5Pointz Artists Sue To Prevent Demolition

BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Staff Writer

One day after the City Council approved a special permit to build a pair of luxury apartment buildings in place of the iconic graffiti-splattered warehouse in Long Island City, the founders of 5Pointz filed a lawsuit to block the demolition.

Marie Flageul, a volunteer at 5Pointz, said the team of artists, supporters and the attorneys are excited to have their first hearing at Brooklyn’s Federal Court on Oct. 17 at 3 p.m.

An alliance of artists who display their work at 5Pointz in Long Island City have filed a lawsuit to prevent the demolition of the “Graffiti Mecca,” citing violations of copyright law and the Visual Artists Rights Act.  Photo by Ira Cohen

An alliance of artists who display their work at 5Pointz in Long Island City have filed a lawsuit to prevent the demolition of the “Graffiti Mecca,” citing violations of copyright law and the Visual Artists Rights Act. Photo by Ira Cohen

The federal action, filed on Oct. 10, is the first in the nation in which graffiti artists have sought legal protection for their artwork.

Through the years, 5Pointz has been recognized as the “Graffiti Mecca” of the world because it is home to more than 350 original works of aerosol art on its exterior and interior walls.

The lawsuit alleges violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act and copyright law. It seeks to prevent the owner of the commercial property from destroying 5Pointz to build a proposed apartment complex.

“Art plays an important place in our society,” said Jeannine Chanes, Esq. of the Law Office of Jeannine Chanes, P.C. “Through VARA, the artist rights are protected.”

In the future, Chanes said her clients would love to set a reasonable market-value price on the building.

The owners of the building, Jerry and David Wolkoff, have been granted a special permit, which allows them to change their current zoning to build on a larger floor area that consists of two buildings, measuring 47 and 41 stories tall, with a total of 1,000 apartment units.

The Wolkoffs agreed to a series of concessions after discussions with Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) to garner the support of the artists, members of Community Board 2 and City Council members. The concessions include a commitment to the arts in this building by increasing the amount of artist studio and gallery space from 2,200-square-feet to 12,000-square-feet.

Another part of the agreement gives Jonathan Cohen, the curator of 5Pointz, the opportunity to aerosol on the 10,000-square-feet of art panels and walls along Davis Street. Furthermore, this space will be available to local artists at reasonable rents.

David Wolkoff of G&M Realty previously said they are hopeful the artists will come back to the new high-rises to aerosol the walls of the building.

Flageul said the lawsuit is not just for the artists at 5Pointz, but for the community.

“There wouldn’t be a 5Pointz without the audience,” she said.

“Change is good, but demolition is dangerous,” Flageul said. “Families and kids come here everyday, it means a lot for them to see the performances and the art without spending a fortune.”

At this point, no pre-demolishing work can take place at the building because they have filed for a restraining order, Chanes said.

The Wolkoffs did not comment in time for press.

Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, tsakhuja@queenstribune.com, or @Tsakhuja13.