By Bill Parry
5Pointz will start to come down in August.
Nearly eight months after owner Jerry Wolkoff ordered the graffiti mecca whitewashed in the dark of the night, the loading dock is buzzing with activity as the pre-demolition period is drawing to a close.
“We’re cleaning it out now and by the first or second week in August we’ll begin knocking it down,” Wolkoff said. “The procedure you go through to get your demolition permits in New York City is mind-boggling. You’d think I was trying to take down the Empire State Building or something.”
He added that the demolition of the old warehouse, at 22-44 Jackson Ave. in Long Island City, will take more than three months to complete.
“That’s why I painted it over. Can you imagine how berserk the artists would go each time we knocked down one of their pieces every day for three months?” he said.
Wolkoff is still confused about the artists’ reaction to the whole process. When he invited aerosol artists to start using the walls of the former Neptune Building in 1993, there was never a lease, they were never charged and it was always understood by all parties that the building had an expiration date, according to Wolkoff.
“The artists always knew the building was coming down, I even heard them talk about it in television interviews over the years. The truth of the matter is I never did anything to hurt these people,” he said.
When the demolition is complete, Wolkoff will start building two residential high-rise towers with 1,100 units and 50,000 square feet of commercial space.
“I had hoped to start the foundation already, but once we get going we will not stop until it’s finished in 2016 –– that’s what I’m hoping for,” he said.
The 77-year-old developer believes time will heal all wounds and one day the artists will return, especially once they see the new complex.
“It’s going to be the coolest building in New York and young people are really going to want to be there,” Wolkoff said. “The artists will come back despite what they say publicly right now. Trust me, there will be healing.”
Wolkoff is planning 12,000 square feet of artist studios to help lure them back.
“They’ll want the notoriety that will come with the new building,” Wolkoff said. “It will be like a couple reconciling after a bitter divorce.”
Marie Cecil Flageul, spokeswoman for the 5Pointz artists, sees things a little differently.
“Whatever magic ball he has I wish we had, that way we would have known about the whitewashing,” she said. “Seriously, artists in New York won’t want to collaborate with the author of the greatest genocide of art in New York City history.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.