When we wrote an article on Long Island City’s 5Pointz last week, after a rally to save the building drew hundreds of supporters, it was with the belief that the building (or at least its graffiti, rather) would be standing at least until demolition took place at the end of 2013. Sadly, despite the work of 5Pointz founder Jonathan Cohen (a.k.a Meres One) and countless others in gathering signatures to once again petition for the 20-year-old graffiti hotspot to be granted landmark status, there’s nothing left to fight for. In the early morning hours last Tuesday, the majority of the works were whitewashed at the behest of building owner Jerry Wolkhoff—effectively destroying 5Pointz and any chance the building had of surviving.
“Jerry Wolkoff told me at City Council that if he had had any indication that land marking was taking us seriously, he would paint the building overnight,” artists’ spokesperson Marie Cecile said on Wednesday. “So that’s one promise he kept.”
As news spread, 5Pointz supporters flocked to the building in shock, only to find the walls barricaded by a line of cops. Little remains now of the towering graffiti mecca – which once featured the works of thousands of street artists who could freely tag the walls with Cohen’s permission. And following the arrest of a group of teenagers retagging the building with markers, street artists now have to show their support and righteous indignation by bending the rules, tagging plywood boards and pieces of paper attached to the building’s façade instead.
Wolkhoff still asserts that the whitewashing was not done maliciously, as he told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “I can just picture the building coming down one piece at a time. It would be torture for me and it would torture for them,” he said. “It’s like a Band-Aid, I just felt. One shot.”
The two apartment complexes he’s erecting in the space formerly occupied by 5Pointz were originally going to include 10,000 square feet of space for Cohen to curate (a fraction of the 200,000 square feet at 5Pointz), but any hopes for an uneasy truce crumbled in light of the whitewashing, as Cohen made clear on Tuesday.“I hope he lives to 100, so he can see what his reputation becomes,” said Cohen. “No artist is ever going to paint his walls. He’s destroyed a temple.”
While 5Pointz—which once served as the largest aerosol exhibit space in the country—will be sorely missed, here are a few other places around the city where you can pay tribute to the work of street artists.
Graffiti Hall of Fame
This Harlem gem overflows into a school yard, but is free and open to the public when school’s not in session. Founded in 1980 by graffiti artist Ray Rodriguez, the Graffiti Hall’s colorful murals are always on view, but in late June artists from around the world come to add their work to the walls.
Off the beaten path, Hunts Point in the Bronx is home to multiple works, including Drake Avenue’s “Battle Wall,” which primarily features work from Tats Cru and other artists they’ve invited to tag the 200-foot wall. Audio and walking tours of the area are available.
At Troutman Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue in Brooklyn, the Bushwick Collective consists of two blocks of industrial buildings and warehouse walls covered in the works of local street artists. More spread out than 5Pointz, the Collective has room to feature works that span entire building facades, many covering multiple stories.
Welling Court Murals
At the request of Astoria’s Welling Court community, Ad Hoc Gallery has been in charge of transforming the walls at 12th Street, 30th Avenue and Welling Court into a street-level gallery since 2009. Each year, legendary artists are invited to add their work to the site, which now includes additions from more than 80 writers whose experience spans 50 years.
Bowery Graffiti Wall
The Lower East Side has long been known for its gallery scene, but it’s also home to an impressive array of ever-changing street art displays. Swoon, the most recent artist to take over Bowery Graffiti Wall, added a large scale commentary on the impact of Super Storm Sandy, with the message of “people helping people.”