Feb. 13, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
A federal judged awarded $6.7 million to the 21 graffiti artists who sued the real estate developer of the 5Pointz site after he white washed and destroyed their art works five years ago.
The decision was issued on Monday by U.S. District Judge Frederic Block, who ruled that the plaintiffs receive the maximum damages possible for dozens of destroyed art works at the former 5Pointz site, an abandoned warehouse in Long Island City that became a worldwide attraction for its aerosol murals through the building.
The court case, dating back to 2015, centered on whether the rights of the artists, under the Visual Artists Rights Act, were violated when Jerry Wolkoff, the developer of the site, painted over the murals and effectively destroyed them in 2013.
The jury in the case sided with the plaintiffs in a November verdict, finding that Wolkoff did violate the rights of the graffiti artists. Wolkoff maintained through the case that the works were not protected by law, and that he had the right to do as he wished on his property.
But in upholding the jury’s verdict, which was used as a recommendation, Block said that Wolkoff decision to paint over the artworks in the middle of the night, especially when the building was set to be demolished 10 months later, was the point that tipped the scales in the case.
“If not for Wolkoff’s insolence, these damages would not have been assessed,” Block wrote, according to the Daily News. “If he did not destroy 5 Pointz until he received his permits and demolished it 10 months later, the Court would not have found that he had acted willfully.”
The former 5Pointz site, where two residential buildings are currently under construction, saw hundreds of aerosol murals (with permission from Wolkoff) in the building’s interior and exterior through its 20 year run.
Eric Baum, the lawyer representing the artists, and David Ebert, Wolkoff’s lawyer, did not respond to a request for comment on the judge’s decision.