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Jerry Wolkoff, Owner and Developer of 5Pointz in Long Island City, Has Died

View of the front of 5 Pointz prior to its demolition (2013). Photo by Ezmosis/Creative Commons)

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.

(Photo: George Burles for Queens Post)

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:

Wolkoff ordered the whitewashing of 5Pointz (Photo: QueensPost on Nov. 19, 2013)

“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.

Wolkoff’s development on Jackson Avenue where the 5Pointz graffiti mecca was previously located (Photo: QueensPost)

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9 Comments

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Laurence Haibon

I was in a meeting with Mr Wolkoff back in 1996. I was in a small business at the time- Mr Wolkoff was my customer. I asked him the same question every idiot wants to ask a wealthy, powerful and successful billionaire; Mr Wolkoff answered me very patiently and I quote:
“Success may mean being in the right place at the right time..but. .if you’re home watching TV you’re always in the wrong place all the time.” I remember he paid the expenses to help a stray dog that wandered on to his golf course. .my condolences …RIP Mr Wolkoff.

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Sara Ross

He did a great thing by letting graffiti artists display their work without destroying private property and then thanks to that “wonderful” quality, greed, stabbed them in the back.

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Laurence Haibon

I was in a meeting with Mr Wolkoff back in 1996. I was in a small business at the time- Mr Wolkoff was my customer. I asked him the same question every idiot wants to ask a wealthy, powerful and successful billionaire; Mr Wolkoff answered me very patiently and I quote:
“Success may mean being in the right place at the right time..but. .if you’re home watching TV you’re always in the wrong place all the time.” I remember he paid the expenses to help a stray dog that wandered on to his golf course. .my condolences …RIP Mr Wolkoff.

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Anonymous

Not entirely familiar with the issue between the owner and artists. Exactly how did he stab them in the back? Did they have some contract that their graffiti would be there forever? From what I remember the art was constantly being painted over year after year. Or was this some kind of self entitled grab for money to extort him? If there was indeed some kind of contract, then the owner surely was in the wrong. But if the artists knew it was only temporary, then it’s the owner that was stabbed in the back and the artists that were greedy. Honest discussion would be appreciated. Not looking to trigger anyone. Him being rich or poor shouldn’t matter just like for the artists in the case of integrity.

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