Groundbreaking signals start of Barclays Center arena

As this paper went to press, two Brooklyn groundbreakings were scheduled to take place Thursday, March 11 relating to the 22-acre, Atlantic Yards project starting at the Flatbush/Atlantic Avenues intersection and moving southeast.

The major of these two events is the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Barclays Center arena, which will house Brooklyn’s first major sports franchise – the NBA Nets – since Major League Baseball’s Dodgers left the borough in 1957.

This groundbreaking is scheduled for the Atlantic/Fifth avenues intersection at 1:30 p.m.

Expected to attend are Governor David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Forest City Ratner Companies Chairman and CEO Bruce Ratner (the developer of the project), Barclays PLC President Robert E. Diamond, Jr., Brooklyn rapper Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter who has invested in the project, and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment President and CEO Brett Yormark.

While the arena and Atlantic Yards project have been underway for some time, the ceremony was called following State Supreme Court Judge Abraham G. Gerges’ recent ruling for the state’s planned seizure of property to make way for the $4-plus billion.

The project, which upon final buildout includes several thousand affordable and market-rate units of housing, will displace four commercial occupants and about 35 residents occupying 15 apartments.

The ceremonial groundbreaking marks the first phase of construction including the 18,000-seat arena, which is expected to host more than 200 events annually, including professional and collegiate sports, concerts, family shows and NETS Basketball.

The first phase will also include three residential buildings, with the first scheduled to start in the summer 2011.

The second groundbreaking was called for by foes of the project and dubbed: The Groundbreaking to Bury the Soul of Brooklyn.

That groundbreaking is scheduled to take place in front of Freddy’s Bar in the project footprint at the corner of Dean Street and 6th Avenue at 12:30 p.m.