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EXCLUSIVE: Van Bramer Dismisses Plans to Save 5 Pointz Building

Photo Courtesy of George Burles

July 12, 2013 By Christian Murray

Staunch advocates for the preservation of the 5 Pointz building are not going to be getting the support of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.

The councilman said that it would make no sense for the city to buy the graffiti Mecca and that the future of the community would be better served by housing—filled with young families—and a bustling retail district.

He said he is not an advocate for keeping the 5 Pointz building in its current form. He said that he believes in “property rights” and that the owner of the property—Jerry Wolkoff– is entitled to develop the site as long as his plans meet zoning rules and regulations.

Wolkoff plans to demolish the 5 Pointz building and develop two residential towers–one would be 47 stories high and the other 41 stories.

Van Bramer said the real issue is whether Wolkoff should be awarded a special zoning permit that would allow him to build 1,000 apartment units, 370 more than permitted “as of right” by present zoning rules. “They have requested a significant increase and they are not entitled to it,” he said. “They have to work with the community … and earn it.”

Van Bramer dismisses the idea that the city should buy the building. “First of all, you need a willing seller and the Wolkoff family is not interested in selling,” he said. Furthermore, “It would probably cost tens of millions—if not hundreds of millions—to buy it and renovate it… which would be a foolish expenditure of city funds.”

Therefore, his focus is on monitoring Wolkoff’s application for the special permit– as it weaves it way through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process.

In the first step of the ULURP process, Wolkoff’s plan was unanimously rejected by Community Board 2, which serves as an ‘advisory’ body.

The board voted against Wolkoff’s application for the special permit—citing several concerns, such as the lack of affordable housing and the paltry amount of studio space he was offering artists.

Wolkoff revised the plan to include 54 affordable units. He also increased the amount of studio space for artists to 12,000 sq ft. , up from 2,000sq ft. (about 5 studios), and said he would place aerosol artwork around the site.

The Queens Borough Presidents Office, which has already held a hearing on the plan, is reviewing the amended plan and is likely to render a decision within the next two weeks.

The plan MUST be approved by the Queens Borough President’s Office, the City Planning Commission and, ultimately, the city council before the special permit is awarded.

The spotlight is starting to shift toward Van Bramer, who represents Long Island City, as the plan moves toward the council for a vote in the new few months. He is likely to sway which way the city council votes on the plan, since it is in his district.

Van Bramer said he would still like Wolkoff to provide a greater number of affordable units than the 54 he proposed, and said that “this is a conversation we will look to have with them at the appropriate time.”

Van Bramer said he did not want to discuss the desired number of affordable units at this time. He said the plan is likely to change throughout the ULURP process before it finally gets to him.

However, he did say that the 12,000 sq ft in studio space was a significant increase. “I think they have met the desire of the community board,” Van Bramer said.

Some of the staunch advocates of 5 Pointz argue that Wolkoff’s money is playing a part in the decision making process.

Van Bramer’s 2013 election campaign fund has received a significant amount of money from the Wolkoffs.

David Wolkoff, the son of Jerry, has contributed $2,750.00 to Van Bramer, with other Wolkoff family members contributing a total of about $5,250. This represents a little less than 6% of the $143,000 that Van Bramer has amassed.

Van Bramer, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, dismisses the contributions as having any impact on his views toward Wolkoff’s plans.

“My integrity is the most important thing to me and I came in to this job with that and I will leave this job with that,” he said. “No contribution affects the way I vote or decisions I make.”

“Truth is, I could still vote against it [granting the special permit],” he said. “There are still some outstanding issues.”

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Those glass boxes are works of modern engineering , and daily like large ships at sea support the lives of those living and working in them. Generating tax revenue to support the operations of a modern city.


Eric ~ Forgive me for offending the delicacy of your nature and Brammer’s.
For you to seem to know it’s a ‘personal problem’ suggests you know more and are above it all.
What you are sady and frighteningly blind to is that the censorship of desenting opinions and free speech is very, very dangerous here and as big an issue as 5 Pointz itself. Quinn does it, Brammer does it. Are you prepared to live in a society where you cannot express your contrary opinion?? Caps and your percieved “slaptstick writing style” (I call passionate) should hardly be offensive to a candidate and you. God save us if that is what it takes to allienate and shut down people, then a candidate does not belong in politics.
Futhermore, it is not just “cap/slap” me that has been censored from his page, many have, many who write just as ‘normally’ as Eric Blair. Free speech and the backbone to listen to it, that’s what makes a good candidate. I will resume my caps now….HAVE A GOOD DAY 🙂

Eric Blair

@HansVonRittern, I’m sure we agree on the 5Pointz issue but given your absurdly heavy use of caps lock and slapstick writing style; it is not a mystery that you were unfirended by Van Bramer. I don’t think unfirending a someone on facebook is what the Bill of Rights had in mind. It sounds like a personal problem. Just a thought.


His smile is as phoney as hers!
If you post any dissenting thought on his personal Facebook page – he will ‘unfriend’ you. If you post an opposing idea on his councilman page, it will get deleted. WHAT HAPPENED TO FREE SPEECH. These are the exact same tactics as Christine Quinn.
Brammer also wants to amp up the citi-bike program in Sunnyside. NO! We HAVE bikes and need are scarce parking spaces.
Make the connection everyone – Quinn/Brammer are a $$ team!

LIC resident

if the world were set to end, the first city will to go will be NYC, is gonna blow up pretty soon with so much anger and fighting.
have a plan, is all it takes, propose a good plan and they might hear us.
lets go live in mars.

Eric Blair

Everyone believes in property rights. Of course it’s Wolkoff’s building and he can do what he wants with it. But 5 Pointz is a cultural symbol, a canvas for artists, a museum of street art, and a loved attraction.

Maybe the rich developers and politicians don’t see 5 Points through the window of the 7 train every morning. They don’t see the beautiful murals welcome Queens residents home in the evening.

Why would the Chair of Cultural Affairs side with a developer over the arts community? Why would Van Bramer even get involved or take a public position? It’s fine to sit this one out.

We love you JVB, but this was a miscalculation. Maybe it’s a done deal but at least don’t be on the wrong side. Where is the integrity in that?

Sick of Development


Affordable means people who can’t afford a million dollar condo can afford it, you stuck up elitist. It means people who make the average salary of a working family can live there without paying over 50% of their income on housing, thus having to use national and city services for healthcare, food, clothes, etc.

Your own words make you one of the 1%, affordable means the other people!

God you turn my stomach with your self-referential blather. Get off this page and go home to your million dollar glass box.

Steve Breezer

I say Freak the system cause in the end its all about Money and power, the RESPECT aspect has left us long ago! The RICH get to Soar while the less fortunate often find our flight has cancelled as once again a WING is broken. What ever the Final outcome is, happy or sad. Just remember you,us,we fought for what we beleive in>>> Props to Meres and his team for making 5 ptz. what it is today. Great Project in so many ways..
So please NYC KEEP 5 PTZ. ALIVE..



Long Island City is not bad nor ugly… nor does big money make anything beautiful. You are disillusioned if you believe that. I’m not making any argument about saving 5 pointz, I’m almost tired of hearing about it, however what makes you think that every international tourist site is determined by how many big chain franchises surround it? That is ABSURD! That exact notion disgusts me, to think the only thing that makes a place beautiful is to what degree it’s been Disneyfied. That is artificial, that is FAKE. Long Island City is a REAL place where people live, PLEASE don’t compare it to Times Square…

I would question how many times you actually ever observed 5 pointz to witness how many people it brings to the area. Furthermore, are you honestly suggesting that if LIC were to emulate Times Square that it would bring more people and business to the area? Why would anyone visiting NYC go to Queens to see something thats already exists in the heart of Manhattan? That is a rhetorical question because tourists DO NOT GIVE A DAMN ABOUT QUEENS! They come to this city to be in Manhattan, with the exception of Brooklyn in recent years.

That “soul” that you are questioning… that is, but not limited to, a very unique creative stronghold that exists between MoMA PS1 and 5pointz. These establishments (5 pointz in particular) present something that you can find no where else in the city, let alone the country and one could argue the entire world. It is REAL culture, by this I mean it is not something that was pre-planned artificially in a big corporate office like Times Square was when it was redeveloped but has been established by artists born are raised in this city and countless other artists around the world who found inspiration from the community here.

I digress, because again for me this is not about saving 5 pointz, this is about avoiding an embarrassingly OBVIOUS mistake. Brooklyn has thrived in recent years NOT because it emulates what brings tourism to Manhattan, but because it embraces what makes the Brooklyn unique and stand out, and by supporting and encouraging local business. I believe Queens can do the same and I am an advocate of supporting the local community and local business, NOT to be pushed out by obnoxious development projects and big chain franchises who are only concerned with expanding their personal gains. You can wish for a better Long Island City, but PLEASE don’t be silly.

Oil Beef Hooked

Fact: 5 Pointz is a truly unique place that attracts visitors from around the world. (Unlike all those horrid glass boxes that are springing up like mushrooms in LIC.)

Fact: It makes perfect economic sense for the owner to tear it down and make luxury housing.

Opinion: When we worship money and let it be the basis of every decision, we lose priceless intangibles like soul, character and individuality.


Everybody is talking about Long Island City soul.. But what is it? Cheap? Dirty? Remember, time goes by and everything is changing too! End of 20 Century LIC was the biggest transportation hub for LI! Why LIC has to be “Afforable” ? and how much is it? I can afford 1 million condo but can you? Why we have to stay bad and ugly but give up a hope t be better? 5 Ptz is NOT an international tourist site and please don’t put your own imagination on it! If it is, there should be some big chain stores for tourists like Times SQ, where is Starbucks ? how many people you see per hour there? 15? How does it benefit our community as it is?
You can support 5. Ptz but don’t need to be silly!

Sick of Development

@ Old Soul I hear the loud ring of Truth in your analysis. Others have let themselves be pulled in by the glossy brochures, Power Point presentations and transparently false promises. Money blinds the foolish and almost nothing can make them see.


Those who live in the community, who truly believe that this development in the long term will benefit the local businesses and the neighborhood, I have great sorrow for you. I truly feel sorry for you. Everything looks great in a sugar coated presentation, but the truth the matter, based on the unappealing location, those buildings will sit largely vacant for many, many years. This is, if the Wolkoff’s decide to even build. They could easily take the bonus from the city and sell the property off and not build anything they proposed, it’s their right to build after all, isn’t it? The retail business that they are promising, you think that will help your neighborhood? They will drive out the locally owned businesses. This development, if carried through, will greatly expand the divide of working class families and the wealthy. It will drive working families out of the neighborhood and make LIC another unaffordable community.

I was at the Community Board 2 hearing who unanimously voted against the application and for good reason. In the Wolkoff’s presentation they promised affordable housing, artist studio space, community access to the proposed parking garage, large public park space, and supporting local businesses. However, when the board asked for specific confirmation of these promises, every answer was the same. “we can’t promise anything, but we’re looking into it.” These promises are all to get you own their side so they can get what they want. Why on earth do you actually think they have the communities interest in mind? They are going REPLACE your community with wealthy transplants. They are going to strip the soul of LIC and replace it with the artificial comfort of big chain businesses, tacky glass architecture, and empty promises.

Do you see where the park is going to be? Under the 7 train (one of the loudest and irritable sections elevated track I’ve ever witnessed in the subway system) and next to a huge sand pit train yard? This plan is LAUGHING at you LIC, this is a joke!

You must anticipate the real intentions here. Wolkoff’s don’t have a clean history. they don’t care about the working class families and they don’t care about the neighborhood. You’re giving them you’re faith and trust and they’re going to have a big old laugh, and a nice big bonus.

You can hate the artists and the graffiti and the ugly industrial building that is 5 pointz. Be an advocate for its end. Just do yourselves a big favor and truly think about how much this development plan is actually going to benefit the actual community, think about what is at risk.

Dinsdale Piranha

Whatever your opinion of 5 Pointz, please don’t tell me that all those cold, soulless, identikit, glass and steel high rise shoe-boxes that block out the sun aren’t themselves a hideous eyesore.


I am glad that we have JVB around, he’s going to help make this place great for old and new.

I was walking home the other night and there was ear piercing music booming from the inner courtyard. There was some crazy rave party going on, and the crowd seemed drunk and contentious. Not the sort of scene that I’d like to promote to the world.

Ramrod Jones

@ Anonymous

You are ignorant. The people who lived in LIC when it was neglected for decades by the city were lied to and bamboozled when Bloomberg and his development buddies wanted their neighborhood. The business owners of Willet’s Point begged the city for help over decades and didn’t get it. Now that The Big B and his millionaire friends want it the laws get changed for those he favors, but not for those beneath his notice.

When the poor get the same consideration as the multi-millionaire who owns Five Points, I will believe in property rights. Right now, it is your property until someone in government wants it. Then it isn’t.

So, watch out. You may be next, you idiot.


Why did you put property rights in apostrophes?
Don’t you believe in them? Cool, let me take your house and use it as a community center.

Ramrod Jones

And P.S. I hope JVB reads this and defends the underdogs on this issue. Nasty ogres like the Wolkoffs need a good slap to remind them that human beings need respect.


I don’t like the new development. I think it sucks. There. I said it.

Not that I have any real practical reasons to say so. Sure, it may be “better” from a short term economic standpoint. Or maybe even a long term one. What do I know about this crap? I’m a freakin’ musician My gut says that it’s probably better for Mr. Wolkoff than it is for the community. That being said, I’m certainly not trying to sway anyone… not you, fine reader, and especially not Mr. Wolkoff. (Though I have serious doubts he was losing his shirt before deciding to do this.) I suppose this is inevitable. While I am not a huge fan of the artwork on the building, I do love seeing it as I go by on the 7, or walking down Jackson Ave, and I love knowing it’s there. NYC has a history steeped in the arts…and much like the artists can’t afford to be here anymore, neither can something like 5 Pointz. (When it comes to 5 Pointz, I love the forest more than the trees. But, I really love that forest. Nothing like it in the world… to be replaced by yet another tower of McBoxes With A View And Shiny Modern Appliances.)

In the end, I am a fan of “vibe” and living in a place with “vibe.” I moved to NYC to get away from the “normals” and the burbs, and now they’re catching up to me here…creeping up like the strangle-y vines from “Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers.”

LIC, like a lot of NYC, is losing it’s vibe… though LIC is losing it faster than most. I guess I’m lucky to have been here for a while, and I’ll hold out until forced out, which is just a matter of time I suppose. I can’t afford them shiny boxes…and if I could, I’d rather spend me money in some cool old building… with vibe.

But in the end, I know I’m just blowing smoke on some blog. (But it feels great to get it off my chest) Until I have some real scratch, which will probably never happen, my opinion is moot.

Ramrod Jones

I remember back in the 80s as I rode the Number 7 back and forth to work thinking, “God, what an ugly mess.” But, I did not know it was an international attraction to artists. If that is so, it is worth saving, given that MOMA PS 1 is so close by and how much money that can bring in to LIC and the small businesses surrounding it.

The city should take it by eminent domain, the way Bloomberg is taking businesses in Willets Point. It serves a much greater good to keep it than the current owner can provide. He wants to gorge on Bloomberg’s giveaway’s to the complete detriment of the community that is here now.

That greedy man not only wants to demolish what is there, he wants to put in more than what the law allows and throw a few crumbs to the peons beneath his gargantuan feet.

To that I say, “Take a long walk off a short pier,” or, to update an old NewYork saying “Walk west ’til your hat floats.” I say that because what I really want to say has too many vulgar terms for a polite website like this.

Western Queens Resident

there are mainly 2 parties:
Save 5ptz whatever it takes AND
who cares about it it’s an eyesore.

5PTZ was thankful for the grant of time and aware of its destine, even if sad.
Wolkoff has property rights.

The discussion should not be about whether he’s allowed to build (he is) but about whether he should get zoning exemptions and if yes for what price.

I think he shouldn’t and if he get’s it the price should be steep and good for the community and should include not only studios and affordable units (which benefit a few) BUT green space/park land open to the public rather than parking lots and improved transport.

Van Bramer’s right (he’s saying what I’ve been preaching) and the rest of people super PRO or super CON 5PTZ are surrounding noise.

P.S.: I donated to him – does that make him do whatever I want to do? Don’t think so. I’m sure Modern Spaces has donated to him but a lot of other, long-time businesses have donated to him to because he’s a good civil servant and representative (except maybe for endorsing Quinn but that’s his personal choice).


All you idiots that say how you hate the building, it’s these slumlord owners that haven’t done crap to the building or this community nor do they mean to, they just want the variance so the can sell it. WAKE UP YOU CLOWNS….


That place looks like a relic from a 1980’s and should have been updated long ago. Subways and parks have all seen change to keep up with modern times to the benefit and enjoyment of ALL it’s citizens.


Marvelous news! thanks Jimmy for having the courage to improve and beautify our district. A true win-win situation for all since developer plans to expand exhibit space to 12,000 sq ft in a tony new space. Going to really great!!!

Patricia Dorfman

5-pointz is a tourist attraction and good for business here.

I think in Queens, we often lose our most interesting attractions, architecture, and historically significant places because we are not standing up for the long term.

I am not all that fond of graffiti, murals or the like. To me, Banksy is only marginally better than Mr. Brainwash. But i think 5-pointz is truly an international draw for Queens, and we must try to keep it.

Say, we left it alone. Twenty years from now, there will be expensive high rises all around it which would be more valuable because they had a view of historic 5-pointz.

Michael Kilpatrick

Jimmy Van Bramer “gets it”. He will do what’s right for the community!


Good news.
I hate that place. I will be there with a jack hammer if they need me!!!


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