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Ain’t it ‘Grand’? Prospect Hall plans 11-story hotel

The Brooklyn Paper

The owners of the Grand Prospect Hall, one of Park Slope’s most venerable institutions, want to build a massive hotel on top of its Prospect Avenue parking lot — and they’re holding the neighborhood hostage for support for the controversial project.

Owners Michael and Alice Halkias want to construct a 150-room, 11-story hotel — called the Hotel Grand Prospect and designed by Brooklyn-based Doban Architecture — that would include a 400-space garage. But a structure that tall needs a zoning variance.

On the eve of his first presentation to the community, set for Jan. 12, Michael Halkias talked about the “exciting” project — but at the same time, he was circulating a two-page, doomsday scenario of what would happen if the project does not go forward. For one, the “elegance and grandeur” of the 120-year-old wedding and banquet hall would be replaced by a new campaign to keep the building filled with partiers, no matter who they are.

“Grand Prospect Hall has the capacity of drawing large crowds of people and all types of events, from all parts of the city without being particular,” states a flier circulated by the Halkiases. It adds that the new strategy would be to “cater to a low-end clientele with limited budgets, limited options, but with large numbers.”

Some locals were appalled by the flier.

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

Halkias, whose DIY commercials for the hall are a part of local lore, has yet to submit an application, but he made the preliminary presentation at the behest of Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who praised the businessman for coming to the community before officially filing with the city.

“Given that this is in the very early stages, this is the opposite of an effort to sneak this through,” Lander said.

Still, the scheme is already raising eyebrows, as residents said the banquet hall, whose motto is, “We make your dreams come true,” could be creating a traffic nightmare for the neighborhood.

“It’s a little bit of a head-scratcher,” said Greenwood Heights resident Aaron Brashear, who said he fears an overflow of cars. “I wish him the best of luck, but I don’t think an 11-story building is the best idea for that block. But I’m sure it’s a very good idea for Michael’s business plan.”

Hotel Grand Prospect could join the areas growing list of hotels, including the Best Western Prospect Park Hotel on 25th Street and Fourth Avenue, Hotel Le Bleu, on Fourth Avenue and Third Street, and the soon-to-open La Quinta on Third Avenue at 12th Street.

Halkias said he is hoping to draw business that would otherwise migrate elsewhere because of its lack of overnight accommodations.

“We are larger than many hotels in the city in terms of meeting and conference space,” he said. “But we don’t have the sleeping space.”

The Grand Prospect Hall has attracted the famous, such as presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and the actress Mae West, and the infamous — mobster Al Capone used to frequent the hall’s speakeasy. Halkias’s family took over the business about 30 years ago, he said.

The Hotel Grand Prospect presentation to Community Board 7 will be at PS 10 [511 Seventh Ave. between Prospect Avenue and 17th Street in Park Slope, (718) 854-0003], Jan. 13, 6:30 pm.

Updated 5:43 pm, January 12, 2011: Includes a major rewrite about that threat from Halkias.
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Marty from Brooklyn says:
This sounds like a decent project but 400 parking spots? Do these real estate developers somehow not realize that we live in a transit-oriented, walkable, bike-friendly city? I mean... isn't that why they want to be here? Why the hell would we want to encourage more driving by building this many parking spaces in a neighborhood like Park Slope? Please go build your gigantic parking garages in suburban Ohio or some other awful place where everyone has to drive to do anything.
Jan. 11, 2011, 10:46 am
Aaron B. from Greenwood Hts. says:
To clarify, my comment about overflow was the all of the outlying south slope and Greenwood Hts. area. While I understand the plan has provisions for off street parking, the shear volume of traffic it may create will affect the surrounding blocks, especially during the initial construction timeline.

More over, while I know the argument can be made on the potential positive economic impact for the south slope, the area has been extremely over developed by non-contextual new housing. An additional 11 story tower added to that mix, I believe, is a bit too much for the community to handle.

Also take into consideration that within walking distance (or driving and subway) we have two hotels that can easily facilitate any needs for out of town guests attending an event at the Hall.
Jan. 11, 2011, 11:06 am
mike from east flatbush says:
I've been to a few weddings at the Grand Ole Prospect. Many people drive to weddings, and you need parking for them. The parking is needed for an expansion of the business.
Jan. 11, 2011, 12:02 pm
Larry from Park Slope says:
Park Slope needs more hotel rooms, no doubt about it. There is demand!

Parking spaces is a function of the New York City Zoning Resolution. Remember Zoning? It is the Law.

To accomodate the bicycle riding public, parking also needs to be made available for them. We can have both, without a doubt.
Jan. 11, 2011, 12:41 pm
Jeannie from Park Slope says:
I don't understand how the city would give approval for a building that would be FIVE stories above the current zoning rules. That seems kind of ridiculous.
Jan. 11, 2011, 4:21 pm
Marty from Brooklyn says:

Larry: Local zoning does not require anywhere near this many parking spaces. And anyway most developers would like to get rid of mandatory parking minimums. It's an idiotic zoning regulation in NYC.

Mike: People have weddings in Prospect Park every weekend. They manage to get hundreds of guests into the Picnic House, two blocks up from Grand Prospect, without having to plop a 400-car parking garage in the park. Grand Prospect is steps away from subways and buses, much closer to transit than Prospect Park. Grand Prospect doesn't need a 400-car parking garage to run their business.

People need to remember what makes a city great and what ruins a city. Encouraging people to make needless car trips and filling valuable urban space with gigantic parking facilities ruins a city.
Jan. 11, 2011, 8:33 pm
Jan from Windsor Terrace says:
While I don't think that a hotel at that location would benefit the neighborhood,l the idea that people will arrive at a hotel on bicycle is ridiculous. Have you ever gone to visit another city and rented a car? Well, that's what tourists and visitors will do in Brooklyn also. Being green is a great idea but the car is here to stay.
Jan. 11, 2011, 8:39 pm
Mike says:
You really think tourists to BROOKLYN rent cars? You're nuts! They take the subway, and sometimes take cabs.
Jan. 12, 2011, 2:38 am
david from park slope says:
I am glad it wont be on my block. However what does 400 cars searching around looking for a parking spot do for the quality of life in that local. Sorry I wont be going to a wedding on a bike.... durrr.
Jan. 12, 2011, 2:42 am
Mike says:
This isn't about bikes vs. cars. I went to a wedding at the Picnic House in Prospect Park. Cars aren't allowed in the park on weekends, so everyone got to PPW via whatever means of transport they preferred (personally, I took the G train), and then walked into the park. It was even raining. No big deal. People used umbrellas.
Jan. 12, 2011, 12:36 pm
Alicia from Park Slope says:
I live down the block from prospect hall. The parking in the neighborhood is generally good (with the exception of when Prospect hall is having an event) so I don't think there are many parking problems that need solving. I wouldn't mind the hotel, I think it is a nice idea, but I am not looking forward to all the noise from construction.
Jan. 12, 2011, 1:11 pm
Jay from pslope says:
so, let me get this straight, his way of making nice with the neighborhood and building support before applying to the city council is by threatening the people who live in the area? Really?
Why in the heck is this city council member Lander praising this tactic? What is this, Russia? I smell a bribe....
Jan. 12, 2011, 7:07 pm
Bushwick from Bushwick says:
Haha, this is great. It makes Park Slope whiners Nazis either way -- super picky about how, as one commenter posted above, the way urban land is used? Then we'll operate our business on a volume, not quality, basis. Don't want to have a thousand of your less-wealthy and almost certainly nonwhite fellow Brooklynites prowling your neighborhood and ogling your little white daughter? Better approve the hotel!

They're not holding the neighborhood hostage, the neighborhood is holding them hostage through idiotic zoning. Suck it, lawnorder bozos.
Jan. 13, 2011, 9:06 am

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