Developer Jerry Wolkoff drew anger and lawsuits after whitewashing an iconic Queens graffiti spot to make way for luxury towers.
Six years after whitewashing the art off of an iconic New York City building, the same developer is trying to lure graffiti artists back to the site.
In 2013, developer Jerry Wolkoff ordered the whitewashing of the iconic 5 Pointz factory building at 45-46 Davis St. in Queens in order to make way for a planned luxury condo unit he and his son, David Wolkoff, were building in its place. The site was well-known for some of the city’s most iconic graffiti murals and street art and, after its creators sued, a New York City judge awarded the plaintiffs $6.7 million in damages.
“If not for Wolkoff’s insolence, these damages would not have been assessed,” federal judge Frederic Block said at the time, according to court documents.
But, as first reported by The City, Wolkoff hopes to make all of that water under the bridge. The Wolkoffs, who appealed the judge’s ruling and are currently waiting for the judge to set a court date, are hoping to get artists to come back to what will be named 5Pointz Towers.
“We’ll reach out and the ones who will come back, will come back,” Wolkoff told Inman, adding that he hopes street artists will create some kind of art project to hearken back to the history of the place. “I’m sure there will be plenty who do.”
The space will have two residential towers, 32,000 square feet in public open space and 12,000 square feet in artist space, which Wolkoff said can be an homage to the spot’s roots. Meanwhile, as plans for the development unroll, Wolkoff is also attempting to expand the project with a 48-story tower and 42-story tower totaling 1,122 units.
Wolkoff said he has “no resentment” towards the artists and wants to enlist both those whose work was whitewashed and new artists.
Nonetheless, getting the original artists to come back may be a tough sell. When asked whether he is offering compensation for the new art, Wolkoff said the project will offer the artists “exposure” of their work but be done on a volunteer basis.
“They showed their true appreciation of the art on November 19, 2013, and they are consistently showing that they like exploiting artists rather than supporting them,” Jonathan Cohen, a street artist who is one of the 21 plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Wolkoffs, told The City.
The 5Pointz case has also raised local resentment about art and gentrification. The local Queens community board resoundingly voted against the towers and, according to The City, are presently concerned about a lack of three-bedroom apartments. Wolkoff told Inman the building would include them.
“It’s not going to be 5 Pointz but hopefully it’ll be the same thing,” he said.
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