July 20, 2020 By Christian Murray
A prolific developer who was best known in Queens for the demolition of the 5Pointz site in Long Island City has died.
Gerald ‘Jerry’ Wolkoff, who was behind several large developments in New York and Long Island, died Friday at the aged of 83. He suffered from a brief neurological illness, according to Long Island Business News that first reported on his passing.
Wolkoff, who was born in Brooklyn in 1936, got involved in the real estate industry in the 1960s and became one of the largest home builders in the outer boroughs of New York.
He later went on to develop industrial parks in Long Island, such as the 240-acre Heartland Industrial Park in Hauppauge and the 400-acre Heartland Business Center in Edgewood.
However, for many, he is best known for 5Pointz—a dilapidated factory building on Jackson Avenue he bought in the 1970s—that was demolished in 2014 to make way for two residential towers.
Wolkoff allowed graffiti artists to use the decaying 5Pointz building as a canvas for more than two decades. However, when he announced plans in 2012 to demolish the building and redevelop the site he ran into a big confrontation with artists.
The artists initially tried to stop Wolkoff from being able to rezone the property, which he needed in order to construct the 1,100 units that are going up today. However, their effort failed when he got the approval of Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and the rest of the city council to rezone the site.
The artists then tried to stop Wolkoff from destroying the building by taking him to court. They sought to preserve their artwork, some of which had gained international fame.
However, during the early hours of Nov. 19, 2013, Wolkoff hired a crew and whitewashed the whole building.
At the time, Wolkoff told the QueensPost:
“I whitewashed the building to stop the torture. They [the artists] had to take their medicine,” he said, adding that “they will be upset with me for a day or two … and then everyone will be over it.”
Wolkoff, known for being blunt, said it would have been extremely difficult to demolish the building piece by piece, art work by artwork. “If I was able to implode the building I would have,” he said at the time. “This way it is now done.”
Wolkoff was later sued by the artists for destroying their work. The artists won and received a $6.7 million award. However, Wolkoff maintained that the building was his and that the artists had no right to determine what happened to it.
Wolkoff is survived by his wife of 59 years, Michele, his two sons David and Adam, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.