The site of the former, world-famous graffiti mecca known as 5Pointz is undergoing a gradual transformation as two luxury residential towers rise on the corner of 22-44 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City. What’s currently a few dozen stories of scaffolding and skeletal walls will, likely by the end of this year, be a pair of sleek, 48- and 41-floor buildings. They’ll carry the 5Pointz name, thanks to Jerry Wolkoff, owner of the development company G&M Realty, which in 2015 successfully registered the brand with the state of New York after previous, failed attempts to trademark it. Their interiors, too, will reflect the lost outdoor museum by featuring street art–style decorations.
G&M Realty hired architectural firm Mojo Stumer Associates to design the 1,115-apartment project, as Curbed first reported, and recently shared renderings of what’s to come. Stylized echoes of the original guerrilla art hub dot the common areas, from engraved signs of the new buildings’ logo — which spells out “5Pointz” in wildstyle lettering — to plenty of graffiti-inspired wall art that decorates stairwells and lounges.
The designs represent just one more example of real estate developers coopting street art as a selling point — see the forthcoming Banksy-themed rentals in, of course, Bushwick, or the gallery of murals at Four World Trade Center, soon to become Spotify offices. But 5Pointz’s interior choices are less an homage to the past than a blatant attempt to capitalize on the legacy of the artists its developer screwed over. In 2013, two dozen artists who had contributed works to the exterior of the now-razed warehouse woke up to find their pieces whitewashed overnight, under the orders of Wolkoff, who had given them no notice. As the owner of the building, Wolkoff had allowed the artists to freely paint there for years; as Hyperallergic previously reported, some members of 5Pointz saw the buffing as his attempt to prevent the site from attaining landmark status.
The artists filed a federal lawsuit against Wolkoff for destroying their works, and this past March, a judge ruled that their case will move forward in a jury trial. As the New York Times reported, a lawyer representing the group has argued that their lost creations fall under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, which protects established artists whose public art on someone else’s property is of “recognized stature.” Wolkoff contends that the artists knew he ultimately planned to tear down the warehouse to build high-rises, and he told the Times that he cried when the building came down.
Wolkoff intends to continue giving artists space to work at his forthcoming 5Pointz rentals. The buildings will contain 20 studios, and street artists will be invited to come and paint — although “the ones who sued me,” Wolkoff told the Times, “are not invited back.” It’s unclear if those who take him up on the offer will be paid.