Developers Who Destroyed A Graffiti Landmark Aim To Use Its Heritage In Their Redesign
Queens, New York’s 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center was a Hip-Hop landmark that endured for decades. Dubbed “The Institute Of Higher Burning,” the Long Island City art space was home to a living shrine of graffiti. Curated by writer Meres One (aka Jonathan Cohen), the five-story warehouse building built in 1892 (formerly the Phun Factory) welcomed graf’ writers from across the globe, and included original throw-ups, tags, and pieces by the likes of iconic and pioneering artists Stay High 149,Tracy 168, and Cope2. Featured in countless Hip-Hop music videos, the space (which once housed 200 artist studios at below-market rents) also boasted murals of Biggie Smalls and others. Moreover, it was visible from the nearby IRT train line, keeping in mind the rich tradition within NYC graffiti.
Meres and other culturists hoped to make 5Pointz an official graffiti museum. Dating back to the early 1990s, in its days under the former name, the arts space became a mecca for aerosol artists. In 2001, Meres became curator and founder of the new plan, making an agreement with the land ownership. For the next dozen years, he worked to secure non-profit status and march towards official museum credentials. In 2013 however, after the real estate owner of 40 years allegedly motioned to sell, things grew harder. Later, the New York City Council unanimously approved the $400 million plan to build a 1,000 unit apartment complex with 210 affordable housing units included. Throughout the next 13 months, 5Pointz suffered overnight white-washing of pieces, a call to action from artist Banksy, and others. By the end of 2014, the historic building and arts space was demolished.
More than two years later, the two buildings on the ground are well on their way to completion. Curbed New York shows the interior design renderings of the “new” 5Pointz (a name the property owner fought to keep). The development firm, G&M Realty and their designers, Mojo Stumer Associates, are using the spray-art past in its future. From “5Pointz” logos to a number of vibrant murals within. Future tenants will enjoy these pieces, amidst a facility that houses a lounge, fitness center, and swimming pool.
G&M reportedly belongs to property owner Jerry Wolkoff. Owning the land, as well as former and current buildings since the ’70s, it was Walkoff who permitted the studios and murals in the ’90s, 2000s, and early 2010s. Controversially, he is also believed to be responsible for the white-washing and subsequent demotion of the L.I.C. and Hip-Hop landmark. A lawsuit is ongoing from nine artists seeking damages for their works destroyed without legal and appropriate warning in 2013.
Last week, a New York City arts group was able to prevent the painting over of a graffiti mural portrait of The Notorious B.I.G. in Brooklyn.