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5Pointz graffiti covered over at night

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Photo gallery

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Jack Fry takes photos of what remains at 5Pointz. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A man photographs 5Pointz Tuesday morning as a truck pulls out of the lot. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Graffiti on 5Pointz's Jackson Avenue side has been painted over. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Baxter the cat sits on an ice container in front of a partially white-washed wall. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Artwork surrounding the 5Pointz building was also covered in white paint. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Graffiti artists said they had submitted more than 5,000 applications to landmark the Long Island City building. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Several graffiti pieces, including one that reads 5ptz.com, were not painted over. Photo by Christina Santucci

5Pointz was whitewashed overnight. The graffiti that covered the iconic warehouse in Long Island City was covered with white paint by an army of workers under the cover of darkness Monday night. “I went in there and painted it all at once,” said property owner Jerry Wolkoff, “It’s like taking medicine, get it over with all at once. Now it’s done, the torture is over.”

“He’s a liar, he did it because he knew landmarking was back in play,” said 5Pointz spokeswoman Marie Cecile Flageul, “He told me at the City Council vote that if landmarking was back in play he’d hire a crew and paint it overnight.” When told of Flageul’s remarks, Wolkoff said, “Why didn’t I do it then? They were never going to get landmarking, they are misguided. Now I get to build my buildings and they’re welcome to come back and express themselves.”

The artists who are suing the property owners, Jerry and David Wolkoff, to protect their street art under the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act, were stunned at the sight early Tuesday.

Jonathan Cohen, the curator known as “Meres One,” said “he destroyed priceless pieces. He thinks he’s God. Unfortunately, he’s not.”

“This is gratuitous art homicide,” declared their attorney Jeannine Chanes, “We are all still in shock and heartsick over this. It’s so mean-spirited to show that they’re in charge.”

Chanes said the entire body of artwork had been covered by dozens of non-union painters using cherry pickers. Cohen claimed the workers did not have permits but had police protection and that he was threatened with arrest. “Yeah, I called the police because I didn’t want confrontat­ion,” Wolkoff said.

The NYPD has not commented.

The Wolkoffs plan to demolish the site at 22-44 Jackson Ave. to make way for two luxury high-rise residential towers. The way became clear when Brooklyn Federal Judge Frederic Block decided against issuing a permanent injunction Nov. 12. “When Judge Block sided with me, I figured let’s get it over with, not take it apart piece by piece. That that would be torture,” said Wolkoff.

The paint over occurred two days after the artists staged a fan appreciation rally at 5Pointz that drew hundreds of admirers. The rally served as a launching point for the group’s final attempt at salvaging their work, a campaign for landmark status, even though a previous application was denied in August. “Wolkoff had spies at that rally and heard that everyone was filling out the forms,” Flageul said. The city Landmarks Preservation Commission forms were completed at the rally while a social media campaign was launched Monday in the hopes of overwhelming the commission with 20,000 forms and petitions.

That last hope may be dashed with Monday night’s whitewashing.

“It endangers landmark status,” said Chanes who likened the event to John D. Rockefeller’s infamous destruction of Diego Rivera’s mural in 1934. Workmen wielding axes were sent to destroy Rivera’s artwork in Rockefeller Center because he would not comply with Rockefeller’s demands to change it. “Rockefeller was called an art murderer and that title applies here, Wolkoff is art murderer, there was no need for it,” Chanes said.

“Enjoy Jerry. I’m glad you made your point,” Cohen said, “Long after you’re gone, your son can enjoy your legacy... You will be looked at as the biggest art murderer of all time.”

“The cannot say anything that’s going to make me angry,” Wolkoff said. “I’ve enjoyed their work and I understand they’re very passionate people, but it’s over. Enough is enough.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 1:11 pm, November 19, 2013
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