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Judge awards graffiti artists $6.7M after works destroyed

NEW YORK - A New York judge has awarded $6.7 million to graffiti artists who sued after their work was destroyed on buildings torn down to make room for luxury condos.

Federal Judge Frederic Block in Brooklyn noted Monday there was no remorse from the owner of the warehouse buildings.

According to WPIX, Long Island Developer Jerry Wolkoff allowed the painting on the property for decades.  However, he said the graffiti artists allegedly knew the buildings would be torn down some day.

Twenty-one aerosol artists had sued the owner of the site known as 5Pointz. Their graffiti was painted over in 2013, and the buildings were torn down a year later.

Before they vanished, the graffiti artworks became a tourist attraction, drawing thousands of spectators daily and forming a backdrop to the 2013 movie, "Now You See Me," and a site for an Usher tour, the judge noted.

The case was based on the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. That federal law allows artists "to prevent any destruction of a work of recognized stature, and any intentional or grossly negligent destruction of that work"

The ruling followed a three-week trial in November.

The judge said he would not have assessed so much in damages if the owner had awaited his permits and demolished the art 10 months later than he did.

Artists then could have easily rescued some paintings from siding, plywood or sheet-rock before the rollers, spray machines and buckets of white paint arrived.

"Wolkoff has been singularly unrepentant. He was given multiple opportunities to admit the whitewashing was a mistake, show remorse, or suggest he would do things differently if he had another chance," Block said.

"Wolkoff could care less. As he callously testified," the judge said. "The sloppy, half-hearted nature of the whitewashing left the works easily visible under thin layers of cheap, white paint, reminding the plaintiffs on a daily basis what had happened. The mutilated works were visible by millions of people on the passing 7 train."

Wolkoff told WPIX he plans to appeal the ruling.