Activists rally to landmark Grand Prospect Hall as mayor signals support

Activists rallied beneath a newly erected sidewalk shed outside the hall on Monday.
Photo by Ben Verde

In a last-ditch effort to save the iconic structure, locals rallied outside of Park Slope’s Grand Prospect Hall on Monday — the same day Mayor Bill de Blasio signaled support for the cause.

With much of the interior of the historic banquet hall already destroyed, activists say they are hoping that the exterior of the main hall can be preserved, and even developed around. 

“There is plenty of property here to build around this one spot,” said Greenwood Heights resident Jim Glaser. “If [the developer, Angelo Rigas] does it, he can come out of this a hero, but if he doesn’t do it, this could just be another shlock environment that will be totally forgettable — there goes another critical part of the neighborhood.” 

The building — long owned by the Halkias family who operated it as a catering hall and became local celebrities known for their constantly airing low budget advertisements — was sold to Rigas in July. Rigas almost immediately filed for yet to be approved demolition permits, as Brooklyn Paper first reported. 

While the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, it is not landmarked, meaning it can be fully demolished once permits are granted. 

A sidewalk shed went up around the building on Prospect Avenue over the weekend, leading locals to worry the demolition could come as soon as this week. While the interior — which once contained marble staircases, massive chandeliers, and one of Brooklyn’s earliest elevators — has largely been demolished, the facade remains intact.

Glaser said he envisions a compromise where the cavernous hall is preserved as an event space while the lot surrounding it is developed. 

“It’s not about looking back now, it’s about saving the physicality of this space,” he said. “There are still several large gathering areas inside, they have not begun the structural demolition. My personal hope is that this facade will be directly in front of an event space, or two, whether it’s the big room or several smaller rooms.”

As demolition nears, the grassroots effort to save the hall gained a crucial supporter Monday. During his Aug. 30 press briefing, the mayor waxed nostalgic about attending events at the hall as a Park Slope resident and the area’s councilman, and signaled support for its saving. 

“If you’re from Brooklyn, particularly from my part of Brooklyn, you have Grand Prospect Hall memories. And, of course, the legendary ad about making all your dreams come true, who could forget that?” de Blasio said. “ I think that’s a great question whether the facade could be saved. I certainly would love to see that happen. I’m going to see what the city can do to make that happen.”

A campaign to landmark the exterior of the hall was launched by two local teenagers, 16-year-old Solya Spiegel and 18-year-old Toby Pannone. Spiegel said the mayor’s statement has her feeling optimistic.

“If the mayor said something then I have hope,” she said.