BROOKLYN, New York — It's been seven years since [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist] announced he was bringing the New Jersey Nets back home to New York during his 2003 "Fade To Black Concert" at Madison Square Garden. On Thursday (March 11), Nets co-owner Hov, an assortment of New York politicians and executives from the Nets came to Brooklyn for a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the team's future home, the Barclays Center.
The Brooklyn Steppers Marching Band led the way into the press conference, which took place at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. Jay walked in with Beyoncé, standing out in a crowd that included the Reverend Al Sharpton, New York Governor David Paterson and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Plenty of jokes flew as each person came to the podium. Governor Paterson got serious when talking about people opposed to the arena being built in Brooklyn because of the disruption it would cause in the community. Paterson promised more than 16,000 union jobs and more than 5,500 "permanent jobs" for the people in Brooklyn. He also said he expected the new stadium to yield more than $1.5 billion for the city over the next few years. The embattled governor, a Brooklyn native, expressed his love for the Nets and said when they left New York for New Jersey it was "one of the worst days of my life — other than becoming governor."
During the conference, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz also hinted he wanted Jay-Z to convince LeBron James to play for the Nets when he goes into free agency this summer. The Jiggaman innocently shook his head no as if he didn't know what he was talking about and put his hands up.
Sharpton said he came to the press conference for one reason only: "Jay-Z promised me if I came I would have the opportunity to sit next to Beyoncé," he joked.
"And you see where they are sitting me," he continued, noting that B was sitting in the crowd, not with the people such as himself who were speaking.
Sharpton, also a Brooklyn native, noted that the first black major league baseball player, Jackie Robinson, took the field in Brooklyn, and now the borough's team has a black co-owner.
"We've gone from Jackie to Jay-Z," Sharpton said. "Where we cannot only play the game but own the game."
Finally, Hov himself came to the podium.
"What I stand here and represent is hope for Brooklyn, New York City. I'm a son of Brooklyn, I'm from Marcy projects." Jay said. "I think about growing up in Brooklyn in the Marcy projects and shooting jump shots, thinking I can make it to the NBA. Now I stand here as an owner of team that's coming back to Brooklyn. The pride in that, and bringing that dream so much closer for people, brings me so much pride I get a little nervous about it. But I'm very happy, very excited about this day. And we did it again Brooklyn — shout out to [Notorious] B.I.G."
After the conference, Jay-Z and company officially broke ground, breaking out the hard hats and lightly shoveling dirt. The confetti rained down.
"It was a long process," Jay said after the ceremony, with his "Empire State of Mind" playing in the background. "It's a sensitive one. I'm from the people. I'm for the people. I could never be opposed to the side of the people. But this project, when you look at the numbers at the end of the day, was so overwhelmingly in favor of the people: the job creation, the housing that's being built. It was difficult; you had to tread through that process lightly. But we're here, it's a fantastic day and it's a celebration. It's a beautiful day in Brooklyn and the hope that's represented — on a small scale — is the same I felt when I saw Obama run for president: That we can be a part of something so grand."