Sunday, November 24, 2013
5Pointz, an abandoned factory building in Long Island City, Queens, one subway stop from Manhattan, served as a graffiti mecca for artists from all over the world. It should have been landmarked; instead, it was whitewashed this past Tuesday to give way to luxury towers. Filled with ever-changing artwork, 5Pointz became a graffiti museum and a stop for tour buses. It was a startling aesthetic delight.
Building owner Jerry Wolkoff explained his decision to whitewash 5Pointz: “This is why I did it: it was torture for them and for me. They couldn’t paint anymore and they loved to paint. Let me just get it over with and as I knock it down they’re not watching their piece of art going down. The milk spilled. It’s over. They don’t have to cry.” It's not for me to judge the sincerity of Wolkoff's feelings; I'll just comment on what his actions mean.
We've already witnessed the gentrification of Soho, the East Village and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Artists moved in and established studios in former warehouses at affordable rents. Eventually, the areas became hip and fashionable. With the onset of luxury buildings and high-end stores, the artists who made the neighborhood trendy couldn't afford to stay. This process is now underway in Long Island City. The whitewashing of 5Pointz for luxury towers, practically and symbolically, is another step in the obliteration of local culture and the gentrification of one more neighborhood.