Controversial Development


Today Senator Tony Avella, City Club, NYC Park Advocates and a group of Corona businesses and residents will file a lawsuit in hopes to stop the construction of a mega mall at Willets Point. Queens Chronicle states that it’s not yet clear what the legal reasoning is behind the suit, but it’s likely it has something to do with using parkland from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for the development. And it doesn’t look like Willets Point United is involved in the lawsuit, although the group long advocated for tenant rights at the Iron Triangle.

The city has stated that taking the parkland is legal under an agreement signed with the Mets in 1961, which never replaced parkland used for Shea Stadium. The project will take away about 30 acres of park to build the city’s largest mall.

Suit to Stop Willets Point Project to be Filed Friday [Queens Chronicle]
All Willets Point Coverage [Q’Stoner]


The 5Pointz story has been all over the web for the last few weeks, including here at Brownstoner Queens, and it is just sad that the structure has already been stripped of the graffiti artwork which once made it remarkable.

I guess it’s the way of things, here in New York City, and the 1892 vintage factory will be excised in the near future. Observationally, it was the single largest “draw” in LIC for foreign tourists (and even jaded New Yorkers) and it will be missed. A composition of saturated color that brightened the urban landscape, which incurred reflection in viewers, is always appreciated.

Once upon a time though, specifically before the Second World War, there was no color and the entire world was black and white. Rising out of this monotone landscape was the Neptune Meter Company of Long Island City.


Over the weekend, the New York Times published a long feature on the future of Willets Point. The Times reports that demolition for the first phase of the $3 billion project will start next weekend. The auto body shops, the owners of which have long fought the city’s development plans, will make way for a hotel, mega mall, and park. The article explains how Willets Point functions, profiling the characters who built up their lives in the area. Despite demolition for the first phase of the project scheduled on Saturday, the majority of shops continue business as usual. It’s possible the city will use eminent domain to clear more of the 62 aces of land.

Meanwhile, Willets Point business owners continue to fight the city’s relocation plan. In a rally held last week, Queens Crap reports that while the city is trying to buy out businesses (offering one year’s rent if they leave by the end of November), the city is not assisting with relocation. The business owners continue to ask for an extension before the city kicks them out.

The End of Willets Point [NY Times]
Earth to Julissa: Willets Point Businesses Are NOT Being Relocated [Queens Crap]

Photo by numb – Where do we go now?


The Queens delegation of the City Council voted in favor of the city selling 23 acres of Willets Point land to the Queens Development Group for $1. Queens Chronicle reports that demolition and remediation work is expected in 2014. The first phase of the plan — the cause of massive controversy and resistance from existing Iron Triangle tenants — consists of retail and office space and a 200-room hotel. The council members spoke in favor of the jobs and affordable housing the project will create, although the affordable housing component was pushed to a later, unknown date. Only one person voted against the plan — Community Board 7 Chairman Gene Kelty, who said “Board 7 has no intention of voting for this agreement. We feel that we have not been dealt with fairly by the EDC.”

Iron Triangle tenants continue to speak against the city’s relocation proposal, which offers a payment worth 12 months of their present rent if they relocate by November 30th. Times Ledger says that the tenants are requesting a six-month extension for relocation. The tenants also accused the city of purposefully lowering rents in anticipation of the relocation offer — apparently some tenants had their rent lowered from $5,000 to $1,000 a year ago. A city housing rep told Times Ledger, “We have only renegotiated rents only at the request of an individual business. Nobody is required to pay less rent, and this is not related to NYCEDC’s supplement benefits payments.”

City To Sell Willets Point Plots for $1 [Queens Chronicle]
Willets Pt. Businesses Denounce Relocation Offer [Times Ledger]


This morning, the 5Pointz artists report on their Twitter feed that the Wolkoffs have completely whitewashed the building. After the first paint job on Tuesday morning, a few art pieces remained — you can see some in the photo above; check out more photos here. But around three hours ago, the 5Pointz crew stated that whitewashing started up again, and now the last pieces are gone. The Wolkoffs even painted over artwork done on plywood, which could have been salvageable. Please send any pictures of the new paint job to emily@brownstoner.com and we’ll post them here.

Your 5Pointz news doesn’t stop there. New York Daily News reports that Jerry and David Wolkoff may owe the aerosol artists cash damages after painting over their artwork. Apparently, written in Federal Judge Frederic Block’s 27-page court decision — the one where he ultimately rejected an injunction to stop building demolition — he stated that the owners “are exposed to potentially significant monetary damages if it is ultimately determined after trial, [the graffiti is deemed of] recognized stature.” The case would have to go before a civil jury, but it’s unclear how that would play out since the artwork can no longer be viewed or judged. According to the News, the judge found that at least some of the 24 art pieces cited in the suit could possibly qualify for protection.

Finally, DNAinfo reports that a group of kids who tried to tag the building last night were arrested. The group wrote “RIP 5Pointz” in marker over the whitewashed graffiti, but according to the 5Pointz Twitter the NYPD was near the loading dock under cover. The 5Pointz group asked fellow artists to keep the building white, stating “We need to figure out a solution to give fans an outlet where they can xpress their farewell.”

BREAKING: 5Pointz Warehouse Painted White by the Wolkoffs [Q’Stoner]


Last night 5Pointz artists held a candlelight vigil for the graffiti mecca, which (have you heard?) was whitewashed yesterday by the building owners. Queens Courier reports that the attendees gathered on the loading dock, where they lit candles and set up canvasses with artwork. Reports from Twitter say the evening was very calm and respectful. The gathering artists expressed shock and sadness for the abruptness of the cover-up act. As the artist “JUST” told the Queens Courier: “It’s just such a blow to the graffiti world. When you see it you say ‘gee, what are you going to do now?’ 5Pointz rest in peace.” After a number of attempts to save the building, it is expected to be demolished late this year or early the next. You can see more pictures of last night’s event after the jump.

UPDATE: Here are some thoughts from a reader, Paul Gullas; check out his pictures of the vigil after the jump: “I lived a few blocks from 5Pointz for a year and walked past it many times. It added a lot of character to the neighborhood, and, along with MoMA PS1 and the Space Womb Gallery, provided a kind of “Artists Circle” that made that intersection a nice destination spot. I understand the financial realities of LIC real estate, but I hope the developers make good on their promise to provide space for graffiti art and that whoever ends up owning the building doesn’t change their mind. I do wish that they had thought of a more creative use of the property that fit the spirit of 5Pointz instead of just more luxury housing. Even something like renovating the interior as, say, office space for startups, but keeping the facade as it was.”

Vigil Pays Tribute to 5Pointz [Queens Courier]
BREAKING: 5Pointz Warehouse Painted White by the Wolkoffs [Q’Stoner]

Photo via Facebook


This morning, the 5Pointz Twitter feed reports the latest crazy news in the crazy saga of 5Pointz. The building owners Jerry and David Wolkoff painted the building white last night with police protection. Another Tweet notes that the 5Pointz artists almost got arrested. We will update this post with more photos as they become available — after the jump, see another shot of the artwork that’s left on the back wall. If you snap any pictures yourself please send them directly to emily@brownstoner.com.

The white-out comes after a judge denied the artists a permanent injunction to stop demolition. In response, the artists held a rally this weekend. They planned to form a human chain around the building come demolition day, which is expected before the end of the year.

As this Twitter user says, “All you #7train riders this morning are in for a bleak look as you pass #5pointz this morning. Its now an ugly hospital white.” One more photo after the jump… UPDATE: Many more photos of the paint job in question after the jump, including five photos from one reader’s commute this morning and video taken from the train.

Photo by jeffcarroll


This Saturday, artists rallied to save 5Pointz — right after a judge denied the artists a permanent injunction to stop building demolition. The two-hour event brought hundreds of people to the so-called graffiti mecca. Gothamist attended and said “much of the two-hour Save 5 Pointz Rally felt more like a ‘final, fond farewell’ than an angry political demonstration.” In a last ditch effort the save the building, the artists are petitioning to landmark it. If that doesn’t work they plan to form a human-chain around 5Pointz to block the bulldozers come demolition day. Jerry and David Wolkoff plan to demolish the building by the end of the year.

Rally at 5Pointz Planned for This Weekend [Q’Stoner]

Photo via Twitter


Queens Chronicle takes a look at the work of the infamous developer Tommy Huang, a controversial figure who started working in real estate back in 1979 until he was banned last June. His first Flushing project was the construction of a five-family house, followed by high-rises around Queens Boulevard and throughout Flushing. The first controversy erupted in 1982, when after a bank refused to sell him a site off Main Street, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into a restaurant there and destroyed several properties. According to the Chronicle, “Soon after, Huang increased his bid on the location and the property was sold. He said he did not know anything about the bomb.” He is well known as the former owner of the landmarked RKO Keith’s Theater (pictured), which he purchased in 1986. The city issued him a stop-work order after partially bulldozing the staircase to turn the theater into a mini mall. In 1990, a fire was set inside the locked theater, but ultimately no charges were filed. Ten years after the purchase, in 1996, the city arrested Huang and put him on probation after they found heating oil emanating from two 12,500-gallon tanks in the theater. The theater has sat vacant for more than 20 years, although it now belongs to a new owner.

Huang’s problems didn’t end with the RKO Keith’s Theater: he faced lawsuits for unsafe conditions and damage to adjacent property at a project in Bayside, the city fined him for safety violations in 2011 after a construction worker died on his Elmhurst project, and the city banned him from selling condos after failing to pay common charges on unsold apartments at the Flushing Tower Condominium. He was finally banned from construction and real estate for at least five years last June, after he and his wife plead guilty to developing and selling units in the Broadway Towers condos. They were sentenced to pay a whopping $3,300,000 from illegal profits and another $1,500,000 in penalties.

Huang Broke the Law as Rogue Developer [Queens Chronicle]

Photo via Wikipedia


In response to the news that a judge denied the 5Pointz artists a permanent injunction to stop demolition of the graffiti mecca, the artists are planning a rally this weekend. The above Tweet popped up earlier today; the 5Pointz brass later clarified that the rally will begin at 3pm on Saturday at the loading dock. They also asked participants to “come in peace.” This will definitely be an intense event, given that the artists have seemingly run out of legal measures to save the warehouse from the wrecking ball.

It’s Official: Lawsuit Won’t Save 5Pointz [Q’Stoner]