Despite years of protests and lawsuits meant to stop it, ground was broken on the new arena for the Nets in Brooklyn Thursday.
Governor David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and rapper Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, a partial owner of the Nets, attended the ceremony.
Work has been going on at the Atlantic Yards site in Prospect Heights since last fall, but those involved say the groundbreaking marks the next phase in construction of the 18,000-seat Barclays Center.
Paterson said the development will create 16,000 union construction jobs and 5,500 permanent jobs.
"To those who supported the project, and to those who oppose the project, I guarantee that we will be scrupulous in our monitoring of the contract that Forest City Ratner signed with the state, to make sure that everything, we were promised, we receive," said the governor.
"For those that say it took a long time to get here, yes it did. But nobody's going to remember how long it took. They're only going to look and see that it was done," said Bloomberg.
Jay-Z said how he dreamed of being an NBA star growing up in Brooklyn's Marcy Houses, and now he felt proud to own part of a NBA team that will relocate to his native borough.
"We did it again, Brooklyn!" said the hip-hop mogul, seen right.
In addition to the basketball arena, three residential buildings, a day care facility, senior center and health care facilities will be built. The mayor says affordable housing units will be included, as well.
The construction of the first apartment building is set to begin in spring 2011.
Developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner thanked his many partners and colleagues and said his firm's law team won 34 lawsuits against Brooklyn business owners and residents to keep the project going.
The economic downturn also stalled progress on the project, but recently Ratner got approval from the state's highest court to use eminent domain to move the project forward.
As a result, 22 residents and businesses near the site have been sent letters from the state telling them they will be evicted if they do not leave voluntarily by April 3.
Opponents wearing masks of the governor, mayor and Brooklyn borough president and a crowd of angered residents and business gathered near the site to hold a mock funeral for the "soul of Brooklyn." Their chants could be heard throughout much of the ceremony.
Protesters said the controversial project will transform multiple neighborhoods surrounding the site.
"I think it's a very bad day for democracy in New York," said a protester. "It's very sad. They're supposed to stand for us, but they serve the developers. They don't serve the people."
Many local residents told NY1 they thought the Atlantic Yards project would have a negative impact on the area's quality of life, but other residents and store owners said the arena could bring more business.
The Nets are scheduled to begin playing at the Barclays Center at the start of the 2012-2013 season. They will play the next two years at the Prudential Center in Newark.