Tag Archives: Wolkoff family

‘Gentrification in Progress’ banner appears on 5Pointz building


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER

Two artists are making sure their voices are heard as the demolition of the buildings that were once home to 5Pointz continues.

Artists gilf! and BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) collaborated to put a large yellow tape around the Jackson Avenue side of the Long Island City building with the words “Gentrification in Progress,” according to a Twitter post. The banner was reported on the site Sunday morning.

After a long fight to save 5Pointz, the LIC graffiti mecca, years of art was whitewashed overnight last year. The owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, the Wolkoff family, ordered the action to be taken in November. Rallies were held throughout that same month to save the site, including a gathering just three days before the whitewashing, requesting the building with its art be landmarked.

Since the whitewashing, the demolition process has slowly begun with signs of asbestos removal crews at the location.

 

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Several arrested for tagging whitewashed 5Pointz


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

A day after 5Pointz was covered in white paint, a group of young fans were arrested and charged for tagging the once aerosol art covered building.

Three individuals were arrested and slapped with graffiti and criminal mischief charges after being caught writing on the building, located at 22-50 Jackson Avenue, on Wednesday at approximately 5:50 p.m. with black magic markers, according to the NYPD. William Romero, 20, William Marple, 26 and a 16-year-old girl were issued tickets but released.

A 13-year-old boy was also later arrested at 7:38 p.m. and charged with making graffiti, criminal mischief and possession of a graffiti instrument, said police.

On Thursday, at approximately 2:11 a.m., police arrested a 20-year-old man at the same site and charged with making graffiti, criminal mischief and eight counts of possession of a graffiti instrument.

In response to a Twitter message at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, calling for 5Pointz fans to come out and tag the building, 5Pointz tweeted “we [are] asking respectfully for the building to remain white, please respect our wish.”

“We need to figure out a solution to give fans an outlet where they can [express] their farewell…,’” 5Pointz tweeted later that same day.

The 5Pointz Twitter account, in a tweet on Thursday, at approximately 5:38 a.m., said that it had witnessed the last pieces of aerosol art being washed away in white paint, including a possible salvageable piece on plywood.

“Such a waste/genocide complete,” said the tweet.

 

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Vigil pays tribute to 5Pointz


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO

Updated Wednesday, November 20, 11:10 a.m. 

Artists and fans from all over the city came together Tuesday evening to pay respect to the Long Island City graffiti mecca 5Pointz after it was whitewashed overnight.

As part of the vigil, attendees gathered on the loading dock, lit candles, put up artwork on canvases and signed pieces of paper taped to the walls.

Stefanie Nava, a Long Island City resident who always used to come to 5Pointz in the summer, lit a candle and placed it along the wall.

“I’ve been here for hours,” she said.

“It’s just really sad and incredibly depressing. Nobody can believe it.”

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A graffiti artist known by the tag “Share 37″ said he has had 12 pieces at 5Pointz in the past two years and works around the block.

“I was shocked. I didn’t think it was going to happen this fast,” he said.

“It’s just such a blow to the graffiti world,” said another artist known as “JUST” of the WF CREW.

“When you see it you say ‘gee, what are you going to do now?” he continued. “5Pointz rest in peace.”

During the vigil 5Pointz Curator Jonathan Cohen told attendees they still plan on suing the landlord, Jerry Wolkoff, in federal court. He also said they need hundreds of people to show up to the court house the next time and let everyone know 5Pointz means a lot to “the whole community, not just hip-hop, not just graffiti writers, but the community.”

“I think it’s about time that we all step up in court and let the judge know that this is not the way to go by,” said Cohen. “He [Wolkoff] just did what 16 year old kids do at night time and do illegal vandalism and he did it in front of police, in front of everyone, in front of people on the train and got away with it and he’s not going to get away with it. I’ll fight in the court till the end.”

 

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5Pointz GONE: Graffiti mecca painted over; vigil to be held


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO 

5Pointz is no more.

The Long Island City graffiti mecca was washed away in white paint overnight just a couple days after hundreds of artists and other supporters attended a rally to save it. Some remnants of the aerosol art can still be seen, but the battle to save 5Pointz has been lost.

The owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, the Wolkoff family, ordered the overnight painting to take place, according to Marie Cecile Flageul, a 5Pointz spokesperson and 5Pointz attorney, Jeannine Chanes.

“I know it’s real but I can’t believe it. He [Jerry Wolkoff] disrespected thousands of artists overnight,” Flageul said holding back tears. “It’s crazy when you think about it because we’re supposed to be the vandals. He’s the vandal.”

According to Flageul, the paint crew, along with police protection, arrived at the site around 1 a.m. on Tuesday, November 19 and finished painting the building around 7 a.m. She received a call about the painting at 6 a.m. and got to the site with 5Pointz curator Jonathan Cohen at 6:30 a.m. still seeing painters cover the walls. The two tried to enter the loading dock of the building, she said, but were stopped and asked for identification.

“I’m disgusted,” said Cohen, who now plans on moving out of Long Island City. “Jerry, congratulations. Enjoy your moment and realize long after you’re gone your son will live on with this legacy and his son will live on with that legacy and no one is going to talk to you about anything you built real estate wise but they’ll remember you for this.”

Both Flageul and Cohen said there was no city permit from the Department of Building for the painting, no safety workers  and caution tape during the six hours of painting.

As news broke out of the painting, fans and artists were left in shock after having been part of a peaceful gathering on Saturday, November 16 where thousands filled out forms to request 5Pointz be landmarked.

“It’s shameful. This is culture, New York is the birth of hip hop and graffiti,” said Juan Sierra, 35, Long Island City resident who saw the white walls after walking by Tuesday morning. “This is what happens when you just don’t care.”

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Last week a Brooklyn judge issued a ruling against a request of preliminary injunctions looking to protect the different aerosol pieces found around 5Pointz. The judge also dissolved a restraining order, allowing the owners of the property and developer G&M Realty to continue with any pre-demolition activities at the site.

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.

Even with the art gone, the fight will continue, said Chanes. The initial lawsuit filed by the group will still continue and now include claims for the owners destroying evidence while a case is pending, possibly resulting in the Wolkoffs having to pay $150,000 per piece of art. The group will also consider appealing the ruling on their preliminary injunction request, based on a written opinion by the judge.

Cohen said everything gained from the lawsuit will go to building a community center.

A peaceful candlelight vigil will be held for 5Pointz  at 5 p.m. Tuesday so people can come to pay respect and say their goodbyes, according to Flageul.

 

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Supporters hold rally to save 5Pointz


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos and video by Angy Altamirano

The fight to save 5Pointz is not over.

Days after a Brooklyn judge issued a ruling against a request of preliminary injunction looking to protect the aerosol art on the graffiti mecca, hundreds from all over the five boroughs gathered at the Long Island City site to rally and show support.

The judge also dissolved a restraining order, allowing the Wolkoff family, owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, and developer G&M Realty to continue with any pre-demolition activities at the site.

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.

“New York is kind of boring right now, they’re overdeveloping, they’re building these glass tissue boxes that are made cheap, have no souls and they’re destroying all our communities,” said Jonathan Cohen, 5Pointz curator, during the November 16 rally. “This is the heart of Long Island City community.”

According to the artists, as of November 13 they can no longer paint on the building and anyone found doing so will be arrested.

“I’m here till the end, I’ll fight till the last day,” said Cohen. “I’m making a promise to you today. I will let you people know if the fight is over. It is not over. He won a battle in a big war and it’s far from over.”

During the rally, artists and supporters shared their favorite 5Pointz memories. Some artists also sold T-shirts, stickers and canvases with their tags and art pieces to raise money for legal and operating costs. Volunteers walked around asking everyone to fill out a “Request for Evaluation” to the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to ask for the 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center Inc., located at 45-46 Davis Street, to become a landmark. Over 1,000 forms were signed.

MORE PHOTOS FROM THE RALLY

“This is the most beautiful building in the world, more than the Taj Mahal, because this building is a regular building that we made beautiful,” said Angel Del Villar, one of the speakers at the rally.

“There are a million people that want this building to stay up, across the country and across the world.”

Although the day brought in a peaceful gathering of supporters of all ages and backgrounds, Marie Cecile Flageul, a 5Pointz spokesperson, said she found the police presence at the rally to be ridiculous and unnecessary as she saw squad cars, large numbers of officers and barricades being brought into the area. She also said she was told the presence was due to a call received reporting a riot or march that had to be contained.

“The profiling is getting old,” said Flageul.

The presence got lighter as the day went on and the rally went on with no disturbances.

“We were able to tell people in our own words that it’s not over,” said Flageul. “That’s our god-given and constitutional right.”

The artists hope to organize another rally at an indoor venue before December 15.

Jeannine Chanes, a lawyer for the 5Pointz artists, previously told The Courier the initial lawsuit filed by the group will still continue. She also said they will consider appealing the ruling on their preliminary injunction request, based on a written opinion by the judge, which still has not been issued.

The Wolkoffs and their attorney, who were not at the rally, did not respond to comment as of press time.

 

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Judge grants extension on 5Pointz restraining order


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

The small victories keep coming for 5Pointz.

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 an extension to their initial 10 day restraining order on Monday, more than a week 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 a group of 5Pointz artists.

A hearing for preliminary injunction is now scheduled for November 6 in which the court will review the case, said Chanes. This also means that the restraining order has been stretched until 5 p.m. on November 12.

The restraining order means the Wolkoff family, owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, and developer G&M Realty cannot do anything demolition related to the property. The artists will also not be allowed to put any new art up during this time.

“We’re thrilled,” said Chanes. “It’s a really positive sign.”

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 ho using units from 75 to 210.

 

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Judge grants 10-day restraining order for 5Pointz


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

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.

 

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Artists file suit to keep 5Pointz


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

The fight is not over for 5Pointz.

Jonathan Cohen, curator at 5Pointz for the past 11 years, and a group of 16 other aerosol artists announced they are filing a lawsuit in an effort to stop the demolition of the graffiti mecca.

The announcement came a day after the City Council voted on October 9 to approve the land use application that would allow the Wolkoff family, owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, and developer G&M Realty to build apartment towers to larger dimensions than allowed by current zoning rules.

One tower would reach 47 stories and the other 41 stories, 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.

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.

“It’s about respecting and preserving artists’ rights, integrity and reputation,” said Jeannine Chanes, a lawyer for the artists.

According to the complaint, in or around 2002, Cohen and Gerald Wolkoff agreed that the trained artist would take over as the volunteer curator of the aerosol art program at 5Pointz. Cohen was given full authority to control what works could be painted on the building, making sure none were political, religious or contained pornography.

“Plaintiffs’ honor and reputation as artists will be damaged if defendants act on their stated intentions to raze 5Pointz,” says the complaint. “Plaintiffs’ works of visual art have been incorporated in and made part of 5Pointz in such a way that removing the works of visual art, or any part thereof, from 5Pointz would cause their destruction, distortion, mutilation or modification.”

Chanes said the group hopes the lawsuit will prevent the demolition of the building and through fundraising they hope to raise the money to purchase the property and preserve and improve it to keep it as a part of the community.

“Over the last two decades, 5Pointz has become a Long Island City landmark, and has been feature in countless films, television programs, music videos and commercial photo shoots,” says the complaint.

Although the artists have until December 1 to leave the property, Marie Cecile Flageul, a 5Pointz spokesperson, previously told The Courier business will continue as usual with artists from around the world currently putting up their work and more making the trip to the borough.

A hearing is scheduled in Brooklyn Federal court on Thursday.

G&M Realty and the Wolkoffs did not respond for comment as of press time.

 

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5Pointz to become apartment complex after final vote


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Developers have reached the final step in seeing the Long Island City graffiti mecca, known as 5Pointz, become two apartment towers.

The City Council voted on Wednesday, October 9 to approve the land use application that would allow the Wolkoff family, owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, and developer G&M Realty to build apartment towers to larger dimensions than allowed by current zoning rules.

One tower would reach 47 stories and the other 41 stories, 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.

According to Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, developers agreed 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.

“The concessions provided under the compromise will give Western Queens residents as well as artists a wide variety of interactive amenities future generations will benefit from,” said Van Bramer.

As a “commitment to the arts in this building,” Van Bramer said the developers agreed to keep the altered plans they made in July after listening to comments from Community Board 2, which voted against the application.

G&M Realty’s plan will now include an addition of 10,000 square feet to the initial 2,000 square feet planned for artists’ studios. Borough President Helen Marshall approved the application in July.

Van Bramer said the Wolkoffs have also given a written agreement to offer Jonathan Cohen, widely known as Meres and curator of 5Pointz, the chance to select art on the new building’s walls and panels.

“It was important for me to honor the history of the building over the last 20 years and to recognize what it had become to the graffiti and aerosol art world,” said Van Bramer.

However, according to Marie Cecile Flageul, 5Pointz artists are furious a second hearing, previously promised by Van Bramer, never happened and although 40 speakers stood up to speak at the October 2 public hearing, no one really listened.

“It was a beautiful horse and pony show,” said Flageul. “About half way through the testimonies, almost every council person had left the room. Every single person that took the day off to come and speak, wasted their time because there has been no follow up.”

Flageul also said to date no 5Pointz artists have been contacted or offered to work within the art studios or be featured on the art panels. There have also been no commitments in writing stating everything promised would actually take place once the towers come up.

“[The artists] feel disrespected, they feel profiled,” said Flageul. “We’re all volunteers. We all work our butts off.”
Although the artists have until December 1 to leave the property, Flageul said business will continue as usual with artists from around the world currently putting up their work and more making the trip to the borough.

“We’re going to continue doing what we’re doing. That’s the beauty of art, no matter how much corruption or unfairness there might be, right now we’re continuing what we have been doing for 11 years. We are going to continue the beautification of Long Island City,” said Flageul. “We’re never making the move. We’re here till the end.”

City Planning Commission approves 5Pointz land use application


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

5Pointz, the graffiti covered warehouses in Long Island City, are one step closer to becoming two high-rise apartment buildings.

On Wednesday the City Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the land use application that would allow the Wolkoff family, owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, to build apartment towers to larger dimensions than allowed by current zoning rules.

One tower would reach 47 stories and the other 41 stories, with close to 1,000 rental apartments, 30,000 square feet of outdoor public space and 50,000 square feet of retail space between them.

In July, the developers altered the initial plan after listening to comments from Community Board 2 (CB2). G&M Realty’s plan includes about 78 affordable housing units, an addition of 10,000 square feet to the initial 2,000 square feet planned for artists’ studios and community use of the parking garage for below-market rates.

The plan also includes the installation of art panels on the street to continue to display artists’ works. There will also be a program to curate the works and establish a community advisory group to work with CB 2 before, during and after construction.

CB 2 voted against the owners’ land use application in June. However, constructing the towers is within their rights.

In July, Borough President Helen Marshall announced she approved the Wolkoff’s land use application.

The application still needs to be approved by the City Council, followed by the mayor.

“Once City Planning delivers the application to the New York City Council, which we anticipate to be sometime next week, I will call the matter up,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “By calling it up we will trigger a 50 day window in which the City Council must vote on this application. Once this happens there will be two public City Council hearings at which the public will be invited to comment and testify. I will review the application at City Planning’s recommendation.”

Van Bramer said he will take part in the public meetings and also meet with stakeholders to make the decision based on what he believes “is best for Long Island City.”

 

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