May 23, 2013 By Christian Murray
The developer who seeks to demolish the 5 Pointz graffiti mecca and construct two residential towers faced an unfriendly crowd at a public hearing held at MoMA PS 1 last night.
David Wolkoff, the developer, and his team of consultants, put together a PowerPoint presentation and showcased their two modern towers. One tower would be 47 stories high and the other 41 stories. The developer seeks to build 1,000 apartments, 50,000 sqf. of retail space, 250 parking spaces and 5 art studios.
However, most of the 200 attendees didn’t seem to pay much attention to the developer’s plans. Their focus was on the demolition of the existing building—and the lost art.
“This proposal would extinguish a bright light in Long Island City,” said Jerry Rotondi, a Queens resident and former trustee with the Queens Historical Society.
Rotondi then looked Wolkoff in the eye and said: “You have the gall to propose a tasteless cornball glitzy box” to replace this building.
However, Wolkoff told the audience that the building had only become an art symbol due to the generosity of his family for allowing the artists to display their work in the first place. He said his family gave the artists the go-ahead to paint their works as long as their graffiti wasn’t politically incendiary or pornographic.
Wolkoff said the development represents a “transition from the past and present — into the future,” adding that provision has been made for art walls around the building and several art studios in the base of the building.
However, Marie Cecile Flageul, who has lived in LIC for the past 3 years, didn’t buy into Wolkoff’s argument.
“Let’s call a cat a cat,” Flageul said. “Mr. Wolkoff, you’re in real estate. You own a building that you purchased in 1976… and it is time for you to make money and cash in. We get that…Stop talking about artist galleries and accommodating people because we know it’s not going to happen.”
Flageul then presented the developer and the community board with a petition, signed by 15,830 people opposed to the project.
In the windows outside the lobby of MOMA PS1, attendees held signs: “For the good of LIC? Or the …Wealth of Wolkoff??”
There was only one speaker who spoke in Wolkoff’s favor.
Kim Luttrell, an artist who had a studio in the 5 Pointz building, said: “We all have known for years that the building was going to come down. At least David [Wolkoff] is trying to give us something, a little something [through the art studios]. Most developers won’t even do that.”
At the end of the evening, Luttrell was approached by two large men, who yelled: “He paid you off, he paid you off.” Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, stepped in to calm the situation down.
The hearing represented the first step in what’s called the uniform land use review process. The developer needs to get the plan approved by a number of layers of government before it can proceed. Community Board 2 is expected to vote on the application on June 6 at its next monthly meeting.
If all goes to plan, the developer would demolish 5 Pointz by the end of the year and start construction in the first quarter of 2014.
However, several hard core artists said they will fight the new development to the bitter end.
“This is our building and they can’t take it away without our permission,” said Angel Del Villar, a graffiti artist.
If the wrecking ball is called out, “I will be there,” Del Villar said. “I hope everyone is there. And we will make a [human] chain and another chain around the building and there will be reinforcements sent from all over the world.”
“5 Pointz deserves respect and they don’t respect us,” he said.