The real estate company ordered to pay 5Pointz artists $6.75 million has appealed to the Supreme Court.
5Pointz in Queens in 2013, before the building was partially whitewashed and subsequently demolished to make way for two apartment towers. Photo by Ezmosis, via Wikimedia Commons.
The real estate company that whitewashed the legendary 5Pointz complex in Queens, which was determined liable for $6.75 million in damages to 21 graffiti artists by a New York court in 2018, has appealed that case to the Supreme Court. G&M Realty, which was founded by the late developer Jerry Wolkoff (who died last week at age 83), filed a petition calling a provision of the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) unconstitutional, stating that language in the act is too vague and infringes on the rights of property owners.
A VARA citation was instrumental in the landmark 2018 case that deemed Wolkoff and his company financially liable for abruptly removing the warehouse’s famous graffiti art in order to prepare the site for demolition and redevelopment. The ruling and damages were upheld in February by a Second Circuit appellate court panel of three judges, which found that Wolkoff willfully violated VARA and was therefore liable for maximum damages.
While G&M Realty’s previous appeals have argued that graffiti art should not be subject to VARA protections due to its often temporary nature, this latest appeal targets the act itself, stating that the provision prevented Wolkoff and G&M from exercising their “right to demolish the warehouses, and the affixed graffiti art,” and that it violates due process by not giving the developers “fair notice of what is prohibited”.