Artists Sue to Prevent Destruction of 'Graffiti Mecca' in New York

Cohen said he has been a volunteer curator of the area since 2002, the lawsuit states, and the owner gave Cohen keys and "several secure spaces" to use as an office and to store cans of spray paint, ladders and other painting supplies. Cohen started a nonprofit corporation called 5Pointz Aerosol Arts Center Inc. with the website 5ptz.com. The group showcases the works of visual art at 5Pointz and "publicizes the free community events sponsored by 5Pointz," the lawsuit states.

Artists have traveled from Japan, Kazakhstan, Australia and Brazil for the opportunity to paint their works at 5Pointz, knowing that having their work at 5Pointz work "adds considerable prestige to an artist's reputation," the lawsuit states.

"You can't just come and paint on the walls," Acevedo said. "You have to go through Jonathan Cohen. He doesn't police it like a library. He's generous in giving permission."

But you have to show Cohen a sketch of your proposed work.

Acevedo said the artists had considered moving the artwork to another location, but he said it would be difficult to take apart a stone concrete wall and stairwells from a five-story building.

"This is not a canvas that can be easily moved," he said.

When asked if Cohen or any of the artists might demand financial compensation for their damaged visual work, Acevedo said it might be possible, given that VERA has statutory damages in the law that range from $750 to $150,000 per piece, if the damage is willful.

"We are asking the court to enjoin the landlord from destroying any more pieces of works," Acevedo said. "They've damaged a number of works already. We've asked court to stop destruction of work and building until the court can hear and decide this matter."

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