Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking: Paterson Cracks Jokes, Jay-Z Wears a Hardhat.

Photo-op, with Jay-Z at center, as viewed through the catering tent's wavy plastic window.On Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, which happens to be a few blocks from my apartment, and write about it for (read it here). The project, which will include a new arena for the soon-to-be Brooklyn (nee New Jersey) Nets, has attracted lots of big-name support (Bloomberg, Paterson, Jay-Z) and become a lightning rod for criticism from local Brooklynites. So while the grandees massed in a slick white tent and munched lobster rolls before the groundbreaking, a group of protestors gathered a few blocks away at local institution Freddy's, the kind of dive bar you'll tell your grandkids about--or perhaps find your grandfather in.

It seemed there were as many reporters as attendees, both at the protest and in the tent, so there was no shortage of straight news coverage. (For a complete summary of the event and the press coverage of it, you must visit Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report, a years-long, in-depth look at the project and one of the finest pieces of local journalism on the internet.) Thus, I had to come up with a slightly more offbeat take on the proceedings for a post at New York magazine's website. Luckily, perpetually embattled New York Governor David Paterson obliged, seeming to nearly channel Fred Armisen's SNL caricature of him during his speech. The punchline came as he reminisced about being a Nets fan as a kid:

About how ecstatic he was when the Nets signed Julius "Dr. J" Erving in 1973, and about how heartbroken he was when, in 1976, the Nets traded him to Philly. "It was one of the worst days of my life," he said, pausing a beat before adding, "before I became governor."

And, scene. (Read the rest of the piece here and check my flickr set for out more of my photos from both the protest and the groundbreaking ceremony.)