5Pointz graffiti art gets whitewashed

Michelle Charlesworth reports
November 19, 2013 2:36:21 PM PST
Tears shed in Queens on Tuesday came from people angry that the owner of a building in Long Island City painted over a mecca of graffiti.

5Pointz is a well-known place that street artists come to from around the world to leave their mark. That infamous landmark is now gone.

"I'm disgusted," Jonathan Cohen said.

Standing in tears, disbelief and shock, graffiti artists could not believe the owner of the building, who is tearing it down to put up apartments and stores, painted over the graffiti.

Cohen is the curator of the 5Pointz graffiti group.

"You've succeeded in destroying the building, the most relevant art form of our time," he said. "This is my company. If I did (owned this building), this would never happen."

The owner of the building says he loves the graffiti. He talked to me on the phone and said that is why he let the artists stay here for 20 years. They even had an office with electric space heaters. Who paid for the electricity? He did, and never charged them a dime's rent.

He says he had the graffiti painted over to save them "the agony" of watching the building come down bit by bit.

"So he hired a crew, no permit. No harness. A cherry lift, a bunch of painters and they painted overnight," Marie Flageul, 5-Pointz volunteer, said. "You have 200,000 square feet of art here. This is the biggest crime of art history in the 21st Century. Who is the vandal now? Jerry Wolkoff is the vandal."

Obviously, the graffiti agreement ends when the new apartments go up, right? I asked the landlord. No! The plans include a 60 foot wall that stretches around the block designated specifically for graffiti.