Cohen v. G & M Realty L.P.
United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
320 F. Supp. 3d 421 , 125 U.S.P.Q.2d 1708 (2018)
Gerald Wolkoff’s real estate development company, G&M Realty (defendant), owned dilapidated warehouses in an area known as 5Pointz. In 2002, Wolkoff hired artist Jonathan Cohen (coplaintiff) to rent out warehouse space as art studios. Cohen allotted outdoor wall space for aerosol artists to spray-paint murals and curated who could paint and how long murals remained before being painted over. Subsequently, 5Pointz became a known art destination, showcasing the works of renowned aerosol artists, and appeared in music videos and a movie. In 2011, Wolkoff planned to tear down the warehouses to build luxury condos. Cohen and 20 other aerosol artists (coplaintiffs) sued to enjoin demolition under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA). When the court issued an order denying preliminary injunctive relief but stating it would shortly issue a written opinion, Wolkoff whitewashed all the murals. The court entered an order allowing Wolkoff to proceed with development but warned that he would face substantial monetary damages if the jury found that the murals had recognized stature under VARA after trial. After the jury found liability and awarded damages for 36 of the 49 murals, the court issued its findings.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Block, J.)
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