Going to 5Pointz is a little like stepping into technicolor Oz. Stumbling onto it, usually while rumbling overhead on the 7 train, is a little bit of a shock–a block-long factory complex covered in bubblegum-hued graffiti sliding into view, rendering the rest of Long Island City’s architecture all the more drab by contrast. It is, if nothing else, instantly recognizable.
Kickstarted in the early 1990s and now known as a Mecca for graffiti, a beloved outdoor gallery where artists from around the world constantly repaint the walls with spray paint cans, 5Pointz is slated for demolition by September 2013. Two high-rise residential towers replete with luxury shopping will replace the 200 artist studios in the complex and its outdoor canvas. Even though it’s been reported that some space in the new towers will be set aside for artists’ studios, this development has garnered outrage among artists who see graffiti as a legitimate art form and people who love public art and places unique to New York City.
Although the timeline isn’t quite certain, the outcome is pretty clear. The building is too old to warrant repairs and must be torn down, according to the owner (a situation which came into sharp focus when a tenant was injured in a fire escape collapse in 2009). Given Long Island City’s proximity to Manhattan, rampant gentrification is probably inevitable, and some residents might see a “spray-painted building” as a blight on the neighborhood’s upward climb. But is there ever a time when ownership of a place should get transferred, at least partially, from the property holder to the members of the community who loved and nurtured it?
Maybe it won’t happen in this case. In the meantime I recommend grabbing a camera and a couple friends and making a trip to Court Square. 5Pointz is down a little side street, where you can marvel at different graffiti styles, intricate murals, whimsical characters, and sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny details, while soaking your eyeballs in supersaturated color before returning to the real world.
45-46 Davis St., Long Island City