“We were always pro-artist”: Developer that knocked down 5Pointz wants to patch up relationship with NYC artists

G&M Realty has appealed an order to pay artists $6.7M in damages

5Pointz Towers and David and Gerald “Jerry” Wolkoff (Credit: CityRealty and Pixabay)
5Pointz Towers and David and Gerald “Jerry” Wolkoff (Credit: CityRealty and Pixabay)

It’s been five years since G&M Realty whitewashed and then demolished the graffiti mecca at 5Pointz in Long Island City. Now, the developers are now hoping to bring artists back to their luxury apartment development — but artists are skeptical.

David and Jerry Wolkoff’s firm is currently requesting modifications to a special permit it received in 2013, in order to increase the size of the development at 22-44 Jackson Avenue, The City reported. The new plan will include 15,000 square feet of artist space, slightly up from the 12,000 originally planned.

“It’s hard when you get bashed in the papers, but we’ve always been pro-artist and we always wanted artists and we would love to have some of the artists that were at the building before to come back again,” David Wolkoff told The City. “That’s up to them. I would love to speak to them.”

Last year, a court ordered David and Jerry Wolkoff’s company to pay $6.7 million in damages to artists whose work was destroyed. The Wolkoffs have appealed the decision.

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Artist Jonathan Cohen, who originated the 5Pointz name and was one of the 21 plaintiffs in that lawsuit, said that he will “not work with the Wolkoff family.” He asserted that their continued use of the 5Pointz name is a copyright infringement.

“They showed their true appreciation of the art on November 19, 2013 [when the graffiti was whitewashed], and they are consistently showing that they like exploiting artists rather than supporting them,” Cohen told The City.

The developers have been able to keep the 5Pointz name after filing for a state servicemark — rather than a federal trademark — in 2015.

The Wolkoffs have long said that they plan to bring graffiti artists back to the project. “The work these artists do with a spray-paint can is mind-boggling to me. I really appreciate their work,” Jerry Wolkoff told The Real Deal in 2014, soon after the whitewashing took place.

“For 25 years I allowed them to do [graffiti there], and I love what they did. I didn’t whitewash it to be mean,” Wolkoff told TRD last December, adding that he whitewashed the graffiti to deter protestors who would have been arrested. [The City] — Kevin Sun