former United States Tennis Association president Slew Hester first spotted the stadium back in 1977, when it was abandoned and covered with snow. The arena hadn’t been in use since the 1964 World’s Fair. The USTA had outgrown the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, so the move was made to Flushing Meadows. The rush to prepare the site for the US Open “explains why there were no bells and whistles in the design, as well as the jerry-rigged quality of its construction.” The appeal, of course, rests in the nostaliga of the building. As the author puts it, “Armstrong has a strange appeal, one that makes me wonder if memories and nostalgia don’t ultimately trump all questions of aesthetics and taste.”

A Palace Fit for Queens [Tennis.com]
Photo by wallyg

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Grub Street has a nice rundown of stuff to eat at this year’s US Open, which begins today. The chefs Tony Mantuano, Masaharu Morimoto, and David Burke will cook this week at the sit-down venues. There, you can expect dishes like salumi antipasto, sushi rolls, and cheesecake lollipops. Grub Street was most excited about more casual eats, including the BBQ at Hill Country and the filet mignon sandwich at East Gate Grill. There are also plenty of dosas, tacos, and burgers to be had. Any readers have their own standby meals at and around the National Tennis Center?

What to Eat at This Year’s US Open, Starting Today [Grub Street]
Photo by adamisserlis

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It’s enrichment at no cost. The New York Hall of Science will offer free general admission from August 24th to September 9th, and as the deal coincides with the US Open Tennis Championship, some exhibits will have sports themes. The Arthur Ashe Learning Center Inspiration Tour will use touchscreens, motion paintings, augmented reality and wellness challenges to provide insight into the legendary tennis player’s passions, which included sports, education, health and public service. On August 29th, NYSCI will operate an Alternative Sports Drink Stand from noon to 3 pm. Patrons will be able to try alternatives to commercial sports drinks while learning healthful tips on snacks, farming and creating homemade drinks. There are other temporary exhibits, such as Tesla’s Wonderful World of Electricity, and NYSCI has more than 450 permanent hands-on exhibits and demonstrations.

Details: Free General Admission, NYSCI, 47-01 111th Street, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, August 24th to September 9th, click here for hours.

Photo: NYSCI/FB

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September 11

Today is 9/11, which can be a pretty challenging day for many. We watched the reading of the names this morning, and it was very moving. We hope you have been able to take time during this day for whatever your needs are in remembering this day eleven years ago. Please feel free to share your thoughts with us, too.

We also came across this 1978 photo of the towers from an LIC perspective. Thanks to Dennis Ponsot for uploading to Facebook.

Astoria has the best public high school in all of NYC

Congratulations to the Baccalaureate School for Global Education in Astoria! It was rated the top NYC public high school in US News & World Report’s rankings this year. The Daily News describes the program:

With an authorization from the International Baccalaureate Organization to offer its Diploma Program, BSGE is among the best of the best. All prospective students must register for the school website’s admissions test, and each year less than 10% of the applicant pool is accepted. Every member of its ethnically and economically diverse body of students is expected upon completion to be a candidate for an International Baccalaureate Diploma. This rigor translates to staggering college matriculation results, as approximately one quarter of each graduating class attends an Ivy League college. The school also fosters a creative environment in which a broad range of electives and extracurricular activities is made available, from robotics to early morning fitness.

Where to drink beer outdoors in Queens 

Serious Drinks has a nice piece on where to drink beer outdoor in Queens. The list looks at Astoria and LIC, where there are quite a few places to enjoy a cold brew in the open air, including the amazing Bohemian Beer Garden in Astoria, as well as newcomer Alewife. Here’s hoping people come forth with their faves further east in the borough.

The Oracle Club could be your new artsy home away from home

The Oracle Club, a salon/club in LIC, is a great resource for creative folks living in Western Queens. It is “a place where like-minded creative people could interact, commune, and be mutually stimulated and encouraged… a club with a social salon, extensive library, and studio and work spaces for visual artists and writers.”

There is a membership fee for this space. Artists can join for $175/month, which gives them access to shared studio space and a private locker; writers can join for $125/month, which gives them access the library. For $50/month there’s a social package, which provides access to the salon and library as a meeting place for friends and colleagues over coffee. They can access the Club from 8am to 11pm. The Oracle Club also produces events, like concerts and lectures.

Congratulations, Andy Murray

History was made last night in Flushing, when Andy Murray, the Scottish player who recently won the Men’s Singles gold medal at the London Olympics, beat Novak Djokovic three sets to two. A man from the UK hasn’t won this tournament since 1936, AND this was Murray’s first Grand Slam win so this is a Big Deal in the world of tennis. It was nice to see how gracious Djokovic was, too.

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A little bit of Kansas found its way to Queens this weekend

So how did this weekend’s storm affect you? We are hopeful that you were able to stay safe and that none of your property was damaged. Probably the most bizarre thing to happen during the storm was the tornado that touched down in Breezy Point, out on the Rockaway Peninsula. The tornado was about 50 feet across and stayed on land for about 600 feet; winds were 70 mph, making it a “weak” tornado. We bet the Breezy Point Surf Club felt differently, as they sustained the most damage from the twister. If haven’t caught the video yet, here it is:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w8gWj2Ue3I&version=3&hl=en_US]

The last bits of the US Open

Starting at 4pm on Monday, September 10, the Men’s Singles finals are being played between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. This major match was supposed to happen on Sunday evening (the Women’s Singles were pushed a day to that slot instead – congrats, Serena), but the Saturday storms contributed to the delay. And even though the Open ends after the men play, and won’t be back for another year, you can savor the fact that one of the permiere worldwide sporting events happens right here in Queens. So proud.

It’s true, Thom Yorke was here in Queens, spinning and dancing his heart out, entertaining the Warm Up masses

The internet was all excited about the fact that Thom Yorke was spinning some of the tunes heard during the final MOMA PS1 Warm Up of the year. It was an excellent time and all about fun, fun, fun.

Parkour in Queens, including a movie

Have you heard of parkour? It’s the art of moving and overcoming obstacles, physically, and has origins in France. It’s a controversial sport and its participants are passionate about it (cats are natural parkour practitioners, though they probably don’t know it or really care). Word on the street is that one of the best places to practice parkour in NYC is at Queens College because of all its varied obstacles and types of surfaces, but Rockaway Boardwalk and Roosevelt Island are also popular parkour haunts.

Queens resident Kevin Horan of Rockaway Beach is such a parkour virtuoso that he was asked to be in an independent short film called “Atlas.” The film’s director, Nadia Lesy of Ridgewood, said the film depicts Greek mythology through parkour movements. Horan plays Zeus. The film is slated to be released in January 2013.

Looking for papalo?

This fresh herb, papalo, is often used in place of cilantro (it might be an option for your cilantro haters – yes, that soapy taste you detect has to do with genetics) in Mexican and other Latin American food, and can be found pretty easily in Queens – check the Mi Tierra market (which has a fantastic produce section) on Roosevelt near 85th Street (GMAP) and also at the Socrates Sculpture Park greenmarket in LIC (GMAP).

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Image source: Phil Haas

Besides world-class tennis and a world-class venue, one highlight of the US Open this year has been the signature cocktail. Sweetly named the Grey Goose Honey Deuce, it’s a mixture of lemonade, vodka, and black raspberry liqueur – garnished with three adorable honeydew melon balls to get you into the tennis spirit.

The drink, which is sold at the concession stands inside Arthur Ashe Stadium and at Grey Goose Bar in the outdoor plaza, comes in a US Open 2012 tumbler that you can keep. The collectible cup lists all of the champions, men and women, from 1968 to 2011.

If you didn’t get tickets to the Open this year, try making your own Honey Deuce at home while you watch the finals on TV. This video from the Wall Street Journal reveals the recipe.

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Image source: travlr on Flickr

The US Open has been the biggest sports event going on lately – Queens is the proud home to this major Grand Slam tennis tournament. It’s really a thrill to be there during the US Open, too. Have you caught any of it, either on TV or in person (and if you were there at the Tennis Center did you check out either of the new fancy bars that opened this year)? Let us know in the comments or via twitter at @queensnycity!