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City won’t mark Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall

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Grand Prospect Hall and former owner Alice Halkias (Wikipedia, Youtube via Jimmy Kimmel)

A last minute campaign to score Grand Prospect Hall failed.

Despite its cultural cachet, the Brooklyn Banquet Hall has undergone too many architectural changes since it opened in 1903 to be preserved, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The panel also noted that Angelo Rigas, the local electrician who owns the building, has already emptied much of the interior of the building.

“These modifications to Grand Prospect Hall diminish the legibility of the original design and have a significant impact on the historic architectural character and integrity of the building,” wrote Kate Lemos McHale, researcher for the Monuments Commission, in her rejection.

The decision almost kills the influence of activists to prevent Rigas from demolishing the building. They had hoped to mark the building before the city approved Rigas’s demolition permit application, and even persuaded a judge to temporarily halt work outside the building two weeks ago. They were due to plead their case tomorrow morning.

In its letter, the Monuments Commission stressed that even if the building was designated for preservation, it would not force the owner to do anything in particular with it. “The LPC does not regulate use, and the designation of a landmark does not oblige an owner to restore a building or restore a previous use,” McHale wrote.

In addition, dozens of buildings classified as monumental have been demolished anyway.

Local activists, led by artist Jim Glaser and two local teenagers, wrote on Twitter that they still believe there is room for a deal with Rigas. “We plan to continue working to try to save the facade by stopping work or discussing with the developer ways to preserve the facade,” they wrote.

Glaser explained the group’s plans in an op-ed Wednesday. “With the bones of the building still intact and a network of culturally sensitive real estate investors coming together, we hope to work with the new owner to build around a revitalized, and possibly smaller, Prospect Hall of a way that will benefit the community while helping the owner achieve their business goals ”, he wrote.

Rigas’ goals are not known, but he would likely need to build a substantial project to get a return on his investment. The acquisition alone cost him $ 30 million.

Behind-the-scenes feuds aside, the group’s legal remedies appear to be limited. Glaser’s initial complaint prevailed because a demolition would prevent the city from determining whether to mark Grand Prospect Hall. With a decision now made, there is not much else to argue in court.

In recent weeks, activists had compiled more than 40,000 signatures in favor of the enhancement of the building. They also garnered support from local elected officials such as City Council member Brad Lander, who called it “a site of many memories and melodies for generations of Brooklynites.”


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