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5Pointz Artists Fighting Demolition With Lawsuit

 Tourists at graffiti arts center 5 Pointz in Long Island City.
Tourists at graffiti arts center 5 Pointz in Long Island City.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

LONG ISLAND CITY — Graffiti art collective 5Pointz has filed a lawsuit attempting to block the planned destruction of their Long Island City headquarters.

The suit targets developers G&M Realty, whose plan to build two luxury high-rise apartment towers at the 22-44 Jackson Ave. site was approved by the City Council last week.

"It's a 'David and Goliath,'" said 5Pointz volunteer and spokeswoman Marie Cecile Flageul, who said the group is determined to "do everything to try and stand up for the arts."

"It's a long process, there's no guarantee that we're going to win, but we're hoping," she said.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Brooklyn Federal Court Thursday, alleges a violation of the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act, which grants limited moral rights to certain visual artists.

According to a press release from 5Pointz, their lawsuit is "the first in the nation in which graffiti artists have sought legal protection for their artwork."

Aerosol and street artists have been working at 5Pointz for the last two decades, covering the exterior of the buildings with their work.

The Long Island City site has been an attraction for artists and tourists from around the world. Flageul says art crews traveled from France last week in order to paint at the space after hearing about the City Council decision.

"The elected officials maybe are kind of missing the amount of dedication that has been given," by the artists over the years, Flageul said.

The buildings' owners, father-and-son Jerry and David Wolkoff of G&M Realty, are planning to build two luxury towers at the site containing about 1,000 apartments.

The pair had been vying for a special permit from the city to build larger than current zoning allows, which was finally approved Wednesday.

The developers have pledged to include 210 affordable apartments in their plans, to create 1,000 jobs for union workers and to set aside space in the future development for artists' studios and art walls to display the work of graffiti artists.

The Wolkoffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the lawsuit. David Wolkoff had previously told DNAinfo that he hopes to start demolition of the buildings by the end of the year.

Flageul said their lawsuit is an effort to block the buildings from being torn down, with the ultimate goal of raising money to buy the property and turn it into an official aerosol arts center.

The lawsuit is seeking a temporary restraining order, and a hearing is set in Brooklyn Federal Court for Thursday, an attorney for the artists said.