Judge Awards Group Of Graffiti Artists $6.7M After Property Owner Takes Down Their Artwork

There was a time in New York City when spray painting on someone else's property without their permission was called vandalism, and it was considered a crime. Now, apparently it's called art, and has been given protection under the law.

A group of graffiti artists sued a property owner for painting over the wall they decorated in 2013, and a judge has just awarded them $6.7 million in damages.

Jerry Wolkoff, the owner of a Long Island City property in Brooklyn known as 5Pointz, was sued by a group of 21 graffiti artists. They defaced his building with their art, then he defaced their art by painting over it.

Since then, the old warehouses have been knocked down and condos have been built on the site.

Apparently, a federal judge in Brooklyn believes that the property owner is the one in the wrong. Because the old warehouses served as a blank canvas for aerosol artists for decades, it's considered community mural space and protected under the Visual Artists Rights Act. The fact that it's private property and no one got permission to put art on the side of the building is irrelevant.

A jury ruled that about 36 of the pieces of art were covered under the VARA, but the judge disagreed and decided that about 45 should actually be covered because they had artistic merit.

The judge ordered the owner of the building to pay the hefty sum for 'damages' to the artists. The judge notes that he wouldn't have come down hard on the property owner if he had taken proper legal steps, such as obtaining a permit to demolish the art on his own property.

The permit would have taken about 10 months.

“The shame of it all is that since 5Pointz was a prominent tourist attraction, the public would undoubtedly have thronged to say its goodbyes during those 10 months and gaze at the formidable works of aerosol art for the last time,” said Judge Block in his decision.

“It would have been a wonderful tribute for the artists that they richly deserved.”

Some would say the bigger shame was that a property owner was punished for painting vandalism on his own property. Talk show host Doc Thompson on 'The Morning Blaze' sounded off on the ruling, and blasted the judge for his decision.

“I hate this, absolutely, it’s his building. He can do what he wants,” the host ranted. “This is asinine.”

"It's called vandalism," Thompson continued. "It is his right as a property owner to even pay them to create a mural, and then the next day say, 'I'm painting over that b--ch'."

"So somebody can vandalize your property, and if it's considered art, you must leave it there?" Thompson asked for clarification.

"Yep," said his sidekick, Jeffy, noting that the attorney for the vandals called it the 'world's largest open air aerosol museum'.  

“Even those artists know this is bull,” complained Thompson, claiming that they know progressives ‘run the place’ so they knew they could ‘squeeze some money’ out of the case. Turns out they squeezed a lot.

“I decided—I alone decided—to hire people to whitewash it in one shot instead of waiting for three months and them going to do something irrational again and getting arrested,” said Wolkoff, claiming that as property owner, he had a right to paint his building.

"I will go and end it and whitewash it. I decided to do that. It was pretty much a spur-of-the-moment thing.”

Source: Patch, The Blaze
Photo: YouTube

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