Atlantic Yards ground-breaking event marked by politicians, pop star and protests
Originally Published:Thursday, March 11th 2010, 5:23 PM
Updated: Friday, March 12th 2010, 11:11 AM
Pomp overshadowed protest Thursday as ground was broken on the future home of Nets - the centerpiece of the controversial Atlantic Yards project.
Marching bands and speeches from politicians and dignitaries drowned out demonstrators ringing what is to be called the Barclays Center, for the bank that bought the naming rights to the 18,000-seat sports arena.
"I can't believe I'm standing here today," said developer Bruce Ratner, whose six-year battle to build the project has been buffeted by the economic recession and resistance from businesses and Brooklynites being displaced.
"Today is a great day for Brooklyn," Ratner said.
A large white tent was erected on the site where Atlantic Ave. intersects with Flatbush Ave. to accommodate hundreds of supporters, who enjoy smoked salmon hors d'oeuvres - and Junior's Cheesecake.
Organizers prepared 70 silver shovels for the event.
Bloomberg was joined by Ratner, Gov. Paterson, Barclays Bank President Robert Diamond, Borough President Marty Markowitz, Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Rev. Al Sharpton and rapper and Nets co-owner Jay-Z in breaking ground.
A protest outside the site drew about 200 foes of the project, who countered that the construction will doom Brooklyn.
"I hearby proclaim March 11, 2010, the destruction of Brooklyn's soul day," said a protester wearing a Markowitz mask.
One protester was arrested for disobeying a police order to stop pounding a drum.
Demonstrators briefly blocked traffic on Atlantic Ave. until cops dispersed them.
The new arena, set to open in 2012, is part of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards Project, which includes 16 residential and commercial towers.
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