Tuesday, February 13, 2018
$6.7M awarded to 5 Pointz artists by federal judge
A New York judge has awarded $6.7 million to graffiti artists who sued after their work was destroyed on buildings torn down to make room for luxury condos.
Federal Judge Frederic Block in Brooklyn noted Monday there was no remorse from the owner of the warehouse buildings. Long Island Developer Jerry Wolkoff allowed the painting for decades on the property.
In November 2017 during a three-week trial, twenty-one aerosol artists sued the owner of a Long Island City, Queens site known as 5Pointz.
The case was based on the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. That federal law allows artists "to prevent any destruction of a work of recognized stature, and any intentional or grossly negligent destruction of that work"
The judge said he would not have assessed so much in damages if the owner had awaited his permits and demolished the art 10 months later than he did. Wolkoff ordered crews to whitewash the building one night. Wolkoff tells PIX11 News he plans to appeal the ruling.
Block said he hoped the award would give teeth to a federal law that should have kept Wolkoff from demolishing them for at least 10 months, when he had all his permits.
Artists then could have easily rescued some paintings from siding, plywood or sheet-rock before the rollers, spray machines and buckets of white paint arrived.
"Wolkoff has been singularly unrepentant. He was given multiple opportunities to admit the whitewashing was a mistake, show remorse, or suggest he would do things differently if he had another chance," Block said.
"Wolkoff could care less. As he callously testified," the judge said. "The sloppy, half-hearted nature of the whitewashing left the works easily visible under thin layers of cheap, white paint, reminding the plaintiffs on a daily basis what had happened. The mutilated works were visible by millions of people on the passing 7 train."