Jeff, you needed to clip coupons to ride the Concorde cheap

Owen Byrne owen at
Sat Oct 25 04:14:57 PDT 2003

Some people are happy to see it go:


    Covering Their Ears One Last Time for Concorde


he Champagne was fake, but the relief for long-suffering residents of 
Queens was very real at a gathering yesterday at a waterfront park in 
Howard Beach.

Many of those sufferers, from neighborhoods surrounding Kennedy 
International Airport, showed up to toast a jet that had provided them 
not with trans-Atlantic luxury and speed, but with a first-class earache 
that throbbed for a quarter-century.

"Come on, honey, show them what you do when the Concorde comes," said 
Liliana Manta, 30, to her 1-year-old son, Michael, who promptly put his 
hands over his ears. He did it again as the Concorde took off for the 
last time at 7:38 a.m. from Runway 31, and the crowd bade a robust good 
riddance to a supersonic nuisance.

"The first time I heard the Concorde when we moved in, I dove under the 
bed," Ms. Manta said. "I'm not kidding. I thought it was going to crash 
into the house, it was so loud. Immediately, I wanted to sell, but what 
can you do? You learn to live with it."

While staff members for Representative Anthony D. Weiner poured 
sparkling cider into plastic Champagne glasses, he announced "a day of 
celebration for people who want a little peace and quiet."

"Goodbye and good riddance to the Concorde," he said. "May she land 
safely at Heathrow and never come back."

"Hip, hip, hooray," shouted the crowd at Frank M. Charles Memorial Park.

And so went the cheers yesterday along Cross Bay Boulevard and Beach 
Channel Drive. While aviation buffs regarded the Concorde's last flight 
as a nostalgic end to the era of the supersonic transport, residents 
under Kennedy flight patterns celebrated victory, basking in the idea 
that after years of making angry phone calls, signing petitions and 
pestering politicians, they had helped slay the mighty SST.

"We lost a few battles, but after 25 years, we finally won the war," 
said Frans C. Verhagen, the president of a coalition of civic groups in 
Queens, Sane Aviation for Everyone. "It took 25 years, but a bunch of 
citizens in Queens stopped the SST from proliferating into the rest of 
the United States and the world."

Others attributed victory to cold, hard economics, and still others to 
cosmic justice. While pampering the rich and famous, the Concorde 
touched lives, perhaps 100,000 people living near the airport, in 
southern Queens and parts of Brooklyn and Nassau County. It reached into 
homes, teaching adults to glue their china to cabinet shelves, and into 
schools, teaching children the letters SST before ABC.

But yesterday, they exhaled. The neighbors attribute many horrors to the 
Concorde. They say it caused ceilings to crack, eardrums to ring, houses 
to shake, windows to rattle, trash can lids to blow off and car alarms 
to blare, and was responsible for SST breaks in schools, weekend wake-up 
rumbles at 8 a.m. and a drag on property values.

"It may be beautiful to look at, but not to live near," said Christine 
Modafferi, 40. The Concorde roared overhead twice each morning, she 
said, and vibrations from it caused recurring cracks in her ceilings.

Yesterday, the Concorde seemed to launch itself straight out of the 
rising sun. It turned and climbed in a swooping graceful arc out over 
Jamaica Bay, then the Rockaways, then the Atlantic and toward London. 
The sky-cracking sound from the afterburners seemed to travel behind the 

Not everyone on the ground was jeering. "I love everything about that 
plane, even the noise," said Judy Gardonyi, a graphic artist from 
Oceanside, N.Y., who came to the park. "It's the end of an era."

Maggie DeMarzo, 73, from Woodhaven, came with Mary DiMambro, 70, her 
sister, from Ozone Park. Yesterday was the end to their daily trips to 
the park to sip coffee and watch the Concorde fly overhead. "This day is 
an historic event, are you kidding?" Mrs. DeMarzo said. "That plane is a 
thing of beauty. It's a big beautiful bird in the sky, and when I see 
it, I'm in seventh heaven."

This kind of talk did not sit well with Elizabeth Grassi, 65, of 
Hamilton Beach, who helped fight the Concorde in 1976. "Hey, you don't 
live here, so you don't know what it's like," she said. "We've been 
putting up with noise since the day it started flying."

The sisters then began chanting "Bring back the Concorde!"

Mrs. Grassi shouted: "You want it? Let it fly over your house."

During the takeoff, Mr. Weiner poked fun at the celebrity party scene on 
board: "Folks, they're away from the terminal and they're opening the 
Champagne. Wait, I think Sting is having his first piece of Brie."

Noting the end to the three-and-half-hour flight to London, about half 
the length of a trip by regular jet, he added, "Sorry, Madonna and 
Sting; you'll just have to find another way to get there."

Neither celebrity was actually on the flight. But Mr. Weiner's contempt 
reflected a longstanding view that the Concorde's operators sheltered 
its moneyed passengers from the noise, while caring little for the 
ethnic working-class and poor minority neighborhoods below.

In 1976, local civic groups pressured powerful Democrats and staged 
demonstrations. The complaints reached the White House and Paris and 
London. The British prime minister weighed in, and the French president, 
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, said the only thing the planes would fly over 
was fish.

When a federal court finally lifted a state ban on the flights in 1977, 
local people saw the move as a small step forward for air travel and a 
giant one backward for human rights. The government, they said, caved in 
to French and English businessmen.

But yesterday, in their eyes, the wrong was finally righted. "We used to 
set our watches by that plane," said Paul Lanza, a dentist who lives 
nearby. He stood shivering in the morning chill and watched the Concorde 
disappear forever.

"Come on everybody," he said. "Let's go to Starbucks."

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