5Pointz has won a small battle.
Judge Frederick Block of the Brooklyn Federal Court granted Jonathan Cohen, curator at 5Pointz for the past 11 years, and a group of 16 other aerosol artists a 10-day restraining order on October 17, after they appeared before the court looking to file a lawsuit in an effort to stop the demolition of the graffiti mecca.
According to Jeannine Chanes, a lawyer for the 5Pointz group, the restraining order means the Wolkoff family, owners of the site on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, and developer G&M Realty cannot do anything demolition related to the property for the 10 days. The artists will also not be allowed to put any new art up during this time.
“Truly it was a good result for us,” said Chanes.
The developers hope to build two apartment towers – one 47 stories and the other 41 stories tall – with close to 1,000 rental apartments, 32,000 square feet of outdoor public space and 50,000 square feet of retail space between them.
However, according to Chanes, one of the biggest concerns is the fact that the artists’ working spaces are expected to be in the second tower, which developers have said would only be built if there is demand.
Developers agreed with the City Council to build and staff the two buildings with 100 percent union workers, bringing more than 1,000 jobs to Long Island City, and also increase the number of affordable housing units from 75 to 210.
Yet, the federal lawsuit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, claims the destruction of 5Pointz, which is home to over 350 works of unique aerosol art, would result in a violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, which gives visual artists limited moral rights and copyright law.
Chanes said that as far as they know, this is the first case of street artists looking for legal protection of their work in the whole country.
Although a lawyer for the Wolkoffs did not return calls for comment as of press time, according to court documents, both the Wolkoffs and G&M realty are claiming the artists had a “clear oral understanding and agreement that the site was absolutely going to be redeveloped.”
The restraining order will be lifted on October 28, but during the 10 days the judge will review the facts on the case and the group hopes to put together an offer to buy the building from the Wolkoffs or come up with an alternative plan.