Owner Says Queens Graffiti Mecca 5Pointz Will Stay For Now, But Not Forever

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5Ptz.com
When owner Jerry Wolkoff originally announced plans to bulldoze Long Island City graffiti mecca, 5Pointz, street artists and hip-hop fans alike were crushed. Over the years, 5Pointz has become a landmark in the world of NYC art as a warehouse dedicated to the cultivation and curation of aerosol technique. Earlier this week, however, rumors circulated that Long Island City would not be losing 5Pointz just yet.

Following Wolkoff's statement in early March, it was immediately apparent that 5Pointz's presence is more than just that of a warehouse. Commenters on our prior post went as far as to say, "Why not knock down all the other forgettable crap around it and leave a landmark for the future to see" and "It's art for gods sake and it makes my day better. Don't we have enough cookie cutter high rises?" In an attempt to save the graffiti mecca, fans created a petition entitled, "SHOW UR LOVE TO 5POINTZ."

While Wolkoff might seem like the bad guy in this scenario, as many have deemed him on the building's Facebook page, he took time to assure us he is still advocating for the artists and youngsters.

In recent weeks, we've seen a lot of rumors circulate regarding what will be done with 5Pointz. Do you plan on keeping it open? Or do you still plan to bulldoze it, making way for two new high-rises?

Eventually, we're contemplating putting in two towers. Residential, for rental -- not condominiums. That is our anticipated plan, but it's not happening overnight. I had plans on doing something else with the building eleven years ago in 2002, and nothing materialized then. Now, we're anticipating turning it into residential buildings. We'd like to do it within the next couple of years.

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5Ptz.com
How has the community of Long Island City reacted to this news?

The people in the neighborhood love that they're taking it down. Not everybody loves that type of art. What you read online is our minority, aside from the artists themselves. 5Pointz is not a permanent type of thing. The pieces are only there for a blink, every six months they're washed over and new ones are put up. It doesn't stay forever. That picture is only going to be there for three months anyway. You have to eventually progress. I like street art, otherwise I wouldn't have let them do it all these years. I'm a lover of the arts. I appreciate the work that the artists do, especially on our buildings. The work is done tastefully. You go to a committee and have your work approved, and then it's done tastefully. I've never allowed any anti-religious or political work, but we allow them to express what they feel.

In the future, this will be another hip area. The store keepers and the restaurants can't make a living right now because there's just not enough action. After 6:00 p.m. it's dead because everyone goes back home. There's an area called Queens West that's about half a mile away from us, then you have Queens Plaza that's another half a mile away. This would be in between the two to make synergy, and to make the area humming. In life you need changes, this would be a change in life. It's too important of a piece of property to keep it the way it is, empty.

How many people would you say walk through 5Pointz each day?

It's not a hundred people coming through, not even 50, it's only 10 or 15 or 20 people coming through on a daily basis. Even though it's a great location.

We've seen what seems like more and more of these New York landmarks being bulldozed and replaced with high rises or hotels, etc... do you think 5Pointz should be considered a landmark?

No, absolutely not. Landmarks are something that you're going to keep, and have it stay. Every three months 5Pointz changes, the pictures go and the building itself is old. It has no redeeming values whatsoever.

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5Ptz.com
What will the new plans for the property entail?

We have every subway near here. It's under 12 minutes to get to the Lexington and 53rd street station. Such a great location for our young people. It's a progressive thing. In life you need changes, for the better. Always for the better. The building is 90 years old, it couldn't survive anyway. We're going to take in artists to work, it's not a question. Up until this year we had about a hundred or some artists working there, and were forced to take them out. We're going to bring them back in with the new buildings. And we're going to put up a large wall in the rear of the building for aerosol. You gotta go for change. Artists are so important for us, right now they only work by me-- they don't live by me. But wherever they go, they create an area.

We're going to build the towers for the young people who need it. Young people can't afford Manhattan, so they live in Brooklyn, Queens, etc. We'll have a community room and we'll even have computer rooms. It'll be inter-generational, and all of this will be structured. Young girls, young guys can meet up. There's going to be a little theater in there playing special movies and shows. We need that desperately. I've owned this property for 40 years -- I can make it affordable for young people, and the empty nester who can't afford a place can come to us. They have to look beyond things here and ask, what are the social benefits of this for our community?

What else are you working on right now that people should know about?

Right now, I'm building a thing called Heartland Town Square, a little town in Long Island. In that town, there's an area that I called "Solo," south of the Long Island Expressway. It's for artists to live there. We're going to take an area and make it all for artists, and give it to them inexpensively. We're keeping the water tower, but south of that in Solo is a power plant. I'm going to make that a museum for artists. We're going to make a stage and put in a coffee shop. One thing about artists: when they're up, we're sleeping, and when we're sleeping, we're up. In Solo, you'll be able to get up and go out and hear poetry at 11:00 PM, 12:00 AM. And we're going to have the largest sculpture garden so that the artists will have a venue to show their outdoor work. We're going through the process now and as soon as they tell us okay we're good to go, but we are very close to getting it approved.

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Wolkoff finished the interview with a final statement regarding 5Pointz, saying, "In life, as you get older, you always have negative people telling you what you should do, but the people who don't want me to tear it down, I'm on their side here."

[atimm@villagevoice.com] / @avenyc

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12 comments
ME3, BT
ME3, BT

Check it, as we observe humans we learn the chemistry that we become afraid or ignorant to the things we do not comprehend! I am one to attest that not only has 5pts brought unity amongst artist, but it has allowed us to express ourselves freely in a place where it's accepted, rather than all over the city were it's rejected! I think we should be thankful it hasn't been demolished, but at the same time let's continue to pray it stays open...

in the know
in the know

Wollcoff is on nobody's side but his own bank book.

Kutekate88
Kutekate88

Wolkoff finished the interview with a final statement regarding 5Pointz, saying, "In life, as you get older, you always have negative people telling you what you should do, but the people who don't want me to tear it down, I'm on their side here."

My comment: WHAT??? A typical answer with no substance.

Early Artis
Early Artis

when you choose money over art then we are already lost.. albeit the financial must support the venue but there must be other options besides opening another strip mall or apt complex.. money is physical while art will remain internalized and personal.. and money can never do that.. i've never looked at a $5 dollar bill and been moved to a beautiful consciousness. PERIOD!

brokeMC
brokeMC

5 Pointz is the only reason I go to Queens.

Jerry Rotondi
Jerry Rotondi

Mr. Wolkoff's low-ball estimate of only 10 to 20 persons who visit 5 Pointz each day is totally inaccurate.

As a former board member of Phun Phactory (which preceded it) and a 5 Pointz supporter , donor and volunteer for over 10 years...I do hereby refute his statement.

Hundreds visit this unique world art site. Bus loads of tourists and school tours can be seen here at any given time. I have personally witnessed this.

As a retired world class ad agency executive (award winning art director) and former board of trustees member of the Queens Historical Society, I can further attest to the importance of this site as a major world wide attraction.

The art displayed here often beats what can be seen in some conventional museums.

5 Pointz has inspired future art talent and has kept a lot of youth away from nefarious pusuits.

I'd suggest that this outdoor museum remain as an essential vital part of New York City.

Some might not agree with me but 5 Pointz is as necessary as Central Park, the Broadway theater district, Times Square, the Empire State building, etc. to NYC's lifeblood!

And it could be most profitable to the owner developing it as a unique major museum.

There is already a glut of residential building in Long Island City that has remained unoccupied as either condo space or rental units.

CHARM
CHARM

THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE WHO COME THRU TO 5PTZ ON THE DAILY, THERE ARE FOUR/FIVE TOUR BUS COMPANIES THAT COME THRU, WITH BUS LOADS OF TOURISTS EVERYDAY AND ON ANY GIVEN WEEKEND THERE CAN BE BETWEEN 30-100 ARTISTS FROM ALL 5 BOROUGHS AND WORLDWIDE WITH HUNDREDS OF ON LOOKERS, CHILDREN, LOCALS, TOURISTS, PS-1 VISITORS, PHOTOGRAPHERS, MODELS, VIDEO/TV CAMERA CREWS, ETC...

Loisstavsky
Loisstavsky

As a teacher, consultant and mentor, I have been taking groups of young people to 5Pointz for years. Its walls and spirit have saved lives. Artists from all over the globe aspire to paint there. The kind of progress we need is transforming it into a permanent showcase of urban street art, the most significant art movement of our times.

Kingrid1
Kingrid1

I just wonder where ppl will start to paint when they have no more 5ptz to paint at,,,, looks like graffiti will be back again,,, ;0(

Newyorkmarie
Newyorkmarie

Monday Morning 10.42 am ... school group just left 5 pointz after a tour and a little demo by our curator Meres One ... 40 kids plus tachers ... Hum ...10 to 15 visitors a day ....

Newyorkmarie
Newyorkmarie

as a volunteer at 5 pointz who actually live in Queens , 2 blocks from 5 Pointz on thomson Avenue there are a few facts that I want to adress :

1/ the foot traffic at 5 pointz on week end alone is by hundred , and for Mr Wolkoff to say that it is 5 to 10 people ... well i wish he would come and spend a week end with us .. this is an open invitation for him, hey he can help us hand out postcards ! since Sunday alone we had subway series beatboxer performing as surprise for us 25 artists, head of broadcasting for french TV , Mr Alain lardiere , 2 french artists , a Brasilian artist, groups from UK, Spain, New York ... etc... and this is every week end .. we haven t even re -opened for the season

2/ Being a member of MOMA and the Whitney the New Museum and MAD what I love are special exhibits ... If you actually love the art and take the time to go Museums ... you appreciate special exhibits .. which are curated and on display for 3 to 6 months ... Well at 5 Pointz ... we are a succession of special exhibits rotating every 6 months .. that does not and should not question our legitimacy as an art statement.

3/ I absolutely agree with Mr Wolkoff that in life you need change for the better ... and he has been a trendsetter by allowing artists to curate and express themselves for 8 years ? why stop now .. why not host and embrace the largest and most unique aerosol art displays in the world. Again from standing and spending time at 5 pointz , I can assure that the community is loving the place , business owners and real estate brokers feel 5 pointz is an added value to the community and people plain and simple enjoy it .. it s free , it s educationnal and it s ever evolving changing ...

then again this are just thoughts ... M.

ArtFanatic
ArtFanatic

Long Island city is not affordable for young people and this project will make it even less so. The rent in Woodside and Sunnyside have steadily gone up as Long Island City has been developed. The more LIC becomes like Manhattan (I saw a black woman pushing a white baby in a stroller the other day) the higher the rents along the 7 line will become. The rents in Long Island City now are not affordable for most young people because Manhattanites are moving into Queens. 5ptz is being bull dozed because the land is worth a ton of money and Mr. Wolkoff will profit like crazy from the project. It is another example of a unique NYC culture losing out at the expense of development. Mr. Wolkoff can say whatever it is he wants about progress but at the end of the day the wealthy people moving in don't want to see the art and Mr. Wolkoff wants to make money. Its funny how he is pushing the art culture into a far off spot in Long Island far from the city. 5ptz is a unique representation of the city's soul and it will be lost because graffiti is a felony and 5ptz was a safe haven for its expression that attracted artist from all over the world.

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