Graffiti mecca 5Pointz to be razed as City Council approves development

A graffiti artist from Holland paints at 5 Pointz.
A graffiti artist from Holland paints at 5 Pointz. Credit: Aaron Adler

The New York City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve a plan to turn 5Pointz, the colorful graffiti mecca in Long Island City, into two $400 million towers.

The warehouses that make up 5Pointz, covered in spray paint many layers thick, could be razed as soon as the end of the year to make way for the new development. For graffiti artists around the world who have dreamed of one day seeing their art on its walls, and for many locals who find their eyes powerfully drawn to the colorful site from the nearby 7 train, the demolition will be a sad day.

But City Councilman Jimmy Van Bremer, the Queens Democrat who represents Long Island City, stressed that there was no way the council could have saved 5Pointz.

“It’s a privately owned lot,” he said. “The owners were always going to tear it down. I want that to be clear.”

The owners of the site, the Wolkoff family, only required council approval because one of the proposed towers, at 47 stories tall, is higher than zoning laws allow. Even if the council had voted no, Van Bremer said, the warehouses would almost certainly have been torn down anyway to make way for a scaled-down version of the development.

“The issue here was to get the best deal we could for the neighborhood,” he said.

Negotiations with the Wolkoffs were focused on preserving the freewheeling artistic legacy of 5Pointz and on how the project would improve Long Island City, he said.

Last week, in an effort to secure more goodwill ahead of the vote, the Wolkoffs agreed to nearly triple the number of affordable housing units in the towers to 210 from 75, out of a total 1,000 units.

The buildings will also include space for art studios, and the artists who have been displaced from the crumbling 5Pointz warehouses will be given priority access. About 10,000 square feet of wall space, most of it along the Davis Street edge of the development, will be designated for aerosol art. 5Pointz graffiti curator Jonathan Cohen, best known by his tag Meres One, will be invited to oversee the new space.

The project will include 32,100 feet of public space and a park that pays homage to the site’s artistic past.

Graffiti artist Chayenne Chaka was at 5Pointz working on a mural even as the council voted. He was just one of the many artists who have made the pilgrimage to 5Pointz over the past decade, traveling all the way from Rotterdam in the Netherlands to paint there.

“Something like this isn’t just a building,” he said. “It’s a piece of history.”

That view is shared by many devotees of the colorful warehouses, some of whom mobilized a group called Save 5Pointz to petition for the site to be granted landmark status — an effort that ultimately failed.

Van Bremer said he sympathized with the people who were devastated at the thought of losing the iconic site.

“I’m sorry for the people for whom it became a very special place,” Van Bramer said. “Maybe artists, or just art lovers. I’ve met with those folks. They said people had found themselves there and had left the streets because of the community they found there.”

“And I agree with all of that, but it doesn’t save the building.”

Additional reporting by Aaron Adler. Follow Emily Johnson on Twitter @emilyjreports



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

Movies

Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…