Grand Prospect Garage? Supporters tout hotel’s main benefit — parking

The Brooklyn Paper
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Hotel? What hotel?

A politically connected banquet hall operator’s plan for an 11-story lodge on Prospect Avenue met with virtually no opposition at its first public hearing on Thursday night — as locals lavished praise on the controversial project’s sweetener: a 400-space public garage.

“The biggest problem here is parking,” Irene Lo Re, the head of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, told a mostly supportive crowd of 40 people. “We can’t turn our backs on 400 spaces.”

Developer Michael Halkias, owner of the Grand Prospect Hall catering center between 15th and 16th streets, has also touted his “Grand Prospect Hotel” plan, but even he was pitching it as a garage project at the meeting at Public School 10.

During a rambling opening statement, Halkias likened the garage to a “magnificent cake” that he hoped to serve to the community. The hotel, he said, is simply, “the cherry on top.”

It’s no surprise that Halkias is highlighting the dessert rather than the broccoli — he needs a city zoning variance to build anything taller than six stories.

And he’s spent decades courting the good will of the borough’s political establishment. Records show that Halkias and his wife Alice have given $16,150 to various local candidates since 2000.

The vast majority of that — $9,850 — was given to Borough President Markowitz, whose support will be needed as the project moves through the public review process.

Indeed, Halkias’s lawyer said the developer would push his project through a public review process overseen by such officials as Markowitz and other recipients of the Halkiases’ largesse rather than through a different process that would require the developer to show that his project is vital because of “economic hardship” rather than simply a desire to build or the benefit of 80 additional jobs that the project promises.

Not everyone at the meeting was hypnotized by Halkias, whose catering hall’s motto is, “We make your dreams come true.”

“This isn’t as altruistic as it sounds,” said Prospect Avenue resident George Loiodice, who said he’s dreading the additional traffic that the project would bring.

“I understand about jobs and the hall being an institution, but people who are gung ho don’t live next door like I do.”

And others have complained about a flier that Halkias sent out to neighbors that touted the project, yet included a threat to bring in “low-end clientele [in] large numbers” if the hotel plan is defeated.

“The need for profitability will override any consideration of lifestyle, even if it may be undesirable — only profitability and group size will matter,” Halkias said in the flier.

That tone appalled some residents.

“It sounds like a threat to me, and I don’t like being threatened,” 16th Street resident Bo Samajopoulos said earlier this week. “Is he saying that he is going to bring lowlifes here on purpose just to screw with us?”

Updated 5:22 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Dave from Park Slope says:
That amount of parking would be a disaster for the neighborhood.
Jan. 14, 2011, 11:15 am
Scottilla from Midwood says:
Is there a copy of this flyer with the threat in it, or is that just made up?
Jan. 14, 2011, 12:15 pm
frank from sunset park says:
jobs parking new people and money into the small stores and a increase in revenue for the neigborhood
that is commercel by nature. sound good to me.
Jan. 14, 2011, 12:23 pm
Peter Engel from Stuy Town says:
While this idea has some good points, both the tactics the Halkias family is using and the contempt for the area where they earn their livelihood makes those tacky commercials seem a lot less funny.

Clearly, they don't think much of the neighborhood they've been doing business in for 30 years. Here's part of their justification for expansion:

“We were here a long time ago, before any normal person would dare populate this socially wild west community,” their flier reads. “We are the originals in the territory and we mean to continue serving you all.”

They’re basically saying lowlife druggie animals will take over if this expansion doesn’t happen. And you know what, I’m pretty offended. I lived in that neighborhood 25 years ago. I brought business clients to them, too. While the area wasn't Park Avenue, it was hardly the Wild West either.
Jan. 14, 2011, 1:47 pm
Jill from Park Slope says:
Yeah, I'd like to see a copy of this flyer as well. I did see a flyer about the community meeting but it did not state any of what has been circulating the net.
Jan. 14, 2011, 3:17 pm
Michael from Park Slope says:
This alleged "low-end clientele" threat, whether implied or explicit, does appear to be rather far-fetched. I'd like to see a copy of the flyer, too.
Jan. 16, 2011, 1:59 am
mike from GP says:
This obsession with car parking has got to end. Seriously, too much parking is bad for business, bad for our quality of life and bad for our health. There are some serious mis-conceptions out there as to what makes a city function properly.
Jan. 16, 2011, 8:48 pm
Steve F. from Park Slope says:
With 400 spots on this end of the Slope plus the Atlantic Yards coming on the other end, this will be a disaster. The owners of this property simply do not care about the neighborhood.

I had no idea who Halikas or Irene Lo Re were before. Now that I do, I think they are bad for Brooklyn.
Jan. 17, 2011, 9:57 am
Peter Engel from Stuy Town says:
Irene Lo Re owns Aunt Suzie's on Fifth Avenue, an Italian restaurant I loved going to when I lived around the corner. She's been a vocal opponentof the Fifth Avenue bike lane:

Feel free to take it from there.
Jan. 17, 2011, 11:58 am
Marty from Brooklyn says:
“We can’t turn our backs on 400 spaces.”

For once I finally agree with Irene Lo Re.

She's right. We can't turn our backs on a developer who wants a zoning variance to build a facility that will generate tens of thousands of street-clogging, horn-honking, exhaust-spewing car trips in and out of our neighborhood each week.

In fact, we must face this threat head on and put a stop to it. Our part of Brooklyn is not a desolate strip mall suburb. We are a walkable, bike-friendly, transit-oriented city. There is no need for a massive parking garage here and it should not be allowed to proceed.
Jan. 17, 2011, 2:37 pm
Steve F. from Park Slope says:
Not going to Aunt Suzie's anymore. Didn't know that she opposes the bike lane and is in favor of 400 cars invading a mostly pedestrian neighborhood. My kids don't need more pollution, more honking, and more dangerous drivers.

Thanks, Irene Lo Re.
Jan. 17, 2011, 2:51 pm
Bob I from Park Slope says:
Whatever happened to the Contextual Zoning we fought so hard for and won? Build no higher than what's next to your lot.

If he really, truly wants to bring in "low lifes" as an alternative, I'm sure that will impact his catering business well before it hurst anyone else on 5th Avenue.

Go for the boutique hotel - four stories high....
Jan. 17, 2011, 3:08 pm
Mike from Lane says:
These are greap people.enough with nimby you yuppies
Jan. 17, 2011, 3:18 pm
Gary from Carroll Gardens says:
The idea of a hotel to go along with the Grand Prospect Hall is an excellent one. I've been to two weddings and a banquet there and a hotel would be a nice complement.

However, 400 parking spaces is way beyond what is necessary or justifiable and will create problems for the community down the road. People in the neighborhood who not only support but demand additional parking will be surprised to find that it has the paradoxical effect of creating additional demand for street parking.

In addition, if they reduce the number of parking spaces, the owners could also reduce the height of the proposed hotel.

Design predominately for cars and you will draw cars.
Jan. 17, 2011, 3:28 pm
Joe from Crown Heights says:
Agreed mike. More parking only means one thing - more driving, more traffic, more congestion and more pollution. People in Park Slope don't want to live in an exhaust-choked suburban strip mall that people from all over the city drive to. It's a small-scale neighborhood with walkable shopping and good transit to serve its residents and merchants. If certain businesses feel they need more driving customers, they can move out to Forest Hills or Bay Ridge and have a big ol' parking lot or even be in a shopping mall if they like. If you're in the Slope it's because you want that walking foot traffic and the quaint tree-lined streets and small shops and a local vibe. You can't have both - too much driving and all the associated social ills destroy that context.
Jan. 17, 2011, 3:48 pm
tee gee from slope says:
i don't believe in the "build it and they will come"....why would 400 drivers bring their cars to GPH? I don't imagine a guy in Borough Park saying "gee, i can't find a parking spot, I'll go to Park Slope" I see lots of empty spots, no threat to the community. and the benefit - stopping drivers from polluting the community while driving around and around looking for spots is a super plus. and finally the owners of GPH have treated the property with the love and care that you give to your own home, they will not do anything to hurt their home or their neighbors. they put in 16 hour days at GPH, they are not going to do anything negative to the area they spend most of their day/night at.
Jan. 17, 2011, 5:16 pm
tee gee from slope says:
i think the reporter is bringing too strong a slant to this article. the political contributions are the same that all business people make - and yes there is a hope to curry favor....for example, a few years ago, when the 5th avenue committee wanted to build senior housing on the site of the only public parking lot on 5th, GPH opposed it strongly - and directly to the boro pres. GPH relied on that parking for its events. but the contributions of GPH did not buy marty's vote. and if anything, i think those contributions are to help push the elected officials to use GPH for their events - which they do. i like the owners of GPH and not for any business or personal reason. I only met mr. halkias once. but i am impressed by his renovation of GPH and keeping a part of our history alive. (my parents held their wedding reception there in 1937 - long before the current owners bought the place). i think we need to recognize when someone is doing something good - yes, it is good for him, but it is overwhelming good for the slope. also, isn't it remarkable that Mr. Halkias came to the community to talk about his plan instead of submitting plans in the dark of the night with no fanfare? wake up, stop being so cynical about this win-win-win situation.
Jan. 17, 2011, 5:24 pm
Jacob from Prospect Heights says:
Why not just build a strip mall by tearing down and entire block of Brownstones? This is just more suburbanification of Brooklyn. If you are establishing a business that requires 400 parking spaces, it surely isn't serving local residents who largely walk, bike, and take transit. If you want your own parking space, just move to the suburbs like all the other "Original Brooklynites" did years ago and stop ruining our beautiful neighborhood. This project will cause congestion pollution, is against zoning code, and should never be built.
Jan. 17, 2011, 6:12 pm
Ian from Sunset Park says:
On the bright side, a 400-car garage can hold a whole lot of Zipcars.
Jan. 18, 2011, 9:50 am
Jill from Park Slope says:
I totally understand what you are saying Mike for GP. However, GPH has events that have approximately 250 ppl..heck sometimes they even have more than one event going on at the same time. So what does 500 cars circling the neighborhood for 30mins to 1hr searching for parking do for our environment?
Jan. 18, 2011, 11:04 am
transalt from bike nation says:
@jill: Cars are evil, we don't want them in our neighborhood. It's that simple. Come by bike, foot, MTA, or stay home.
Jan. 18, 2011, 2:48 pm
Mike from GP says:
Jill, I agree that cars looking for parking is pretty bad for our city. The solution then is not to open more "free" spots, but to properly charge for existing parking spots. Otherwise it's just like a Soviet bread-line.
Jan. 18, 2011, 5:52 pm
Lucky* from Park Slope says:
I think the idea Michael Halkias has is a good one. Like it or not this region of Brooklyn is booming and there is a need for hotel space and the types of amenities that they offer. It would be nice to give this opportunity to a private business that has been operating in the area for many decades rather than a national chain. The tatics that they are using to convince the neighborhood to alow this change is a bit lacking. They might want to invest in some PR.
Jan. 19, 2011, 11:38 am
Pete from WindsorTerrace says:

Great discussion. Lot of good points on both sides.
I agree a hotel -as long as its not too tall- is
logical and quite appropriate.
A 400 car garage is way excessive though

Jan. 22, 2011, 11:54 pm
Danny from Queens says:
They'd be smart to hedge their bets and build that parking structure with flat floors (not sloped floors) so that it can be used for more than just parking. Maybe call up these folks to see how they did it:
Jan. 25, 2011, 1:19 pm
john malaka from sunset park says:
Bo straponjopoulas from 16 street does not want anything good to happen in the south slope take one look at how his building 148-16 st looks like crap and that what he wants the rest of the neirborhood to look like crap.
March 16, 2012, 2:49 pm

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