Proposed 5Pointz Redevelopment to Include Space for Street Art

By Jeanmarie Evelly on April 25, 2013 10:15am 

LONG ISLAND CITY — The developers who want to demolish Queens graffiti mecca 5Pointz to make way for a set of residential apartment towers say that a space will remain in the new complex for street artists to show off their work, according to an environmental review conducted by the city.

The owners of the building are applying for a special permit to build a larger development than current zoning allows. The environmental review was first reported by New York YIMBY.

The plans call for two large apartment towers — one 47-stories high, the other 41 stories — containing about 1,000 market-rate apartment units.

The base of the two buildings would be set aside for retail shops, artists' galleries and a 250-car parking garage. There would also be a public park in the rear of the site.

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

"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.

But the new project, he said, will include designated space for artists' galleries or studios on the ground floor, and that he intends to install "art walls" throughout the development to keep the street art flavor, and will invite current and past artists — including 5Pointz founder Jonathan Cohen, known as Meres One, to curate them.

"Obviously, we're not going to have every inch of the building [in] graffiti," he said, but added that his family "appreciates" the work that's been done at the space and wants part of it to remain. 

"People find the building now because of the art and we want to continue [that]," he said.

"I will re-visit the artists that I've had in my buildings over the years and see if some of them are interested."

Wolkoff's proposal still needs to be approved through the city's land use review procedure, he said he is hoping to start construction in late 2013. The entire project is estimated for completion in 2017.

The block where the project is planned is also home to other artists, including the nonprofit Local Project, whose director Carolina Penafiel said is in search of a new space.

Marie Cecile Flageul, an event planner who lives in the area and serves as a spokeswoman for 5Pointz, said the group has been hearing of the site's impending demise since 2010.

"The same thing was said in 2011, and then last year 2012 the same mention was made," she said, saying group doesn't harbor any animosity for their landlord. "To me, right now there is nothing really new."

She said 5Pointz doesn't want the redevelopment proposal to distract from their vision and work this summer.

"We're just going to do the same thing we've been doing. Just like we did last year," she said. 

But she adds that she personally feels the development, if approved, would change much of what originally drew artists to the neighborhood, and is skeptical of whether current tenants would return to the site once it's finished.

"It's not necessarily about losing 5Pointz, it's about preserving Long Island City," she said, saying most of her neighbors had come to the area to escape the high rents and small box apartments of Manhattan.

"The integrity of the street art community and the graffiti community is such that no one will want to come back. Already the artists are fleeing," she said.

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