Joni Mitchell wrote : “Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone / They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Well in this case, they’re tearing down paradise to put up a 1,000 unit high-rise. And paradise is located in Long Island City, Queens. Click on any photo to enlarge.
5Pointz, the seemingly doomed graffiti art mecca
Bordering a Long Island Railroad rail yard and partially shadowed by the elevated subway tracks is 5Pointz, a collection of warehouses that would seem nondescript, were the facades not covered entirely in spectacular murals. This breathtaking display is the result of an ongoing collaboration with over 100 artists who come from far and wide to leave their mark on New York’s most famous graffiti destination.
Tourists too, flock to 5Pointz. On my bike tours, I have watched the delight of countless visitors as they unexpectedly find themselves in the middle of a colossal outdoor art gallery.
Part of the appeal of the site is its visibility–riders on the 7 train get an excellent bird’s-eye view of the complex. Mets fans on their way to Citi Field know to look out for 5Pointz soon after exiting the tunnel from Manhattan.
5Points is located directly across the street from PS1, the contemporary art and outdoor concert venue of the Museum of Modern Art. The presence of both have contributed to Long Island City’s rapidly rising trendiness and real estate values.
Artists contact the curator, MeresOne, well in advance before painting at 5Pointz. A friend of mine is a muralist in Ecuador and she planned an entire trip to New York around an invitation to paint here.
Each time I go with a bike group, the art at the ground-level has changed
This obscure piece resembles the work of Banksy, the world’s most famous street artist…is it his?
For over a decade the art community and the owners of the property have peacefully coexisted, the result of an agreement allowing free and legal painting to take place on the facade. However, with the Long Island City real estate market booming, the owners have decided it is high-time to demolish the site in favor of luxury condos. The City Council quickly gave the projects two thumbs up, eager to bring in construction jobs, a public park and 210 affordable units.
To their credit, the developers have offered up 10,000 square feet of surfaces for artists to graffiti on the new construction. But this is miniscule compared to the space they use right now. And whether the community and its curator even want to be part of the new project is a different question. As of right now, the defenders of 5Pointz are on their last stand. If their final round of litigation fails, the historic warehouses will see the wrecking ball in a matter of weeks. Joni Mitchell might be the first to say: “I told you so.”
Citi Tower, Queens’ tallest building watches over the painted warehouses
Knowing that its days might be numbered, I took my family to 5Pointz recently. “Let’s take a photo,” my Dad said. “It’s now or never”