When politicians, Nets owners and officials from Barclays Bank push their golden shovels into soft earth at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues Thursday, it will make for great symbolism. For Bruce Ratner, of course, it marks the beginning of the end of his quest to build a mini-city called Atlantic Yards, six years after he first announced it. For the Nets, it signals yet another move towards ending the uncertainty surrounding the franchise's future, following the decision to move temporarily to Newark last month and just prior to the NBA's approval of Mikhail Prokhorov as owner, expected next month. For the critics of the project, it 's the single most visual-and visceral-sign their fight is nearing a bitter end.
State officials have given residents and property owners til April 3 to vacate their premises or be evicted. That's likely to be delayed, but as long as there are no major delays--and none are expected--the Nets estimate Barclays Center will be completed in 28 months, or roughly mid-summer 2012.