Real Estate & Property Law

Graffiti artists win TRO blocking NYC building demolition

Gerald Wolkoff and his G&M Realty firm may own the New York City land on which they plan to construct a 1,000-unit luxury apartment project.

But the Visual Artists Rights Act grants 16 artists a copyright in a landmark collective graffiti project there known as 5Pointz, a federal district court in Brooklyn has ruled. On Monday, Judge Frederic Block granted a temporary restraining order sought by the plaintiffs that prevents the defendants from demolishing an old warehouse on the Jackson Avenue property. However, he also said they need to stop adding to the collection, ABC News reports.

On Nov. 6, another court hearing will be held to address additional issues in the case.

Attorney Roland Acevedo has been working on the matter pro bono for Jonathan Cohen and other plaintiffs. Acevedo calls the Queens site of 5Pointz “tantamount to the Louvre for artists.”

Wolkoff and his company did not respond to requests for comment from the network. Their attorney, David Ebert, argued in an Oct. 17 court hearing that the artists’ work has never been intended to be permanent and is an ever-changing collection of pieces being painted on top of each other, the Queens Chronicle reports.

“If you look at the website, the videos, the pictures, these things are temporary,” said Ebert. “They are always being painted over and they haven’t pointed to a single piece that’s been there for more than 10 years.”

Attorney Jeannine Chanes is representing the plaintiffs along with Acevedo. Asked by Block what her clients wanted during the hearing, she didn’t miss a beat.

“We prefer to be given the opportunity to purchase the building at a fair market value,” she said. “Our money is as good as anyone else’s.”

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