image © gsz via Flickr Creative Commons
Back in September, Inhabitat took a tour of Long Island City’s art and cultural centers, which are part of the 72 Hour Urban Action initiative to save LIC from expanding gentrification through artistic and economic development. But for one of these historic cultural landmarks, it may already be too late. 5 Pointz, a sprawling graffiti mecca, is set to be torn down in 2013 in order to make room for some not-so-cultural and not-so-historic high-rise luxury condos. Demolishing the building would not only destroy a cherished landmark that attracts artists from around the world, but it could also have serious social consequences for the neighborhood.
An old abandoned warehouse just off the 7 subway line, 5 Pointz spans an entire city block, attracting graffiti artists, hip-hop stars and tourists from all over the world. Last March, however, Jerry Wolkoff, the owner of the property, announced plans to demolish the buildings, making 5 Pointz another victim of gentrification and the condo development craze.
Artists and community activists however, aren’t letting this slide. Not only are they chastising the destruction of one of the most important hip-hop landmarks in the country, but artists and activists are also warning of serious social epidemic, which may arise from tearing down 5 Pointz. The problem arises from the fact that walls where artists can spray-paint legally are almost non-existent in NYC — but 5 Pointz is an exception. There is also growing concern that by leaving young graffiti artists with nowhere to express themselves, many will turn to tagging the streets and subways, resulting in a wave of vandalism.
“It would be a travesty in this neighbourhood,” said graffiti writer Gwiz in an interview with The Guardian. “A travesty for the community. This is the history of hip-hop, with the music and the break dancing and the art… You would destroy a piece of history.” Gwiz points to an entire display of names of dead writers, legends of New York’s graffiti scene spray painted in pink bubble script along the top of the warehouse.
When we last visited 5 Pointz, Meres One, 5Pointz curator since 2002 took us through a tour of some of the museums most famous pieces, including his own Batman and Joker display near the warehouse entrance. He discussed the need to preserve cultural landmarks like 5 Pointz in light of gentrification and talked about the historical significance of 5 Pointz, both to NYC and graffiti artists throughout the world.