By Bill Parry
One Long Island City restaurant will open its doors and walls to the artists from 5Pointz.
“They are welcome here anytime,” said Josh Bowen, owner of John Brown’s Smokehouse. “My walls are their walls.”
Their work was whitewashed in the early morning hours Nov. 19 on the orders of 5Pointz owner Jerry Wolkoff, but one mural remains nine blocks west at Bowen’s restaurant.
In July, the artists painted a depiction of the abolitionist’s walk to the gallows in 1859 on the back wall of the restaurant’s patio. They came back later in the summer to put some graffiti around the bathrooms.
“Right now is probably not the right time to call them, but they’ll know they’re always welcome back here to paint their art,” said Bowen.
Marie Cecile Flageul, a 5Pointz spokeswoman, agreed that it is not the right time, saying, “We’re too busy keeping our people from getting arrested.”
Six people, none associated with the artists, were arrested last week after they tagged the walls with anti-Wolkoff epithets using markers. They were given desk-appearance tickets for criminal mischief and making graffiti.
Flageul appreciated the gesture by Bowen, saying, “Josh is awesome. We love hanging at his place. It’s getting cold so we’ll have to move on that soon. We’ll be in touch.”
She added that the building, at 22-44 Jackson Ave., is now completely covered in white paint.
“They even covered all the work we put up during the candlelight vigil on Tuesday night,” she said.
Bowen was part of that vigil the night the 350 murals of street art were covered up by the workmen sent by Wolkoff.
“It was one of the most despicable things I’ve ever seen. I was aghast,” he said. “They really cut LIC’s heart out. It was the cool factor that led people to this neighborhood and now the cool is gone.”
For nearly 20 years, Wolkoff allowed street artists to paint their graffiti that became known around the world. When he received the unanimous support of the City Council to tear down 5Pointz so that he could put up two residential towers, Wolkoff announced he was going ahead with the demolition. The artists countered by filing a lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court seeking protection of their work under the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act.
When Judge Frederick Block issued two temporary restraining orders this fall, the owners were told to stop all preparation for demolition and the artists were told not to paint. After listening to testimony from both sides, the judge rendered his decision Nov. 15. He refused to issue a permanent injunction and allowed the demolition to proceed.
“I sit here in my office shocked that they would sue me after all I’ve done for them over the years,” he said last Friday. “I didn’t do it out of animosity. I just wanted to get it over with and begin putting up my buildings.”
Before he starts construction on the two luxury residential towers, Wolkoff has to demolish the warehouse complex that covers an entire city block.
“We’re in the process of getting our demo certificate now. We should have it in four weeks,” Wolkoff said. “I should be able to start pouring the foundation in the spring.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.