Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Graffiti Mecca 5Pointz Tagged for Redevelopment

The owners of the famed, graffiti-covered Long Island City factory known as 5Pointz are looking to replace the iconic building, used by artists for almost two decades, with a pair of residential towers — one 47-stories high, the other 41 stories. The graffiti-caked warehouse has been tagged for demolition by the end of 2013, likely ending its run as a street-art mecca. The building's owner, developer Jerry Wolkoff, has plans to replace the Queens graffiti mecca with two high-rise residential towers with up to 1,300 rental units, dramatically remaking the entire block along Jackson Avenue next to the Court Square subway station. Wolkoff said his $300 million project would revitalize the area and provide for thousands of construction jobs.

The project would encompass the entire city block along Jackson Avenue, bordered by Davis and Crane Streets and the Sunnyside Yards, meaning an end for the graffiti-covered 5Pointz warehouse at 45-46 Davis Street, where street artists have used every inch of the building's exterior as a canvas and outdoor exhibit space for years.

Since the early 1990s, aerosol artists have transformed the decaying post-industrial relic next to the Court Square subway station into a renowned work of urban art.

Each year artists spray-paint 1,000 new works on the building's concrete and steel canvas.

"It's not going to end, it's just transitioning," said David Wolkoff, whose family has owned the building for decades. He said the warehouse was never intended to be a permanent site.

"It is not just any other building with graffiti on it. It is the epicenter for graffiti artists from all over the world," 5Pointz founder, Jonathan Cohen, said.

The project has been on the drawing board for a while and the Wolkoff family, which has owned the old factory since 1971, and long supported the work of the graffiti artists. They have decided it is time to replace it with a new development.

“Long Island City is growing, and we think that now is the time to add to the neighborhood,” said Wolkoff.

According to Wolkoff, the family is planning to replace 5Pointz with two massive residential towers — 47 and 41 stories tall — that would contain about 1,300 apartments. None of the building will remain. The majority of units would be 1-bedroom apartments and the rest would be a mix of studios and 2-bedrooms. All would be rented at market rate.

Plans include a mix of shops and restaurants, a supermarket, an open-air concourse between the towers and a park. There would also be studio space for artists,

There would also be commercial space on the ground floor, parking for 250 cars, bicycle parking within the building, storage and pedestrian walkways.

The base of the two buildings would be set aside for retail shops and artists' galleries. There would also be a public park in the rear of the site. Wolkoff said the development would include a public space for graffiti artists to show their work.

The family has allowed artists to use the space for almost two decades and at certain point around 200 artists worked in the building, Wolkoff said. But the old warehouse is in bad shape and in 2009 part of its exterior staircase collapsed, injuring a woman. After the incident, artists were forced to leave the building. It’s been almost empty for about two years,” Wolkoff said.

Artists’ efforts to save the building, covered roof to base with graffiti, were unsuccessful.

A petition was circulating among the artists. The Wolkoffs “gave this space to artists for more than 20 years and it was never meant for permanent use,” Conley noted.

The city rezoned the block in a 2001 plan to spur redevelopment around Queens Plaza. The change allows large-scale redevelopment.

But Wolkoff's plans call for the taller of the two towers to rise some 40 stories, which will require a special permit.

Wolkoff said his $300 million project would revitalize the area and provide for thousands of construction jobs.