By Bill Parry
Long Island City’s 5Pointz came one step closer to a date with the wrecking ball Wednesday afternoon after an agreement was reached between the City Council and building developers David and Jerry Wolkoff.
G & M Realty, which is owned by the Wolkoffs, agreed to several major givebacks so as to secure the proper special permit that will allow it to build a bigger luxury housing complex than the zoning laws currently allow on the site of the Aerosol Art Center, at 22-44 Jackson Ave., City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said in a statement. Demolition is expected to begin before the end of the year.
The new building complex will have two towers, one 47 stories tall and the other 41 stories. They will combine to make 1,000 units, and 210 of those apartments will be made into affordable housing, an increase from the original proposal of 75 units.
As part of the agreement, the Wolkoffs committed to building and staffing the building with 100 percent union workers, including members of SEIU/32 and the Building Trades Council, which will add an estimated 1,000 new jobs in Long Island City, according to Van Bramer’s statement, 800 union construction jobs and 200 full-time union jobs for building workers.
“As the son of union parents, nothing is more important to me than building pathways to the middle class,” the councilman said.
Van Bramer added that Long Island City residents would get preference for the affordable units.
The councilman also touted a commitment to local artists as part of the agreement. G & M Realty agreed to increase the amount of artist studios and gallery space to 12,000 square feet, which will be available to the artists at “reasonable rents.” The Wolkoffs will also plan to offer 5Pointz leader Jonathan “Meres” Cohen the opportunity to curate nearly 10,000 feet of art panels and walls in the building.
However, none of these concessions will placate the artist community, according to 5Pointz spokeswoman Marie Cecile-Flageul, who said, “As artists we must do what we can for ourselves as a community because we cannot count on elected city officials to stand up for us.”
In addition, Cecile-Flageul condemned the notion of the public hearings.
“The hearings have been a real letdown,” she said, adding that “the Council members spend 90 percent of their time on their BlackBerrys. It’s a dog-and-pony show.”
The artist community turned the block-long complex of factories and warehouses into a world-famous art installation over the last 20 years. Its popularity climaxed during the hip-hop rage but had fallen off after the 2009 collapse of an outdoor stairway that critically injured a 37-year-old jewelry designer named Nicole Gagne.
The city started to pressure the Wolkoffs over safety issues and the artists’ free reign at the iconic landmark was never the same in terms of their access to certain areas of the complex became more restricted..
Local Project, a community-based nonprofit that helped hundreds of new artists get assimilated into the underground art scene, is one of the several groups that have been forced out of the graffiti mecca.
The group’s director, Carolina Penafiel, was overcome with emotion when informed of the agreement.
“It’s so very sad, the whole situation,” she said, adding, “when I think about it my heart breaks. It’s like seeing your grandmother’s house getting torn down. It’s just memories now.”
The City Council also voted to approve theHallets Point development plan, 45-1. Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) was the sole vote against the project. That plan will bring a new $1 billion project called Astoria Cove, something developer Lincoln Equities has been planning since 2009, to the East River waterfront. The massive residential complex will feature nearly 2,000 residential units. The mixed-use towers will be situated alongside the Astoria Houses and bring along much-needed amenities like a grocery store, retail and plans for a school, according to the developer and representatives from the community, who have long complained about a sense of isolation.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.