I was caught unaware by the outpouring of public concern over the likely demolition of Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn. But I shouldn’t have been. I always say that buildings hold memories. This one holds a lot of them.
The Hall was made famous by commercials featuring its longtime former owners who stood on the grand staircase and promised “We will make your dreams come true.”
Stories about its likely demise have been full of shocked comments by couples who were married there or people who attended the variety of social gatherings held there.
The 1901 building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. That’s an honor. But it lacks the protection that designation as a City Landmark provides.
I responded to people who wrote me last week urging designation that the new owner is apparently already demolishing the interior and the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) seldom intervenes at such a late date.
One woman didn’t accept that. She responded, “I believe there is still value in advocating for these historic properties anyway.” She added: “But if the preservation community doesn’t post articles, point out local history, then the public won’t understand or know what is at risk of being lost, especially in the outer boroughs.”
So I reached out to the LPC and was told this is still “under review.” Even if the building is designated, the LPC doesn’t regulate use. They can’t make it continue as a banquet hall. Perhaps the public outcry will make the new owner realize the value of what he has.
We will miss buildings that should be saved, or learn about them when it is too late. Sometimes it is difficult enough to save important buildings even with plenty of notice.
With best wishes from all of us for your health and safety,
Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy