2012-08-29 / Features

Demolition Looms For 5Pointz Building

BY LIZ GOFF

The owner of the 5Pointz building is anxiously awaiting approval of a demolition permit by the city Department of Buildings to proceed with plans to develop two high-rise residential towers at the site.

The graffiti covered 5Pointz building at 45-46 Davis St. is facing a wrecking ball under a plan that calls for two highrises– 41- and 47-stories that would feature a number of amenities, including a gym, media center, swimming pool, shops, restaurants, a supermarket, a park and open air concourse–and open space for work by graffiti artists.

5Pointz owner, developer Jerry Wolkoff presented the proposal to Community Board 2 earlier this year, saying the development would be an asset to ongoing changes in the Long Island City community.

Community board officials expressed concern over the size and scope of the proposed project, but agreed that a mixed-use development at the site would be a fitting “next chapter” to the history of the iconic 5-Pointz building.

The 5Pointz canvas has been a favorite of urban artists since the early 1990s, when members of the “5Pointz Collective” turned the former manufacturing plant into a spray paint palate of graffiti art. In each subsequent year, artists have filled the building with up to 1,000 new graffiti designs.

Graffiti artists gathered outside the 5Pointz building recently, to express their “anger and disappointment” with the plans for development of the site.

“They give us what–two walls, three walls for our artwork?” one angry artist said. “You’re talking about us losing 200,000 square-feet of open canvas–and that’s just not right,” other artists chimed in.

Passersby and local residents told the Gazette they were “confused” by the artist’s complaints. “Do they realize this building is private property–and that they have only been able to paint there because the owner was gracious enough to allow them to paint?,” one resident said.

“They have to understand that they don’t own the property and they have absolutely no say about its future,” the resident said. “Their protests and complaints are ridiculous. No one, not the landlord nor the city, owes them space on private property.”

Local officials said the building has been an unofficial landmark for years, drawing tourists and art lovers to the area.

The block surrounding the 5Pointz building was rezoned by the city in 1991 as part of the Jackson Avenue Corridor redevelopment plan. The new zoning allows large-scale development in the area that has undergone transformation into a mini-metropolis, where glistening towers have replaced worn warehouses and factory buildings.

Wolkoff purchased the building in 1971 and, for years, supported the work of artists who lived at 5Pointz and in the surrounding community. Faced with mounting demands by city officials calling for major repairs at the 5Pointz building, Wolkoff decided, in November 2009, to shutter the site and walk away for good.

A spokesperson for G&M Realty, which represented the iconic, 90-year-old building said inspectors for the Department of Buildings (DOB) in 2009, produced a list of repairs that had to be completed in order for the site to reopen. Repairs included restoration of the facade, fixing indoor safety violations and removal of all outdoor staircases at the site.

DOB issued a vacate order for the 5Pointz building in April 2009 after a tenant was crushed beneath an exterior staircase that collapsed. The woman died soon after. The city slapped G&M Realty with a $13,000 fine following the collapse, charging the owner with failing to maintain the building.

G&M had been fined previously by the Department of Buildings for failing to secure permission to turn the former factory building into a series of art studios.

Local residents said they are taking a “wait and see” approach to the proposed development plans, saying other developments had greatly improved quality of life in the area.

The $300 million-plus project is expected to bring large numbers of construction and construction-related jobs to the area, providing a much-needed boost to local businesses.

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