Thursday, July 21, 2011

Coming to America

This is the My Hometown Blogathon, the first WSW theme week doubling as a blogathon. The goal is discussing movies set in one's hometown, or at the very least, the general area of one's birth. All this week I'll write about movies set in my home borough of Queens. Check back on July 23 for a list of participating bloggers in this blogathon.

Coming to America
last seen online via YouTube

Queens Boulevard runs through the heart of Queens and is our most popular and commercial street. Starting in downtown Jamaica, in the southern part of the borough, it expands into a wide thoroughfare that makes its way north and west all the way to the Queensborough Bridge. The elevated 7 train follows it a brief way from the Bridge into Sunnyside. The Queens Center Mall is on the boulevard, as is a high school, a community college, two movie theaters, a YMCA, and of course Borough Hall and the Courthouse, not to mention a wide variety of large and small shops and restaurants.

For years, however, it had a well-earned reputation as a dangerous street to cross. According to Wikipedia, Queens Boulevard averaged 10.2 pedestrian deaths a year between 1993-2000, earning it the monicker of "the boulevard of death." It is a ridiculously wide street, even with medians, and take it from a local: crossing it requires alertness and quickness. The medians separate the street into "fast lanes" in the middle and "slow lanes" on the sides until you get to Sunnyside, where the elevated 7 train runs down the middle of the street. The signal lights were recently re-timed to make crossing time longer, but you still can't afford to be slacking.

Queens Plaza lies at the base of the Queensborough Bridge, where the boulevard ends. It's a great big tangle of street traffic and elevated trains (not just the 7 but the N and Q coming from Astoria) that the city has taken steps to untangle in recent years - for instance, bikers now have a protected path leading to the bridge. And while the ongoing construction has created difficulties for local businesses, the city says the end result will make it easier for pedestrians to navigate the area.

I like walking up and down Queens Boulevard for exercise, if nothing else. If I go to the Queens Center Mall, it's usually to eat rather than to shop - their food court includes a Charley's, a Ranch 1 and a Five Guys. I can't recall the last time I've actually bought anything there. But anyway, after I eat, I like walking my meal off by heading east towards Continental Avenue, which is quite a distance on foot - uphill, no less. One of the boulevard's movie theaters is at that intersection, but I don't go there anymore because they're too expensive. I think the last movie I saw there was The Losers (bleech).

In Coming to America, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall work at a fast-food joint on Queens Boulevard near (I believe) Grand Street, where the R and M trains run. It's a Wendy's now, but if you go there, you can see not only the restaurant, but the billboard where the ad for Soul Glo went. Late in the movie, Murphy follows Shari Headley into a subway station on the boulevard, but the station is what is now called Briarwood-Van Wyck, which is very far east from the fast-food joint. It would've required Headley to walk a considerable distance in the rain.

I'm not entirely certain, but I don't think all the location shots in the movie were in Queens. The run-down apartment building where Murphy and Hall stay in is in a neighborhood with an elevated train, and at first I thought they were in Astoria, but Astoria never looked anywhere near that bad. I suspect that was somewhere in either Brooklyn or the Bronx. The plot required Murphy and Hall to check into as scuzzy a place as possible, and while I don't doubt that Queens has its share of such places, I guess they weren't scuzzy enough.

Previously in the My Hometown Blogathon:
The Terminal


  1. I've never been to New York so it's interesting to read your break down. I LOVED this movie when it came out and over the years, I've seen it many times. I really wonder if I could get across that street fast enough!

  2. You could. Crossing Queens Blvd. is more of a problem for little kids and the elderly than anyone else, but the important thing is not to dawdle on it.


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