5Pointz graffiti artists awarded $6.7 million after developer whitewashed artwork

Photo courtesy of Flickr/iamNigelMorris

After a three-week trial in November, a Brooklyn judge had ordered developers to pay $6.7 million to 5Pointz artists who had their artwork destroyed to create residential towers.

The abandoned building at 45-46 Davis St. in Long Island City had for years been used as a blank canvas for graffiti artists to create artwork that attracted locals and tourists. The developer, Jerry Wolkoff, allowed them to use it for this purpose until he decided to build two residential buildings on the property.

In November 2013, Wolkoff whitewashed the building overnight while the artists had been trying to save the space from demolition. Then, in August 2014, the property was demolished.

In 2015, 21 artists filed a lawsuit against the Wolkoff family, which owns G&M Realty, claiming that the property’s owner committed an illegal act by painting over their work without giving them enough warning to take it down and save it. They evoked the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, which states that protections against destruction of works are afforded to authors who create art of “recognized stature.”

A Brooklyn jury last November found that 5Pointz developer Jerry Wolkoff acted illegally when he painted over almost 50 pieces of graffiti at the famed Long Island City site. After months of deliberation, Judge Frederic Block awarded the artists $150,000 for each of the 45 works, according to Artnet News.

“If not for Wolkoff’s insolence, these damages would not have been assessed,” Block wrote in the decision. “If he did not destroy 5Pointz until he received his permits and demolished it 10 months later, the Court would not have found that he had acted willfully.”

Jonathan Cohen, known as Meres One, was the director of 5Pointz and one of more than a dozen artists named in the lawsuit. In an Instagram post, he uploaded a video of him clinking glasses of champagne with a copy of Frederic Block’s book titled “Disrobed: An Inside Look at the Life and Work of a Federal Trial Judge.”

The apartment buildings on the site will also include about 12,000 square feet for artist studios.

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