On Aug. 11, 1973, a Jamaican immigrant named Clive Campbell brought two turntables and a microphone to a birthday party for his sister, Cindy, at the recreation room of the Bronx building where his family lived. According to legend, Campbell, who is better known as “DJ Kool Herc,” started manipulating the rhythmic sections of songs on vinyl records to extend the musical beats while exhorting people to dance. The blueprint for Hip-Hop (scratching, breaking and rapping) was born. On Aug. 11, 2013, DJ Kool Herc heads to 5 Pointz in Long Island City to perform in Back to the Roots, a 40th anniversary celebration of Hip-Hop.
Details: Back to the Roots, 5Pointz, 45-46 Davis St., Long Island City, Aug. 11, 5 pm, free.
In Long Island City, the massive graffiti-covered former factory building known as 5Pointz is hovering on the brink of demolition with local politicians lining up behind David Wolkoff, the developer who wants to tear the building down. As part of Curbed’s Camera Obscura series, the site ran a heartfelt look at the building, its meaning to the community and to the thousands of artists, tourists and locals who oppose its destruction. The story is chock-a-block with revealing photos of the building and art that adorns it inside and out and up on the roof too. It is well worth a look.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall has decided to support the demolition of 5Pointz, the graffiti-drenched former water meter factory in Long Island City. The developer, David Wolkoff, plans to build two towers on the site over 40 stories tall. He says the buildings will include retail space, outdoor art installations and perhaps a climbing wall and swimming pool. Because Wolkoff wants to build 1,000 units of housing, 370 more than is allowed, he needs approval from the city council and the mayor. His original plan was rejected by the community board. He then added 56 units of affordable housing. That was enough to garner the backing of the area’s city councilman Jimmy Van Bramer earlier this week. The developer appears to have changed plans again, offering to include a total of 75 units of affordable housing for seniors, veterans and residents of northwestern Queens. That apparently was enough to bring Marshall on board. Wolkoff hopes to begin demolition by the end of the year. Supporters of the building still hold out hope that the city council will block the project. A 5Pointz representative told the Daily News, “We’re going to lose the most iconic building in Queens. We welcome over 1,000 artists (annually) who can express themselves legally without damaging public property. We’ve attracted tens of thousands of visitors.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is against any attempt to save the 5Pointz building in Long Island City. The former factory, long a mecca for graffiti artists, is now slated for demolition. The owner, Jerry Wolkoff, plans to build two towers on the site, one 46 stories, another 41 stories. Advocates have pushed for the city to buy the building to rescue it from demolition. However, as Van Bramer, who represents Long Island City and the surrounding communities, told the Long Island City Post, “first of all, you need a willing seller and the Wolkoff family is not interested in selling. It would probably cost tens of millions—if not hundreds of millions—to buy it and renovate it… which would be a foolish expenditure of city funds.” The developer is hoping to build 1,000 units, 370 more than are allowed as of right. Community Board 2 unanimously rejected the initial plan. Since then the developer has added 54 units of affordable housing and increased the studio space that he plans to include in the new buildings from 2,000 square feet to 12,000. Van Bramer’s position on the development is important as he is likely to have sway with other city council members who ultimately must approve the project.
In the wake of Community Board 2’s disapproval of the proposed residential redevelopment at 5Pointz, developer Jerry Wolkoff has committed to building 54 affordable units in the new towers, the LICPost reported. Those units would represent 20 percent of the extra 370 apartments that Wolkoff is seeking through a special permit that would allow him to build larger than the existing zoning. Wolkoff also told Community Board 2 members that he would expand studio space for local artists from 2,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet. He said he would also display art around the new project and have cheap parking. The existing building could be demolished by September.
The Long Island City Parent’s Group has come up with an interesting proposal for LIC landmark 5 Pointz, the graffiti-covered warehouse its owners plan to demolish, although it’s still unclear what’s going up in its place. The group is proposing that artists bring their graffiti to “the bare grey walls” around P.S. 1, and, well, stop fighting to save the 5 Pointz building altogether. Here’s a good chunk of what they said in their most recent email newsletter:
Was it really necessary that angry activists stop an environmentally conscious developer from building more space for people with jobs, incomes, degrees, and families? Can’t the graffiti move diagonally across the street right onto the walls of another art-friendly building owner, our own MOMA’s P.S. 1? The bare grey walls surrounding P.S. 1 like a proto-Reaganesque Cold War bunker would provide tens of thousands of square feet unadorned by windows and stairs. The hundreds of running feet of concrete walls along Jackson Avenue and 46th Avenue are highly visible to all folks who track to Queens to experience modern art, munch in the M.Wells-managed school cafeteria, and dance (or mostly hang out) at the sultry warm-up parties. Could there be a better synergy than between MOMA’s high concept art and mind-numbing street art of the aerosol kind?
Advice to aerosol activists: advocate as aggressively for the right to splash, splatter, and spray onto the MOMA-walls as you agitated against the development plans. This “concrete” solution would provide a new, better, lasting home for your graffiti: more space, more visibility, more foot traffic and maybe the museum could even carve out some office space for Jonathan Cohen’s graffiti group?
No sane developer will let artists into a building after what happened to the Wolkoff family. They were generous (and a bit clever) by parceling up brittle floors with drafty windows into artist studios and renting the spaces at rates that few real businesses would be willing to pay. But no good deed goes unpunished and the graffiti activists who had used the building facade for free are now paying back their benefactors by blocking the plans and appropriating the building.
I personally know half a dozen owners of commercial loft spaces in Long Island City who will rent to everybody but artists. After what happened to David Wolkoff there will be more.
Community Board 2 voted on Thursday against the plan to redevelopment 5Pointz and create two market rate towers with 1,000 apartment units. DNAinfo reported that the board sought more public benefits from developer David Witkoff, which could include improved public space and parking, transit investments or an affordable housing component. The board’s vote is non-binding, and will be followed by another recommendation from the Queens borough president and decisive votes from City Planning and the City Council later this year. Wolkoff is allowed to demolish 5Pointz, the haven for graffiti artists, as-of-right, but he is seeking a special permit to build higher than the existing zoning.
It looks like 5 Pointz is going to leave ’em rhyming. This Saturday, the world famous graffiti Mecca, aka “The Institute of Higher Burning,” will hold a five-hour tribute to hip hop with live performances by New York and New Jersey rappers. With DJ Raydar Ellis as the host, expect such acts as Rabbi Darkside, Elijah Black, Delvebeer and Dax Medina. Also scheduled are label showcases from ThemRecordings and Bucktown USA. Countless taggers from as far away as Europe and Asia have displayed their work at this 200,000-square-foot outdoor space since its founding in 1993. Recently, the property owners announced plans to convert the Long Island City venue into luxury housing that might include a 41-story residential tower, a 47-story tower, an indoor rock-climbing wall, a simulated golf course and barbecue areas. Details: Hip Hop Fest, June 8, 2 pm – 7 pm, 5 Pointz, 45-46 Davis Street, LIC.
The condo-zation of Long Island City has been touted mostly as a success. The transformation of the industrial neighborhood into an oasis of gleaming towers and manicured amenities has planted a new community in a formerly desolate place. Waterfront development, a Bloomberg priority, has chugged along.
But 5Pointz is different. Its graffiti-covered walls have given authority to the neighborhood’s status as an artistic center. Tourists and locals flock to the distinct destination. It has enjoyed a certain real estate idealism, with landlord David Wolkoff giving local artists his blessing in the form of free rent.
That charmed existence ended on Wednesday, when Wolkoff fielded public comments in advance of his planned demolition of 5Pointz, which he plans to replace with two towers of roughly 1,000 units. Artists reacted with sadness and anger, as the Observer reported, and perhaps Wolkoff experienced some regret in entangling himself with a tenant base that turned against him so publicly.
But the reality is that New York rents and New York prices have climbed stratospherically, and Long Island City is prime for redevelopment. And redevelopment is not so much immoral as amoral, dealing more with financing, opportunity and return on investment than societal good.
“We allowed the art to be programmed in this particular site not because it was a right of the artists, but because we, as the owners, really enjoyed the work that was being done,” Wolkoff said at the hearing. “But things do progress…and we are looking toward the future.”
The developer said that he still plans to support art in 5Pointz’s future incarnation through loft spaces inside the new development. The 5Pointz of today, however, appears to be doomed, barring something dramatic. In that vein, Wolkoff might be served to look at his neighbor, MoMA, which owns PS1. In the face of criticism, the museum said that it would look at saving the American Folk Art Museum, which it had planned to demolish, after a public outcry.
There’s a public hearing on Wednesday, May 22 regarding developer David Wolkoff’s redevelopment plan for 5Pointz, the graffiti-clad art mecca in Long Island City. Wolkoff plans to demolish the current structure and building two residential towers. Note that Wolkoff is able to demolish the building under the existing zoning – he just needs routine Department of Buildings permits – but the Community Board does have a say in the redevelopment plan for the project, which is calling for an upzoning.
As the Long Island City Post reports, Wolkoff is seeking a total of 980,000 square feet among the two buildings, which would have 1,000 market-rate rental units. He’s proposing 30,000 square feet in public space to appease the community. The meeting is at 7 pm at MoMA PS1 at 22-25 Jackson Avenue, right next to 5Pointz itself.