The Residential Canvas of 5 Pointz
New York City has long been a surrogate for the arts. It houses the MoMa, Museum of Modern Art, in Midtown Manhattan; the Paley Center for Media, also in Midtown Manhattan; as well as the Museum of the Moving Image, in Astoria. In some cases, modern art can be considered urban art and what better example of New York history than the one structure that still displays something deeply rooted in the cities past: the 5 Pointz Factory in Long Island City.
From a glance, riding on the 7 train you see the facade of the structure plastered in so many colors, its walls have become a canvas to the graffiti artists that the city fostered back in 1982. Owned by Jerry Wolkoff, the building was previously an abandoned factory which was later used as a development to keep graffiti off the city streets as vandalism under the alias “Phun Phactory”.
Today, 5 Pointz is a physical manifestation of some of the time periods most influential and groundbreaking artist movements, many of which were born in New York City in the 1970’s. By combining cultural elements of hip-hop, emceeing, break dancing and DJing, 5 Pointz has become a staple of New York City’s cultural influence. Around that same time, we witnessed several defining events that still influence art and culture in the world day.
- On April 1972 - Joe Gallo is killed in Little Italy, which inspired Bob Dylan’s “Joey”.
- 1972, DJ Afrika Bambaataa forms Zulu Nation and categorizes the four elements of hip-hop - DJing, Break Dancing, Graffiti, and Emceeing.
- October of 1977 - A fire raged in an abandoned elementary school near Yankee Stadium during the World Series game between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. This event is later featured in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx Is Burning By Spike Lee, who focuses on the fight between Reggie Jackson and the teams manager, Billy Martin, while also bringing the battle for the city’s mayorship between Mario Cuomo and Ed Koch to light.
- December 1980 - John Lennon is murdered in front of his apartment at The Dakota.
- 1982, “Wild Style” is released in which djs, emcees, graffiti artists, and break dancers are showcased, introducing Hollywood to New Yorks Hip-Hop scene.
- 1982, Cats debuted on Broadway.
- 1986, Hip-Hops first white rap group, The Beastie Boys, released “Licensed to Ill” which became the best selling rap album of the decade.
It’s clear New York City's history contributed to the entertainment industry we know today and the last remaining artifact of that time period may soon be changing in the near future.
Recently, pressure from city officials lead to Wolkoff proposing a new development that will turn the unofficial museum into two - 41 and 47 story - high-rises. The high-rises will have amenities like a gym, media center, public pool and shopping areas, restaurants, a park, and even an open space to allow work by a few chosen graffiti artists. Its designed to have a positive impact on the ongoing changes to the Long Island City community.
The multimillion dollar project is expected to increase available jobs in the area, giving the community a long awaited boost. An appetizing proposal? Comparably, lets look at 247 West 46th Street, which sports 43 stories and offers an amazing view to the New York City skyline.
Not convinced? 250 East 54th Street offers similar views to the buildings being built if the proposal for the development gets approved.
It just may be the small oomph LIC needs to flourish further in this city of ours. And though the development takes away from the already very little space artists can utilize as a canvas legally, they provide the opportunity for the artist to showcase in an environment that caters rich cultural past while accepting the inevitable residential evolution of New York.