Daily News – Owners tout plan to rebuild 5Pointz in Queens’ Long Island City, haven for graffiti art

March 10, 2011
Published in
Owner Jerry Wolkoff and his son David Wolkoff tour iconic 5Pointz graffiti-splashed building in Long Island City and discuss plans to build two residential towers there. The proposed redevelopment of the iconic Long Island City factory known as 5Pointz would revitalize the dull Jackson Ave. corridor, the building's owner said. But with the area poised for a boom in rental apartments, experts questioned whether it may be too much of a good thing. "We want to create the life in that area that is desperately needed," said developer Jerry Wolkoff, who has owned 5Pointz since 1971 and allowed it to become a mecca for aerosol artists from around the world. Wolkoff wants to build two high-rise towers with up to 1,300 rental units. He envisions a Manhattan-like mix of amenities, plus stores, restaurants, a supermarket and a 20,000-square-foot park. There would even be a swimming pool for residents. Wolkoff expects to submit formal plans to the city in coming weeks. The zoning allows for large-scale redevelopment, but Wolkoff will likely need a zoning upgrade - and public approvals - to pull off his grand plan. As Wolkoff sees it, replacing 5Pointz with a large development would link the up-and-coming waterfront with lackluster Queens Plaza, where the city has long pushed for redevelopment. But with the state's Queens West project nearing completion along the East River and the city's Hunters Point South project on deck, Wolkoff won't be the only game in town. Jonathan Miller, CEO of the real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, said Wolkoff has chosen the right strategy by planning for rental units rather than co-ops. As the economy slowly shows signs of rebounding, the rental market is currently stronger than the purchase market, Miller said. "I can't say this project in this specific location is a shoe-in," Miller said. "What I can say is that if it were condos, this would be a different conversation: I would be very skeptical that new product could be absorbed." Speaking of rental units, he added, "This could be a precursor of more to come." But that could be precisely the problem, since other developers are bullish on the Jackson Ave. corridor and its easy commute into midtown Manhattan. Rockrose Development Corp., for one, is planning three projects, totaling some 1,700 rental units for the Court Square area, near 5Pointz. Given the competition, Eric Benaim, CEO of Modern Spaces brokerage, believes Wolkoff should scale back his plans, or redevelop 5Pointz in stages. His firm recently did a study of Long Island City apartment stock and found a vacancy rate of just 6%. "If everything comes up in one shot, then we could see something like in Williamsburg," he said, "where thousands of apartments were built all at the same time, and there were all these empty apartments."
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