Brooklyn Street Art Newsletter this Week
All May Not Be Lost at 5 Pointz

City Council to Determine Fate of 5 Pointz

IMG_9277In today's New York Times, there is an article about the fate of 5 pointz. But despite it's encouraging headline, the article is actually "how tall will those glass luxury towers be" rather than "will 5 Pointz be saved".

Here is the full artilce. Tell me how we can stop this atrocity.


The New York City Council is expected on Wednesday to decide the fate of 5Pointz, the brick warehouses slathered in oversized graffiti that became a cultural institution in a once-working-class neighborhood of Queens.

The longtime owner of the warehouses, the Wolkoff family, is seeking to demolish the buildings to make way for two towers with a combined 1,000 apartments on a three-acre parcel near Citigroup Tower in Long Island City. Last week, the Wolkoffs agreed to set aside additional space for affordable housing and artists’ studios with the hope of winning approval for the $400 million project.

Those concessions came after negotiations with the local community board and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Democrat from Queens, over the proposed towers, which would be among the tallest in Queens. But many of the artists who spray-painted the walls with the multicolored art that attracted worldwide attention are unhappy that one of the few places dedicated to their aerosol craft would disappear.

“My father, Jerry, bought it over 40 years ago thinking he’d develop it 39 years ago,” said David Wolkoff, the principal of G&M Realty, a family-owned development company. “We’re now transforming it into other types of buildings.”

The Wolkoffs agreed to increase the number of affordable apartments to 210, from 75, and to include 12,000 square feet for artists’ studios, up from 2,200 square feet. If approved, the project would also include open space and allow artists to paint several walls. Because one of the towers, planned as 47 stories, is higher than current zoning permits, the owners had to go through the city’s land-use approval process.

The Wolkoffs’ decision to nearly triple the number of affordable housing units was not purely altruistic. To qualify for tax-free financing, developers must earmark one-fifth of the units in a project for low- and moderate-income tenants.

“It’s a much better project now than when we first heard about it,” said Joseph Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, which represents Long Island City.

Mr. Wolkoff said he was not turning his back on 5Pointz. “The artwork is absolutely fabulous,” he said. “That’s why we’re asking them to come back to the new building.”

But the artists who worked at 5Pointz and helped it become a street-art mecca, drawing international artists and delighting riders on the nearby No. 7 elevated train, were not persuaded by the developer’s concessions. Jonathan Cohen, a graffiti artist who curated the ever-changing art at 5Pointz, said the plan will “just destroy more of what made New York what it is. Now it is just boring, full of bland boring towers of boxes of glass,” he said.

He scoffed at an idea floated by the developers that he curate graffiti spaces when construction is complete, dismissing it as a marketing ploy by the developer.

“Yes, he gave us the wall for free, but we have put tremendous amount of work in it for the past 11 years and contributed to putting Long Island City on the map,” said Marie Flageul, a spokeswoman for 5Pointz.

Mr. Van Bramer, the councilman, said that there was no stopping the project. “The truth is there was not a way to save the building,” he said. “The building is privately owned; the owners can knock that down and build a very large building.”

In a series of meetings, Mr. Van Bramer and Jerry Wolkoff, a Brooklyn-raised developer known for his blustery style, ironed out the details of a deal.

Most of the warehouses on site are now vacant. The artists’ studios and garment shops sit empty, awaiting demolition. David Wolkoff said he would begin work on the $400 million project with the base of the building and the 47-story tower. If demand for the apartments keeps up, he said, the second, 41-story tower would follow fairly quickly.

“Artists really helped transform Long Island City,” Mr. Van Bramer said. “Some pieces of the new building recognize that history and honor that legacy. I think that’s fair.”




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