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Queens Chronicle

Art mecca to become high-rise apartments?

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Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2011 12:00 am

Developer Jerry Wolkoff is ready to put the “art” into apartments, with plans to construct a 32-story building on Jackson Avenue in Long Island City where his iconic graffiti-covered building known as Five Pointz now stands.

Wolkoff said he is in discussions with the Department of City Planning to allow for the $300 million edifice, which would feature two towers emerging from a larger ground-floor structure, beyond what is permitted under current zoning.

“Once we get the approval from the city we’ll get started,” Wolkoff said.

Five Pointz has stood largely empty, since a stairway collapse in 2009 forced Wolkoff to evict approximately 100 artists who worked inside.

Wolkoff, who has owned the building for around 40 years, was fined nearly $13,000 for violations and the artists never returned.

Today, the ground floor of the building is used by a garment factory and Wolkoff lets food vendors park their carts in his lot. Tourists stop by to view the exterior of the building, but a sign outside informs them that they must obtain permission before taking photos of the art on its facade.

So how did Five Pointz get to be covered in paint? Wolkoff said one of the artists working within asked permission to decorate the building, and before long, it was a hot spot for spray cans.

“I don’t like to call it graffiti,” said Wolkoff, who prefers the term “aerosol art.” After a while, Wolkoff set up ground rules — nothing obscene or pornographic.

Though Wolkoff said he loves the artists and the work they have created on and in his building, for decades neighbors who dislike the decorated building have complained. He said many community members are pleased that he hopes to turn Five Pointz into an apartment complex, but what they may not know: there is going to be room for street art.

“We are going to give them an area where they still can do it.” Wolkoff said. “We are going to put a wall up 10-times the size of a handball court.”

Welcome to the discussion.