To the Open, Up the River

It’s probably the least-known and best way to get to the U.S. Open.

Late last week, thanks to Jon Wertheim’s twitter, I heard about a free way to get to the U.S. Open: a ferry. (Or, more accurately, a Water Taxi, free thanks to a sponsorship deal with Powerade.) 

I had to be in Manhattan early this morning, so I decided to take the trip down East 35th street to catch the ferry at 11:15 (it leaves every two hours or so). I arrived at the 35th street “Marina,” which is basically a dock where you get a lovely view of the FDR. A nice lady perched under a Powerade tent pointed me in the right direction and handed me a free Powerade, strawberry flavor (word of caution: very sweet). 

I moved down the dock and saw about 30 people waiting. Popular day for the ferry! I took out my notebook to do some interviews  and realized that all these people were carrying beach chairs and oversize tote bags. I asked a young bearded man, with shorts a tad too short for the Open, where he was headed. Sandy Hook! Wrong ferry.

I saw a man waiting with a New York Times, and he turned out to be a man waiting for the Open ferry, which hadn’t arrived yet. His name was Alvin Shields, a 58-year-old math teacher, who said he’d already taken it four times this week (twice there, twice back). He was most definitely a fan.

“It’s been great,”he said. “It beats the subway.”

He told me he was surprised how few people seemed to be familiar with it. He said there were six people aboard the ferry ride he had on Monday night and seven people on Tuesday night.

The water taxi arrived, and I stepped aboard and took a look around the rather nice bottom deck. Greyhound-bus style seats and two flat screen TVs playing the Tennis Channel. The air-conditioning was perfect.

I made my way upstairs, and no, this isn’t any Fire Island ferry. It’s smaller and there are only about 30 seats on the upper deck. By time the ferry left, 15 were filled.

The best part of the trip has to be, easily, the view of the East Side when the boat first leaves. Traveling by Sutton Place and the United Nations a there’s a beautiful three-dimensionality to the entire city.

And you also travel under bridges, which is kind of insane. It’s all very cool.

“This is fantastic!” said Jeff Bockman, an ad writer who leaves on the East Side. “This is a great, fun way of doing it.”

He said he didn’t even have a ticket yet, and even if he couldn’t find an affordable scalper, it was well worth it just for the ferry ride (in case if you’re wondering why he’s able to afford this luxury on a Tuesday morning, he works for himself).

“The price is right,” he said.

“This is absolutely great,” said Gary Redish, a 60-year old lawyer. “How can you beat this beautiful day? I wonder why they didn’t publicize it.”

A ball boy came over and said this was his second time taking the ferry. “No one knows about it,” he said. “I asked USTA guest services and they didn’t even know about it.”

Our little secret!

By time we got to the World’s Fair “marina,” we had been gone for 30 minutes. We were supposed to get on a bus which would take no more than 10 minutes. It took 20. The bus driver had to explain, in irritatingly exhaustive detail, how to find the bus in order to take a return trip. No one seemed interested in the instructions.

To the Open, Up the River