Opened in 1892, the building, which played in important role in various immigrant communites over the last century-plus, is now likely to be demolished.
For over a century, the historic ballroom has been the site of countless family gatherings, wedding receptions, and birthday parties.
Since 1981, Michael and Alice Halkia have owned the property, gaining attention for their charming advertisements that introduced a new generation of New Yorkers to the place “where dreams come true.”
Following Michael’s death in 2020 from COVID-19, the Halkia family sold the property to Angelo Rigas for $22.5 million.
Rigas is a newcomer to the New York real estate game, but his father Gregory Rigas has built multiple projects throughout the borough, including a tower at 574 4th Avenue not too far from Grand Prospect Hall.
The younger Rigas filed for a demolition permit on July 23. Yet even without permits, the work on gutting the hall’s interior was able to get underway.
Concerned community members banded together to protect the century-old Victorian structure. Two young Brooklyn residents, 16-year-old Solya Spiegel and 18-year-old Tommy Pannone, created a petition calling for Grand Prospect Hall to be granted landmark status.
“Grand Prospect Hall is an icon of Brooklyn, and has been standing as a communal space where Brooklynites come to celebrate ever since its construction in 1892,” reads the petition, which accrued over 40,000 signatures. “This is an obscene development, and if the Department of Buildings chooses to approve this demolition, over a century of Brooklyn history will be gone.”
But the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected a review of Grand Prospect Hall, highlighting alterations made to the building over the years, as well as the recent gutting of the interior.
“We understand from recent photographs that the building’s interiors have been dismantled,” the commission’s letter to petitioners read. “These extensive alterations resulted in the removal of historic fabric, and consequently the interior space does not retain enough integrity for consideration as a a potential interior landmark.”
Grand Prospect Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, but that distinction does not prevent it from being demolished.
The register’s account of the hall praises its architectural splendor and technological innovations, including the oldest operational elevator in Brooklyn. It also speaks of the building’s importance to New York’s many immigrant communities.
“In addition to its significance as an outstanding specimen of its architectural type and period, Prospect Hall is an important example of a large ethnic social, cultural, and entertainment facility,” the account read. “A building type that existed in large urban immigrant neighborhoods nationwide at the turn of the 20th century.”