July 3, 2013 By Christian Murray
Jerry Wolkoff, the owner of the 5 Pointz building, was livid when he learned that his plan to build two residential towers where the graffiti icon now stands was rejected by Community Board 2 last month.
“I wasn’t upset with the community,” Wolkoff said. “I was upset that my staff did not find out what the community needed and took them for granted.”
He said his staff would tell him that “things are coming along great” and that everything is going to plan. However, he said, it was clear that they were not in tune community.
Wolkoff said that he’s been involved with the Long Island City community for 40 years and has worked with artists and promoted their art for decades. “I’ve seen people grow up in this area. It is not like I’m from Manhattan (or elsewhere) and I have just bought a piece of property.”
“I would never have presented a building that I didn’t think had community support,” Wolkoff said.
Wolkoff, who was represented by his son David and a fleet of consultants at the community board meetings, continues to seek a special permit that would allow him to build 1,000 units–370 more than permitted ‘as of right’ by present zoning. The focus has not been on whether the graffiti icon will be demolished (Wolkoff can do that “as of right”) but whether he will be permitted to build so many units.
The community board, which plays an advisory role, sighted a slew of reasons for opposing the special zoning permit. They cited, among other items, that his plan made no provision for affordable housing, that it lacked a meaningful number of art studios, and that there was a lack of low-cost parking spaces.
Shortly after Community Board 2 rejected his plan, Wolkoff convened a meeting with several board members.
Wolkoff, who didn’t attend the community board 2 public meetings on the proposed development, said he went to the meeting and said ‘tell me your concerns and I will try and take care of them.”
Wolkoff said: “I was sorry that it had come to that point. “
Joe Conley, chairman of community board 2, confirmed Wolkoff’s desire for a meeting and his aim to learn more about the community’s objections.
Wolfkoff said he sat down with the board members and drew up a list of items the community sought. “It wasn’t a case of you give me this and I will give you that. I said ‘what are people asking for?”
He told the board members that he would increase the size of the artist space from 2,000sq ft. (about 5 studios) to 12,000 sq ft.
Wolkoff said that when he learned that the public sought affordable housing, he revised his plan to include 54 affordable units. That number equates to 20% of the 370 extra units that the special permit would provide. He said that the units would be of the same quality as the market-rate units.
Wolkoff also said that he would display art work on the streets surrounding the development, as well as provide inexpensive parking.
Wolkoff said he would have included these provisions in the first place had his staff informed him of what the community sought.
Despite the changes, Community Board 2 remains on record as rejecting the proposal. The plan, which includes Wolkoff’s revisions, is in the hands of Borough President Helen Marshall. Her office held a hearing on the proposal on Thursday and is expected to make a decision on the plan any day now, according to her spokesman.
Should Marshall approve it, the plan will go to the City Planning Commission. While the commission could nix the application, it is likely to move on to the City Council for a vote.
Conley said that had Wolkoff included these provisions in the plan that was presented to Community Board 2 the vote may have gone a different way.
Wolkoff said that he would continue to work with the community to meet its concerns but realizes that he can’t keep everyone happy. He said that when he allowed the artists to paint on the building, he would get complaints from people saying ‘why do you allow this’ ugly graffiti. Now there are people who can’t stand the prospect of seeing the building go.
“Some people are never happy,” Wolkoff said. “Some people don’t like the Mona Lisa; they say she smiles too much.”
The affordable housing is only 20% of the ADDITIONAL units Wolkoff wants to build, and in reality are only 5.4% of the total # of units…
That is if it gets built and things like the affordable housing/art areas aren’t “value engineered” out of the project when it goes over budget
The affordable housing is only twenty percent which isn’t a big accomplishment . That’s the standard affordable housing to get a tax break. Plenty of buildings in Manhattan offer that. Won’t there be more community meetings where this can be brought up?
1. Today five points -thanks to the greedy, apathetic new owners. Their “white wash” is an eyesore. Affordable housing? For who? These two are greedy and selfish. They’re not going to help the community. Just like my landlord. He won’t upgrade anything and charges a years salary for rent. They’re all full of crap.
Ask yourself this…. If they were going to create affordable housing why spend money to tear it down? I’ll tell you why. To build condos on prime realistate and what makes it prime? The artist. If all the artist were to leave these two guys would be screwed. Al we can do us not rent from them.
LI City has many new developments and has been the place to go when you can’t afford Manhattan. I hope more people will ban together to support normal life style in NYC, STOP the outrageous gouging and displacing people. Seems like the Developers and the government all BS and get over on the people.
Kudos to those people who stand up to make a difference.
But LIC is no completion for Manhattan, and it does not have 1% of the conveniences or interest that Manhattan does. It is where to go when you can’t afford Manhattan. They better make it a neighborhood with good eateries, good shops, and all the things that make it a comfortable place. NOT Alienate potential business owners/ residents….
When I drove through there recently it was cold, not good on stores, shops, eateries, or transportation FROM a passengers view in a car. The area needs to remain affordable.
IT is no other then “close to the city” NOT some great special anything, I know marketing….it is what it is. But, but, but the people that live there if stabilized will get to see its renaissance as did the upper Upper West Side. People did not leave the UWS because new came in. But people will, and should ban together from allowing the rich to crush the not rich so they can get richer
“I would never build a building that didn’t have community support!”
Then why did you white wash the building the day after a support rally that the very community you claim to respect came out for you lying piece of slime? To block the community’s efforts to get landmark status? Oh yeah, some respect you have for the community. Just another rich jerk trying not to show his true colors.
Yes, the Wolkoffs have the right to do what they want with their property. But let’s not pretend this won’t be a huge loss to the character of NYC. 5 Pointz is a special place and it’s a shame that, as usual, money triumphs over art and taste. Could those two towers be any more generic and bland?
The thought of Bloomberg is enough to choke anyone. He was as good for this city as the terrorists were in 2011. Unless you are a billionaire like he is he has no use for you, and is moving you as far away as he can. Affordable housing is a lick and a promise.
I just wonder how he stayed this long without being thrown out.
The rendering for this place is nice, but we do not know if it is a 20/80 affordable. Meaning only 20% of the building will be affordable. Unless he does 80% market rates, he can’t afford to build it.
So is it really affordable? Or is it not for everyone.
I still rather see new buildings come in, new stores, expand the good areas. Right now that area is not really desirable for many. It is no neighborhood, it has no shopping, in short what is LIC really?
I’ve started the petition “New York City Council: Stop the demolition of 5 Pointz” and need your help to get it off the ground.
Will you take 30 seconds to sign it right now? Here’s the link:
Here’s why it’s important:
This place is an open air art museum for the unique and beautiful art form that is graffiti. G&M realty plans to demolish the building to build two high rise apartement buildings intended for the financially affluent. While they are offereing the 5 pointz group studio space and the opportunity to curate the building, buch of this will be the antithesis of what it was that the graffiti mecca represented to the artists who journeyed there on a pigrimage to see artists’ work that have inspired them. The art on dispay at 5 pointz is for the public. It is a place for artists to legally put their art on display, and it is a lifetime goal for many of us. Please, support the cause to save this beautiful open air art museum and prevent it from being turned into apartments, retail space, and a parking garage. You wouldn’t tear down the Louvre would you? That’s how much this means to graffiti artists around the world.
You can sign my petition by clicking here.
I love Art and always have. I think what the Wolkoff family is proposing is instrumental in making LIC a more desirable area for all concerned. I looked at the new building sketches and at the graffiti building too. I do not get the outrage at all. People want to live in nice places and when you give it to them they raise a stink, all for nothing. Graffiti is graffiti, and while talent did go into it. I think Art should be framed, and hung, and a nice area will help many in the long run.
I do not see that the Wolkoffs are trying to do anything to harm the artists. Maybe instead of stores on the bottom they can have Art exhibits, galleries. Etc….
@ Tom I disagree, it’s not a nasty thing to say at all, I think it’s a very vaild point that too many people are too scared to say. It is unfair that one person pays one price and someone else pays a different price for the exact same thing. That’s not jealousy, that’s sanity. I’m saying it should be fair accross the board, if you can’t afford to live somewhere, then you shouldnt be living there.
I agree that there is affordable housing needed, and I agree that it shouldnt have to be in run down ghettos, but inside luxury condo buildings is the complete opposite side of the scale. I would rather see affordable buildings dotted all over the city and queens.
I think there are too many people that shrug theirs shoulders, blame their current situation on ‘the system’ or ‘the goverment’ or ‘the schools’, take no blame themselves, and then hold their hand out expecting the world to give them something for nothing. Now luxury condo’s is to be added to that hand out list.
and, Anon.an.on, ‘is it fair that poor people get to live in nice apartments’? wow, that is an incredibly nasty sentiment. Most of us americans work hard, very hard, and the fact is that those born with money stay with money. The way the education and health system is set up makes it hard to break the cycle of poverty. I agree that nobody ‘needs’ luxury housing. That’s not the point. The point is that New York needs affordable housing PERIOD. And if that housing happens to not be in run-down ghettos then that’s a bonus! Have some empathy for struggling families and put your jealousy aside.
5 Pointz is a huge cultural asset to LIC and NYC in general. It is what many tourists come to NYC to see, and are instead confronted with a sterile and boring city. Mr Wolkoff doesn’t need more money, and if he really wants to do something for the community, he should work with the curators of 5 Pointz to develop it’s full potential.
Naturally NOT at $3000/1BR/Mo but still
I am beginning to wonder if we turned our backs on the wrong man. It sounds like finally someone cares about our community who could help us here.
I don’t like the term ‘affordable housing’, at what price point is housing affordable? If a luxury building rents the 1 beds for $3000, how much less would the ‘affordable housing’ versions be? And more to the point, is it fair that certain people get to live in the luxury building for less than others? I agree housing should be made available for all, but do those earning a lower wage really need to be living in a luxury building? Should those that have studied and worked hard and are now reaping the rewards by living in a nice apartment, have to share with those that arent. I myself do not live in a luxury building, nor could I afford to, I’m far from a wall street type, but I don’t feel that because I earn a lower salary that I am entitled to a 2 bed with ensuite, roof deck and river view.
a few facts :
The Wolkoff met hush hush with the cb2 after the no vote, and apparently guaranteed increased space for artists ? which artists , no one from 5 Pointz has been involved, and as of now, none of the studio space, nor gallery space is being offered to 5 Pointz. There has been no communication between G&M realty and the 5 Pointz collective, other than a letter of eviction and a phone call preventing the use of the roof, because I quote ” people were mean to the Wolkoff family at the meeting.
At the hearing with Helen Marshall , Mr Conley acted like he was part of the Wolkoff team stood in between them during the entire presentation.
Mr Wolkoff indeed did not have to give the space to artists, but most of you need to understand that a lot of the artists that paint the building use to be tenants , and pay rent , till 2009 when the staircase collapsed. The low rent was a reflection of the poor shape of the building , it was a win win artists had space to work in , and G&M realty did not have to bring the building up to code , as artists are very low maintenance tenant.
5 Pointz as a collective tried to rent more space on the ground floor back in 2010 , and started cleaning the space , the said space was taken away from the collective after fans started the save 5 Pointz petition.
it is a difficult battle , and 5 Pointz today is an iconic site bringing a huge amount of tourists to LIC. Where are our elected officials ? 5 Pointz has been begging for a meeting with Jimmy Van bramer , without any success …
To be continued …
Wolkoff never had to let that property be used for low-rent art studios or allow the building to be used as a graffiti canvas in the first place, but he did for nearly 20 years.
At least give him credit for that. I can’t think of any other property owner that can make that claim.
It is a real shame that no political or cultural organizations are advocating to preserve this place. It seems the deals have been made. It is essentially a bunch of artists and their lawyer trying to advocate for this cultural institution.
A good comparison or model would be the Magic Gardens in Philly. Philly has a very different relationship to Public Art then New York, but we’re talking about an art space that was preserved by the community and city. Today the Magic Gardens is a thriving tourist destination. Imagine a 5pointz preserved as a studio, artspace, etc. Multiply the Magic Gardens times a thousand in terms of the effect it would have on the economy as a tourist destination.
It is ironic and hypocritical to be disparaging towards the owner of this building and not see the selfishness of the people who benefited for free for 2 decades. The new plan seems more than fair and gives concessions to the disgusting mob.
PS Ironically, I went to high school with David Wolkoff…
2K a month for a one bedroom in Long Island City? Surely you jest – try 2.8K and UP. My building in Sunnyside (south) finally broke the 2K mark on a smallish one bedroom (relatively speaking; the apts in my building are huge). The apt. rented within 2 weeks without being painted/prepped. None of us can believe it!
what is affordable??? $2000 a month for a 1 bedroom…..oh that’s right the “can’t afford wanna be manhattanites” will flood this part of Long Island City>>>>>>>>>>>> Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh so sorry I forgot we’re not Long Island City we’re LIC …another area destroyed!!
2 more years and cya NYC done
choking on these fake aholes moving & destroying NYC……………………….
I don’t believe a word he says. Nor do I give Conley much credit. Fifty four units is a start, but he is getting 370 extra!
How about he makes all of them affordable? Make this place nicer for the people who already live here! Don’t push us out to make room for the overflow from Manhattan. Do you think we don’t notice? Your protestations are insulting! You didn’t realize. . . . Yeah, sure, I buy that. And, hey, do you have a bridge I can buy?
“Wolkoff, who was represented by his son David and a fleet of consultants”…Thats all one needs to know.
Daddy, sonny and the consultants never “consulted” with the community.
Let hope he is not like that scumbag Bruce Ratner who promised “affordable housing” as he and Bloomie used eminent domain to toss hardworking people out into the street, only to see that the “affordable housing” looks like it will never be built. Ratner can delay until 2035 and then pay a small fine.
Only in Bloombergville.