I remember the first time I laid eyes on 5 Pointz. I was new to Queens and was trying to familiarize myself with the Long Island City area. One day I was riding the 7 train home and as it rounded the bend towards Queensborough Plaza, I was totally struck by this awesome building that was covered in mesmerizing graffiti. I was probably the only person standing there with my mouth gaping open but as soon as I got home, I did a Google serach to find out what that magical place was and learned that it was called 5 Pointz.
Since that first encounter, I’ve had the opportunity to visit this graffiti art mecca and even had the chance to photograph artists creating murals during The Artist Process, an event produced by fellow artist, Marthalicia Matarrita.
Today, I’m really sad to say that 5 Pointz is coming and down and will be replaced with yet another damn high rise building and shopping center. The building’s owners, Jerry and David Wolkoff, had the murals whitewashed in the middle of the night. I found out this morning when I watched the news and saw footage of artists and other onlookers sobbing in despair. I knew that the owners were going to demolish the building but I didn’t expect this insult. They claim that they were doing the artists a favor by whitewashing the murals first so that the artists didn’t have to witness their art being destroyed in the demolition. I hardly find that a benevolent act, especially since it was done under the cover of night without allowing people to take one last look or photograph of the murals.
The demolition of 5 Pointz is just another example of how New York City is gentrifying into an unrecognizable shell of itself. The grit and the edginess that made the City feels so magical seems to be ebbing away. Yes, I realize the owners have a right to do what they want with their own property but what they’re destroying a cultural icon. Supposedly they intend to create a dedicated space for graffiti where the new buildings will be but it won’t be the same. You just can’t recreate the sense of community that was suddenly stripped away.
I’m grateful that I was able to take pictures and that I still have them, but I really regret not going back there again before this happened. When I heard that 5 Pointz was in danger of being taken away, I always told myself that I would come back…but now it’s too late.