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Photo by Dominick Totino Photography
Rafael Nadal won the Men's Final at the U.S. Open on Sept. 10.

With Hurricane Irma severely pounding Florida last week, I was so grateful that my stepson Jon Yunis — who lives in Sarasota, Florida — had bought one-way tickets to New York to protect his family. But my cousin Peter Ostrowsky decided he would “tough it out” and remain in Miami. Thankfully, his home is intact, but he lost electricity.

Somehow, Florida is my “extended family” state, and everyone I know knows someone affected by the ugly Irma’s horror as it churned its way there, landing in the state that is also one of my favorite vacation places.

Houston — which was hit by hellish Hurricane Harvey — is the city which my other stepson Harvey calls home  as does my dear friend Claire Shulman’s astronaut daughter Ellen. Thankfully, their homes suffered little damage but many of their neighbors were not so fortunate.

The kindness of Americans who want to help is overwhelming.

It’s our time to be grateful and therefore to give generously. A safe way to donate is through the United Way organizations in the cities where so many people are in need. The acts of kindness go a long way!

The U.S. Open experience

Neeha and Eddie Alhuwalia with their daughters

Neeha and Eddie Alhuwalia with their daughters

Queens County hosted the world-class U.S. Open tennis matches. The world came to our city to watch the superb tournament at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Park.

I had the pleasure to see the matches from the President’s Suite, which gave me a ringside seat. It was the first year that I saw the dome over Arthur Ashe Stadium put to use – once closed and once open.

When I saw the Rafael Nadal match on Sept. 7, rain threatened all day, but with the closed dome, the match went on seamlessly. The climate was perfect in the enormous stadium and I loved how the spectators’ applause for the players roared and reverberated through the space, then absolute silence reigned as each play began.

With the dome open, the sky looked like a movie set, spectacularly clear, and I loved looking up to watch the big, fluffy clouds blow by.

Being in the President’s Suite includes a superb meal of creative American cuisine served with fine wines. It has open seating, and I had the chance of sitting with people from England and the man who runs the Royal Box at Wimbledon. The next day, I dined with a woman who represents a chocolate company in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

But the most fun was to speak to and sit a few rows from Robert Redford, one of my favorite stars, and to see former Mayor David Dinkins, who is a regular Open visitor, who is now over 90, and looks and sounds great. He introduced me to ice hockey star Rod Gilbert, a former Ranger who turned out to be a great friend of my friend Juliana Terian! What a world!

Of course, the real stars were the players, and they are spectacular to watch! I saw their strength and stamina and it took my breath away. After all, the Open brings the best players in the world to us.

USTA President and CEO Katrina Adams explained in her welcome letter that the revenue from the U.S. Open goes to support grass root tennis programs around the United States. I was particularly struck to see people with disabilities playing matches in their wheelchairs. Also, there are many days and hours when you can go on the grounds for free to enjoy the 15 restaurants, multiple merchants and “the scene.”

Try it next year. You too will love the experience.

Greenport: Our next destination

Our new Long Island Press lifestyle newsmagazine is featuring destinations to visit on Long Island. In September, it is Patchogue, a unique village on the south shore of Suffolk County where artists live in housing designed to allow them to work and live in the center of town.

All along Main Street, there is a thriving dining and night scene, and the Patchogue Chamber of Commerce has hundreds of members. The town is also home to the award-winning St Joseph’s College.

The shining light on Main Street is the lovingly, newly renovated playhouse in a former old movie theatre. It’s worth a visit!

In October, we will feature Greenport on the North Fork of Suffolk County. This past Sunday, I made my first visit there. Friends Pouran and Kia Eshghi drove with me to their favorite places to buy freshly caught fish, flowers and “the best corn anywhere!”

As we drove down Route 25, we passed winery after winery, and potato and corn farms, and I saw one craft beer “farm.” Then, we went into the bustling town to dine at Claudio’s on the water, a fourth-generation group of waterfront restaurants.

I look forward to our spotlight on Greenport, a town in its glory days with housing prices soaring and a growing millennial community. Stay tuned!

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