Ratner breaks ground! Jay-Z celebrates! Others protest!

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Bruce Ratner and a deep bench of supporters of his Atlantic Yards mega-project broke ground on a basketball arena for his Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets on Thursday afternoon, drawing to a symbolic close to more than seven years of delays for the developer.

Gov. Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Markowitz, and rap mogul, Jay-Z, an owner of a very small portion of the Nets, were the luminaries on the dais. Meanwhile one hundred or so protesters rallied within earshot, calling the project a boondoggle.

But the day belonged to Ratner and his partners in the Barclays Center arena, the first piece of his proposed 16-tower mini-city containing more than 6,600 units of housing, a portion of them set aside at below-market rates.

The builder got a standing ovation from the 1,000 invited guests — a strange bedfellows of supporters from organized labor, the community group ACORN, sports fans, black community leaders, and elected officials — gathered in a tent on the sprawling project site, which covers a 22-acre area between Flatbush and Vanderbilt avenues, from Dean Street to Atlantic Avenue.

The arena will accommodate 19,000 fans. It is slated to open during the 2011-2012 NBA season.

Forest City Ratner executives say that the first residential building — whose design has not been announced — will begin construction next spring.

“This is the type of job creation that we need,” said Paterson, who strongly supports the project, though he is an opponent of the use of eminent domain, which is being used by the state to remove a handful of remaining residents and businesses within the Atlantic Yards footprint. “As buildings rise, the jobless rate will drop.”

Paterson specifically praised Ratner for his commitment to funneling contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses.

“This is a big project that will even the score,” he said.

Markowitz was in his usual role of emcee-in-chief, employing his inimitable style to cheer Ratner for steering the project through dozens of lawsuits, a challenging economy and soaring costs.

Ratner singled out Markowitz for praise — indeed, the Beep was the person who persuaded the builder to buy the Nets and build their new home.

“Marty, you pestered me every day,” Ratner said. “It took seven years, but we got there together.”

Later, Ratner praised his lawyers — all 150 of them — whom he jokingly called “New York’s Finest.”

“Thank you, all you brilliant litigators,” he said, referring to the cases that they won. “You’re amazing.”

As it was in Ratner’s remarks, a hint of opposition was never far from the surface. So even as all of the speakers focused on the future of the Atlantic Yards site, which will change the heart of Brooklyn, most also addressed the protesters, who hooted within earshot.

“We have recognized that there was strong opposition that was based on merit and that was real for this project. We respect that,” said Paterson. “But the economic opportunities here are undeniable.”

Markowitz merely derided the protesters as “disgruntled Knicks fans.”

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church, another strong supporter, offered some words of caution in his invocation.

“God will be angry if we misuse the people’s resources,” he said, referring to the promised affordable housing, open space and economic opportunity for the thousands of jobless in the vicinity of the arena. “Generations of the yet unborn will rise up and curse this project.”

Ratner’s official groundbreaking is the symbolic delivery for a $5-billion project that has had a difficult birth — a metaphor, in fact, that the Rev. Al Sharpton employed in his remarks.

“You can’t have a baby without labor pains,” said Sharpton, who added that he had set aside some of his initial reservations about the project. “But let the baby be born!

“I support this project despite the issues that gave some discomfort,” he added. “I sat at the table and watched Bruce Ratner wrestle to bring about something that would have long-term change for the borough that I came from. I believe that the jobs and the contracts and inclusion that this project represents is something that we should bring around this country.”

He also evoked Jackie Robinson, the last great professional athlete to grace the Brooklyn stage, as a spirit that lingers over the project, which would bring a sports team back to the largely African-American center of Brooklyn.

The event — complete with lobster rolls and other fancy canapes — had a “to the victor belong the spoils” atmosphere, but a block away from the festivities, the roughly 100 protesters blew whistles and chanted, “Shame on you!” from Atlantic Avenue.

The protesters decried the project as an unneeded, traffic-choking eyesore that could not have been built without massive public subsidies.

“It’s horrifying,” said Sarah Edkins. “Buildings made just for profit to create a few temporary jobs erode local community.”

At the Prohibition-era Freddy’s Bar, some were solemn as they acknowledged that the final months are at hand for the watering hole that will be torn down. Other activists mocked the “villains” of the Atlantic Yards — Markowitz, Ratner and Bloomberg among them — by wearing huge masks and delivering satirical speeches.

“Who ever though that a former tenant activist — me! — could preside over eminent domain to kick tenants out of their homes?” said a man dressed as Markowitz. “What a country! What a borough!”

But back at the groundbreaking, Jay-Z, who grew up in the Marcy Houses in nearby Bedford-Stuyvesant, said pretty much the same thing — without the sarcasm.

“I stand here representing hope for Brooklyn,” he said.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Story was updated to correct the location of the Marcy Houses.
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Reasonable discourse

judahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
100 protesters? What's not enuff to defend this dark day for our Democracy. On the other hand 100 people speaking for 2 .5million plus Brooklynites.I don't know about that. 100 people held up a $4.5 billion project for 7 years. If that's not Democracy, then call me a Fascist.
March 11, 2010, 8:30 pm
judahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
"Jay-Z, an owner of a very small portion of the Nets,..."

Oh by the way Brooklyn Paper thank you letting us know how minor an owner Jay-Z is. I could not help but detect your hint of.........??? What? I hope someday you will share more.
March 11, 2010, 8:34 pm
judahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
Also just asking, were there no "White Leaders" at this ceremony? That would be segregation if they were left out. There is a black president in the White House. Is he a black leader to? Just waiting for the days when we don't have "Black Leaders" because I'm black and I didn't get to vote for these "Black Leaders", you speak of. What are their names? They are frauds I tell ya, Mr Brown! Frauds, I didn't get to vote, ya hear me? When & where did their election for Black leadership took place? I feel disenfranchise I would like to run for a black leadership position. Where do I sign up?
March 11, 2010, 8:44 pm
judahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
I think you failed Journo school Mr. Brown. Sorry for being cruel but you guys make it easy.
"Jay-Z, who grew up in the Marcy Houses in nearby Fort Greene" Marcy Houses is located between, Marcy & Nostrand, Flushing & Myrtle Aves. You know in Bed-Stuy. This explains why the "Brooklyn Paper", should be rebrand the "Park Slope Current". You don't know Brooklyn!
March 11, 2010, 8:51 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
I can't wait for Latino Night at the Barc. "Los Nets"
March 11, 2010, 9:40 pm
Susan from Sunset Park says:
Hey Pacholo,
Don't forget about Asian Night
West Indian Night
European-American Night
African-American Night
East Indian Night
Brooklyn Night
Kids Night
Old People Night
Coupon Night

Why cares, I'm just glad the "NETS" are final coming to Brooklyn!
March 11, 2010, 9:54 pm
mike says:
go nets. nimbys suck
March 11, 2010, 10:01 pm
Derek M. from East Flatbush says:
Ratner, Bloomberg,Paterson, and the rest of these fools will pay!!! Tearing down people's homes for this?! Karma will come to them very soon!!!
March 11, 2010, 10:03 pm
Barbara from Clinton Hill says:
What seems to be lacking in a lot of the above comments is the realization that this project LACKED real public review, LOCAL community input, that it EVADED Local Land Use Law, that it DISPLACED many many homeowners and tenants, by abusing the LAW'S INTENT; i.e., paying prior owners to move and to shut up about it, displacing many other tenants and owners both through eminent domain - buy-outs, evictions, ETC; TAKING over public streets, closing others all combined to create blight, and put a knife in the back of a neighborhood which was just FINALLY realizing its own, gradually getting better & better, bringing people and small businesses back - now all ruined; NO historic review process over knocking down historic homes and other buildings like the historic WARD Bakery. FALSE - BULLYIN& land grabs. BULLYING techniques, for what? Something like a billion in public money to finance it? Thanks, but for those NYC tax payers who get to listen to decades of noise, added horrible traffic, increased possibility of terrorist targeting..what about our quality of life, but then, that matters little when you have to fight the big guns across the river with the ugly fist in your face because after all their job in Bklyn from their homes in NJ and elsewhere are ever so more important than the quality of life for people who actually live in this area and will have to breathe the stench of dirt, dust, huge truck traffic & noise. Reasonable to provide a certain amount of jobs, yes, reasonable to provide a certain amount of affordable housing- yes - there is NO argument to this..however, Have they been REASONABLE???? NO is the resounding response. Are everyones' interests being protected? NO. That is why this represents a dark day for Democracy being sold to the highest bidder.
March 11, 2010, 10:45 pm
Dave from Marine Park says:

Don't waste your energy trying to explain anything meaningful to the "Jobs, Housing & Hoops" trolls.

They're too busy counting the days until they can all buy tickets for Dimwit Night.
March 12, 2010, 12:51 am
Dan from PHeights says:
"Bruce Ratner and a deep bench of supporters of his Atlantic Yards "

Deep bench? He had two city council members, 2 state senators, and 2 assemblymembers there.

That is an awfully pitiful showing of Brooklyn political support for a project that Marty and Bruce and Bloomberg claim to be wildly popular.
March 12, 2010, 1:55 am
Tony from Gravesend says:
WOW!! (Jobs, Housing & Hoops trolls.) How childish, I think the so called "Dimwit Night" is for the "few" cry babies making childish comments!
March 12, 2010, 7:58 am
Humphry from Bay Ridge says:
He's a total moron.
March 12, 2010, 11:37 am
al pankin from downtown says:
it is a welcome improvement for downtown brooklyn, that area was a run down slum for over 50 years. those that opposed the rebuilding of the area must not been from brooklyn, alot of carpetbaggers .
March 12, 2010, 2:52 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:

New York has been on a half-century losing streak as far as sports teams are concerned. First the Dodgers and the baseball Giants, then the football Giants and the Jets left for elsewheres near and far.

But now the pro basketball Nets are moving in. And they're coming to a new 18,000-seat arena to be built in the heart of Brooklyn. How great is that? Plenty great.

Congratulations to team owner and real estate developer Bruce Ratner on the successful completion of a seven-year battle to get moving on the so-called Atlantic Yards project in the face of no fewer than 34 lawsuits in opposition.

Ratner's grand vision called for building both an arena to rival Madison Square Garden and 6,400 units of housing, much of it affordable, on a tract of land and over rail yards that have been fallow for more than 40 years.

The site abuts a major Brooklyn crossroads, Flatbush and Atlantic Aves., and is well served by mass transportation that includes numerous subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road. Plainly, the Nets' fan base is about to explode, along with hopes for, well, a higher caliber of play.

And it will be wonderful to watch construction in a city reeling from high unemployment and awash in stalled projects. An estimated 10,000 workers will be needed for temporary and permanent jobs building and maintaining the arena.

The legal war of attrition waged by a handful of neighborhood opponents and the national economic downturn have combined to trim Ratner's immediate housing ambitions. Some will go up now; not nearly what was hoped. But there's little doubt that more will follow.

Yesterday's groundbreaking for the arena, to be known as the Barclays Center, was an appropriately joyous affair. On hand were smiling representatives of the broad base of support Ratner had built, among them Mayor Bloomberg, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Brooklyn rapper Jay-Z, a part-owner of the Nets.

Adding to the lift, readers of a certain age will know that the Dodgers decamped from Ebbets Field for Los Angeles in 1957, after a last-ditch effort to build a stadium for the team adjacent to today's Atlantic Yards was nixed by city planners.

True believers like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who never stopped dreaming of luring a professional sports team back to Kings County, will now get their wish. And thousands will enjoy a new venue that can be home to Brooklyn's heart, soul and dreams.
March 12, 2010, 3:36 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:

@ Barbara: Who cares about a now defunct bakery that was housing for street rats. Those who took the buyout are adults who said "Hey this is good for me." If you choose to live in The City you are aware of the environment. The City comes with a lot of things you know you do like. One day you realize you don't like the City anymore and you move to a greener pasture.
March 12, 2010, 3:49 pm
Steve Nitwitt from Sheepshead Bay says:
Norm from atlantic yards report needs a hug. By the way, anyone find a hat?
March 12, 2010, 3:57 pm
judahSpechal from bed-stuy says:
I'm all for the arena, but Pacholo, "Street Rats"???
March 12, 2010, 4:42 pm
Vinny from Bath Beach says:
Hey Dave,

Wrong choice of words."Trolls" & "Dimwit Night"........ Dude grow up!!!
March 12, 2010, 7:36 pm
Vinny from Bath Beach says:
Hey Dave,

Wrong choice of words."Trolls" & "Dimwit Night"........ Dude grow up!!!
March 12, 2010, 7:36 pm
petey from bushwick says:
just goes to show those who support AY are indeed morons.
March 13, 2010, 12:30 am
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
@Judah: Have you ever seen the size of the rats that roam that area. Take a walk around there so you can see especially by the old Ward's bakery building.
March 13, 2010, 10:52 pm
Peter from Clinton Hill says:
What a great country we live in; where people who are fighting for their homes and community are harassed by the police, while those who take the homes for personal profit are celebrated with wine and caviar in caged-in pomp and circumstance. What a disgusting display of political palm greasing and inequality.
March 14, 2010, 2:07 pm
Sadie from Brooklyn says:
Oh, yeah Pacholo. The arena and the 16 residential towers that Ratner is building sit atop a major transportation hub. Ever tried getting on the 4 or 5 at rush hour in Atlantic Avenue station? NYC Transit Authority says those trains are already running at capacity. I can't wait till there are thousands more people living right there on top of good old downtonw Brooklyn. I can't wait for the overflowing sewers during rainstorms -- happens now but it will be even more fun with thousands more toilets flushing. Gowanus will be an open toilet when it rains. And when our kids have 60 kids in each class instead of the 35 kids per class that we have now. Thanks for the great urban planning, Bloomberg, Markowitz and Ratner. Classic.
March 14, 2010, 9:03 pm
Eazy D from Sheepshead Bay says:
Norm's running a tab at Freddy's
March 15, 2010, 12:59 pm
Vinny from Bath Beach says:
petey from bushwick grow up!
March 16, 2010, 12:33 pm
Richie rich from parkslope says:
Congrats to Ratner!
March 18, 2010, 2:44 pm
Steve Nitwitt's conscience says:
Sorry about that. Eazy D and I act like jerks sometimes. Maybe we're the same guy.
July 16, 2011, 6:52 am

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