After years of controversy and delay, some major streets in Brooklyn closed Monday, ahead of the much-anticipated groundbreaking this week for the Atlantic Yards Project.
Fencing went up to block off Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and Carleton, and Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
Traffic officers did their best to help drivers get around.
"You see the traffic on Atlantic Avenue now, it's wild; it's crazy," said driver Austin James, a Fort Greene resident. "I don't know what the solution is. It's going to be a nightmare."
"The first couple of weeks are going to be turbulent," said planning engineer Je Mee Kim. "Drivers are going to get used to a new street configuration and there's going to be some confusion. But people will get used to it."
The project has divided the surrounding neighborhood – with some accepting the long-term goals of the construction, and others taking issue with eminent domain and the possibility of more traffic.
The project was first announced in 2003 and has been held up mostly because of lawsuits challenging the state's power to seize the property there for the project. Courts ruled in the state's favor.
But those in opposition, including patrons at Freddy’s Bar, say they're not giving up their fight.
"We're having buses come from different cities in the country with people to come on the eviction day. We've got the chains of justice on the bar to chain ourselves. It's basically about shaming New York,” said Steve de Seve, a patron of Freddy’s Bar, which is being taken over to redevelop the land.
While many say there are some benefits as far as jobs and affordable housing, they say adjustments that could have been made were not and they plan to monitor the project very closely.
"We need to make sure the city and state are responsive, open, and are prepared to make changes when there are complaints that come forward from the community, that we have a mechanism to do so, that our complaints and concerns don't fall on deaf ears,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.
The Forest City Ratner 22-acre project over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rail yards includes 16 residential buildings and a new basketball arena for the Nets.
The Empire State Development Corporation, which is overseeing the project, said it notified the community in advance about the street closures and it, along with Department of Transportation and Forest City will continue to provide updates as construction moves forward.
The new completion date is in time for the 2012 basketball season.