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.