LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y. – As someone who regularly rides the “7” train, I’ve always enjoyed the last colorful vision of the graffiti-art Mecca known as 5Pointz before ducking into the subway tunnel toward Manhattan. Sadly, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to appreciate the sight for much longer, as Jerry Wolkoff, the owner of the building decorated with some of the best-quality street art in New York, has announced that he intends to raze it in favor of a high-rise apartment building.
Sure, the proposed development—13,000 rental units and a mix of amenities including shops and a swimming pool for residents—might help revitalize Long Island City, but the area will also lose a cultural landmark.
5Pointz was founded by prominent New York graffiti writer Jonathan Cohen, better known by his tag “Meres One.” He developed the five-story industrial complex into a safe spot where writers could create aerosol paintings without fearing police interference—it is the only legalized site of aerosol art in any of New York City’s five boroughs.
“There’s no excuse for the writers not to do their best work,” said FivePointz volunteer Marie Cecile Falgeul, commenting on the unique freedom afforded those who contribute art to 5Pointz. Working on safe walls, influenced by both experienced and novice writers, artists can plan their pieces and execute them thoughtfully. The results—the decadent, detailed and elaborate murals, tags, and posters on display at 5Pointz—have helped elevate urban street art from its illegal origins to a respected form of expression.
The walls at 5Pointz boast pieces from some of the biggest names on the graffiti scene including Cope2, Tats Cru, and Stay High 149. Writers travel from all over the world to decorate 5Pointz and to mingle with the graffiti community. Cohen provides them with space and supplies, and dedicates the most prestigious and visible walls to those most highly regarded.
While the news of the imminent razing of 5Pointz came as an unpleasant surprise to the staff that curates the outdoor art center, they are nothing but appreciative of the eight years that Jerry Wolkoff has allowed them to turn the 200,000-square-foot factory into a gallery of high-quality graffiti.
“We are overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received. We’re just going to live in the present and have no intention of creating conflict with Mr. Wolkoff,” said Flageul.
The 5Pointz group has decided to continue as usual with the next season, until they receive notice to stop. If Wolkoff follows through with his plan to demolish the block-long complex, the unique graffiti will survive only in photographs.
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