Developer Jerry Wolkoff was in the wrong when he destroyed a famed graffiti site in Queens, a Brooklyn jury ruled on Tuesday.
The 5Pointz graffiti artists had filed a lawsuit against Wolkoff for allegedly violating the Visual Artists Rights Act by whitewashing over the graffiti at his buildings at 45-46 Davis Street in Long Island City, which had previously served as a haven for graffiti artists, according to the New York Times. Wolkoff is now planning a $400 million residential complex at the 5Pointz site that will include 8,000 units across two towers.
The artists’ lawyer Eric Baum argued during the trial that Wolkoff did not give the proper 90-day notice to his clients before taking down their work, while Wolkoff’s lawyer David Ebert argued that the Visual Artists Rights Act was immaterial to the case since the act was about art and not Wolkoff’s property.
After a three-week trial, the jury sided with the artists, but both sides agreed that their verdict will only serve as a recommendation to presiding Judge Frederic Block. Block has asked both sides to submit papers about the validity of the jury’s decision, after which he will make a final ruling and possibly order Wolkoff to pay damages to the artists.
Despite the preliminary nature of the jury’s decision, Baum declared victory in the case.
“The jury sided strongly with the rights of the artists,” he told the Times. “This is a clear message from the people that the whitewashing of the buildings by its owner was a clear and willful act.” [NYT] – Eddie Small