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.
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.
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.
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.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 8, 2011