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Judge Awards Graffiti Artists $6.7M After 5Pointz Destroyed

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- 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.

A group of 21 aerosol artists had sued the owner of a Long Island City, Queens, site known as 5Pointz. Their graffiti was painted over in 2013, and the buildings were torn down a year later.

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.

From 1993 until 2013, graffiti artists were allowed to use the building as a canvas, but the owner got the city's permission to tear 5Pointz down and build 800 luxury condos and 200 affordable units.

Originally a water meter factory, the building was purchased by developer Jerry Wolkoff in the early 1970s. It became known as both a graffiti mecca and artists' quarters after the last tenant, phonograph needle manufacturer Recoton, moved out, the Village Voice reported.

The building served as a backdrop for movies and music videos – notably including Joss Stone, who filmed her video for "Tell Me 'Bout It" on an exterior staircase in 2006, the newspaper reported.

But three years later, jewelry designer Nicole Gagne was severely injured when the same stairway collapsed, and afterward, the Department of Buildings issued violations and the artists in the studios inside had to leave, the Village Voice reported.

The graffiti on the exterior continued until Wolkoff had the building whitewashed last year. He took heat for the move, but said it was not done maliciously.

Graffiti artists filed a lawsuit claiming that their work was protected under an obscure federal law — The Visual Artists Rights Act, but the court refused to grant an injunction that would have stopped demolition.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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