This story was originally published on 10/4/19 by THE CITY. (By: Christine Chung)
A Queens community board reversed its opposition to a new proposal for 5Pointz Towers — a luxury complex planned at the site of a famed former Long Island City street art mecca — thanks, in part, to a library.The yes vote came just over two months after Community Board 2 wrote a letter to the City Planning Commission recommending denial of the application, alleging the developer had “sought every way to thwart community board review.”
On Thursday night, the board made a surprise 180-degree turn — in the middle of its meeting. First, members voted 20-to-8 against the developer’s application. Then they voted 23-to-5 in favor of the towers after a proposal to set aside 5,000 square feet for a library.
The space was viewed by board members as a possible replacement for the Court Square Library, which is in danger of losing its longtime home in the Citigroup Building.
The board’s land use chair, Lisa Deller, said after the meeting the idea had not been previously discussed with the developers or the Queens Public Library.
The board’s advisory vote marked the latest chapter in the saga of 5Pointz — the former warehouse complex that drew artists and art lovers from around the world until the owners whitewashed the walls before demolishing the buildings in 2013.
Developer David Wolkoff, who co-owns the property with his father, Jerry, filed an application with the City Planning Commission in May to build 1,100 apartments and to increase each of the complex’s two towers by one floor, tweaking previous plans.
“I’ve been in the community over 47 years,” Jerry Wolkoff told CB2 Thursday night. “The community never had a problem with me until I wanted to build this building.”
The presentation showed a revised apartment count with 254 studios, 595 one bedrooms, 261 two bedrooms and 12 three bedrooms — a net increase of 10 apartments from the developer’s initial June appearance before the board’s land use committee.
Deller told THE CITY that the committee agreed to endorse the project because of certain provisions — including promises to build 220 affordable units under a 421-a tax abatement and to increase planned artist studio and gallery space by 7,000 square feet.
The developers also agreed to pay the prevailing wage for the building’s service employees, such as maintenance workers, after the complex’s construction, Deller said.
“They further explained the details of the application,” said Deller, addressing the board’s change of heart. “A lot of our opposition was around the timing. We didn’t really have time to hear it.”
The Wolkoffs’ application arrived in mid-June, while CB2 was in recess, leaving the full community board unable to vote on the proposal until it reconvened this month. Meanwhile, the board’s review period expired on June 29.
A City Planning Commission spokesperson said the developer had requested that the commission postpone considering the application until after September.
A presentation of the proposed development on Thursday night showed numerous blank walls that would be designated for street art.
“We are trying to get street art,” Wolkoff said. “Most people like it. “
Marie Cecile Flageul, a spokeswoman for 5Pointz artists, listed numerous concerns with the proposal — including no information about pricing for artist space or budgets for the art walls.
“History repeats itself again with CB2 voting yes under the guidance of a few ‘vested members,’” she added.
David Wolkoff had told the land use committee at a June meeting he and his father were “pro-artist,” and that they’d be open to inviting some of the 5Pointz artists to return to building’s studio and gallery spaces. He agreed to review a list of potential artists prepared by the community board.
Deller said Thursday that the board had not acted further as a liaison between the developers and artists.
“We are not involved in that dispute,” Deller added.
But artist Jonathan Cohen, also known by his tag Meres One, said he had spoken to a CB2 land use committee member about the possibility of returning to 5Pointz Towers. The correspondence took place the same day that the board issued its letter of denial.