Inside the Crumbling Graffiti Mecca 5 Pointz

The story behind the Queens artist Mecca was never just about the graffiti that covered its outer walls

Inside the Crumbling Graffiti Mecca 5 Pointz
C.S. Muncy

Nicole Gagne doesn't remember the fall itself, or any of the month that followed. She spent almost all of it in a hospital bed, pumped full of a painkiller that had the happy side effect of causing temporary amnesia.

So she doesn't remember the concrete staircase dissolving under the weight of her step. She doesn't remember dropping three and a half floors, or landing on her side, wedged between two piles of wooden pallets. And she doesn't remember being buried under the spall and rebar that fell more slowly than she did.

Gagne had complained to the building's super about the pallets the day before. That she remembers. They had been sitting in that corner of the otherwise bare cement courtyard for weeks, maybe even months. Too long, in any case. The super asked the pallets' owners, proprietors of a T-shirt manufacturing business on the first floor, to remove them an hour before Gagne fell. They didn't, and it is probably the only reason she is still alive.

C.S. Muncy
Nicole Gagne in her Crane Street studio before the stair collapse.
Courtesy Nicole Gagne
Nicole Gagne in her Crane Street studio before the stair collapse.
Building owner Jerry Wolkoff
Courtesy Jerry Wolkoff
Building owner Jerry Wolkoff
There was always a divide between the graffiti artists who gave 5 Pointz its iconic look and the studio artists inside.
Courtesy Kyu Nam Han
There was always a divide between the graffiti artists who gave 5 Pointz its iconic look and the studio artists inside.

She doesn't remember the fire department arriving on the scene, or the firefighters setting up airbags to lift the rubble off of her one piece at a time. She doesn't remember clawing at the breathing tube that was inserted into her throat, pulling it out and damaging her vocal cords.

Debra Hampton does remember. All of it. Hampton, Gagne's friend, rented a space across the hall from her inside Crane Street Studios, the artists' workplaces that used to occupy five floors of the drafty, dilapidated former Neptune Water Meter factory complex that most people know as 5 Pointz: Long Island City's world-famous graffiti temple.

Read the full story in this week's Village Voice: "Inside 5 Pointz."

 
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