Some call it “The United Nations of Graffiti.” Its semi-official title, spelled out in giant letters on its main wall, is “The Institute of Higher Burnin,” though you’ll also find it described as “the world’s premiere ‘graffiti Mecca’” on its website. But there are some who refer to Long Island City’s storied 5Pointz Arts Center merely as “that graffiti building” or “a blight” … and it turns out there’s a very real chance that they might get the last word.
Along with nearby MoMA PS1, 5Pointz is arguably the reason most art-loving Manhattanites (not to mention visitors from further afield) visit Long Island City. The exterior walls of this former warehouse on Davis Street are covered with a dizzying and ever-changing assortment of “aerosol art” by some of the acknowledged masters of the medium, and until two years ago the owner of the building even allowed artists to rent workspace inside as well. In the meantime, 5Pointz founder and curator Jonathan Cohen (aka Meres One) has been trying to register it as a nonprofit entity and institute a formalized museum space and educational curriculum.
All of which won’t come to pass if building owner Jerry Wolkoff follows through with his increasingly oft-stated plans to raze the building and erect (surprise!) two high rise residential tower complexes in its place. As related in a New York Times article this weekend, Wolkoff doesn’t seem to have a problem with what 5Pointz has become over the past ten years. He just thinks the space could be put to better use:
It’s time for me to put something else there … It’s a great location for young people and empty nesters who can’t afford Manhattan.
So you see, destroying 5Pointz really is all about doing something good for the kids after all!
There’s no definite word yet on when exactly all those young people and empty nesters will be moving in, though here’s hoping the current economic unpleasantness (not to mention all those petition signatures) will delay Wolkoff’s plans indefinitely. Fortunately, 5Pointz is nothing if not the best-documented of street art showcases, as thousands of Flickr photos and dozens of YouTube videos attest.
Watch some of the clips below for some idea of the rich culture that has sprung up around 5Pointz over the past decade … or better yet, hop on that 7 train and check it out yourself before it’s too late.