No plans to convert Long Island City’s 5 Pointz: Owner

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A graffiti-strewn tourist attraction in Long Island City known as the 5 Pointz could eventually be transformed from manufacturing tenants and artists' lofts to rental units, but there is no current plan to change the famous building's usage, the owner of the property said.

The massive building, at 45-40 Davis St. in Long Island City, has been owned by Edgewood, L.I. developer Jerry Wolkoff's Heartland Development Corporation for more than 35 years, but its exterior was transformed into a graffiti museum of sorts more than 10 years ago, said David Wolkoff, Jerry Wolkoff's son and Heartland's president.

In 1996, Jerry Wolkoff struck a deal with Pat DeLillo, who founded the building's graffiti program, calling it the Phun Factory. Jonathan Cohen, known as Meres, took over the graffiti project in 2002. But the developer never asked for any money from the graffiti program's operators, David Wolkoff said.

"[Jerry Wolkoff] thought it would be something interesting, especially if controlled," David Wolkoff said. "He didn't want it to have foul language, pornography or anything too politically incendiary. He thought graffiti was an art form and, if done right, could enhance the neighborhood."

All of the building's graffiti murals are done legally by approved artists, he said.

Cohen could not be reached for comment.

The 5 Pointz building's graffiti is solely on its exterior, while its interior is home to nearly 60 manufacturers, artists' lofts, carpenters, photographers, furniture refinishers and other small businesses. The building is currently zoned for manufacturing and office use.

David Wolkoff said the building's tenants do not have anything to worry about for the near future.

"If the building becomes residential, it would likely be rental or could be an office building," he said. "But there's really no serious plan right now."

He said the building would likely remain as it is now for the next few years and may never change. If the building were transformed, some of the current tenants might also be able to remain at the site, he said.

Tenants said they have long wondered whether they would be able to stay at the 5 Pointz and hope that the building is not turned into housing units.

"We've always been aware this could happen," said Doug Holt, who has operated a photography studio in the building for three years. "It would be a total bummer, but we'd just have to find other places."

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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