FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM APRIL 2, 2020 • THE QUEENS COURIER 21
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
US Open tennis site in Queens being
converted to medical center, commissary
BY JOE PANTORNO
Parts of the Billie Jean King National
Tennis Center in Queens — which hosts
the U.S. Open every year — will be used
as a temporary aid station to assist the
fi ght against the coronavirus pandemic.
Beginning on Tuesday, an indoor training
New Yorkers step up to help essential workers with MetroCard donations
BY BENJAMIN MANDILE
New Yorkers are coming together once
again in a time of need as MetroCard
owners staying home due to the coronavirus
are passing off their unused cards
to essential workers who must still travel
Sophie Vershbow, a New York-based
social media director, started the act of
kindness by connecting people online.
As of March 27, 124 people had signed
on to the initiative and by March 30
there were 228 confi rmed matches and 35
pending, said Vershbow.
“Th e response has been overwhelmingly
positive,” she said. “People are eager to
help any way they can from the safety of
Th e system uses Google Sheets and has
the MetroCard user enter their name,
email address and card value into the
spreadsheet. Th en essential workers can
contact the person directly with
their physical address to
claim the card.
Th e system was designed for
privacy, so the only exchange of
addresses is between the donor and
“I’m aware that this isn’t the most
high-tech operation and have no way to
verify that essential workers are who they
say they are,” said Vershbow. “But in times
like these, you hope everyone is on the
honor system and using a resource the
way it’s meant to be used.”
She said that a few people have raised
this issue to her, but that it doesn’t concern
her in the slightest.
Th e idea formed when she received
her monthly unlimited pass in the mail
that would sit unused due to the fact that
she is currently working from home and
to be back in the offi ce by the next time
she receives her MetroCard.
She sent out a tweet saying that she
would off er her card to an essential worker
in need, and the number of responses
she received was overwhelming.
“I received so many replies from other
New Yorkers with MetroCards to donate
that I knew I had to organize something,”
she told QNS.
Vershbow said she grew up in
the city and is never surprised
by the generosity of her fellow
It’s been over a week since
she tweeted the off er and said
she was able to get the word
out because of her “decentsized”
following on the
social media platform, with
17,000 followers as of publication.
She said she has mostly gotten
the word out through the social
As of March 30 there were still 100
MetroCards waiting to be claimed.
area will be converted into a 350-bed
medical facility, USTA spokesman Chris
Widmaier confi rmed with AMNewYork
Th e New York Post reported that the
initial plan is that the site will be used
to house patients who have not been
aff ected by COVID-19. New York City’s
emergency management offi ce has yet to
comment on inquiries from amNewYork
Metro confi rming that.
Elsewhere among the Billie Jean King
Center’s grounds, Louis Armstrong
Stadium — the 14,000-seat venue that
is the No. 2 court behind Arthur Ashe
Stadium — will also be used as a commissary
in which 25,000 meals will be
prepared daily for medical patients and
healthcare workers along with schoolchildren.
As it stands, the U.S. Open is still scheduled
to take place later this summer,
beginning on Aug. 24. Th e Queens-based
tournament is usually the fi nal major of
tennis’ annual Grand Slam, which also
features the Australian Open, Wimbledon
and French Open.
Th e French Open was postponed until
Sept. 20, while an announcement canceling
Wimbledon is expected to come
sometime this week — trivial byproducts
of an international pandemic, which has
seen New York City become one of the
epicenters of the outbreak.
As of Tuesday, New York City had
40,900 confi rmed cases of COVID-19,
per the city’s health department. Th at’s
more than half of the entire states’ positive
Th e rising numbers have fi lled New
York City-area hospitals to capacity, forcing
government offi cials to look elsewhere
to ensure there is enough space and
resources for all in need of medical help.
In Manhattan, the Jacob Javits
Convention Center has been transformed
into a 2,910-bed medical facility and on
Monday morning, the 1,000-bed hospital
ship, the USNS Comfort, arrived in New
Louis Armstrong Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.