Tag Archives: 5Pointz

Arts nonprofit raises funds for new space as 5Pointz set to be demolished


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Carolina Penafiel/Local Project

As the wrecking ball gets closer to 5Pointz, one nonprofit that calls the graffiti mecca home is now looking for help to fund their new space once it’s time to move out.

For the past five years, Local Project, a nonprofit arts organization, has housed its headquarters and gallery space at 45-10 Davis Street in Long Island City inside the warehouses of 5Pointz.

After the property’s owners decided to sell the location to construct two high-rise apartment buildings, Local Project was left waiting for the inevitable — and also wondering where they would go from there.

On Tuesday, August 21 the City Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan for the two towers to be built.

“Local Project belongs to Long Island City, everybody knows us,” said Carolina Penafiel, founder and director. “The day they demolish this is going to be very weird. I believe in changes, I believe in progress, but I don’t believe in mistreating people. They just want to get us out of here.”

On August 7, Local Project started an Indiegogo campaign called “Keep LP Spinning” to begin raising funds needed to pay for a new home, moving fees and construction. There is a $27,000 goal the group hopes to reach by September 30, when they must leave the warehouse.

Local Project is looking to move into a new space on 44th Road in Long Island City, close to their first location prior to the 5Pointz warehouses. The group was able to get this location due to the help of Susan Peters, a big supporter. Although the space is leased, Local Project still has to raise the funds in order to move in.

“We’re trying to grow and trying to provide a bigger place,” said Penafiel. “We’re trying to create an experience for people.”

Continuing the work with local and emerging artists to host exhibits and create community events, Penafiel said the new space will allow Local Project to give back more to the community. She said the new space will allow the group to be more organized and active, and to provide more services like workshops, afterschool programs and help for to local schools.

“We’re going to come in stronger and last longer if this comes true,” said Penafiel. “It’s like a dream. It depends on people. The hope is in our collaborators and those who want us to continue. We need the support.”

To contribute to Local Project’s campaign you can visit www.igg.me/at/LocalProject.

 

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Developers change 5Pointz plans, BP approves application


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

After receiving harsh disapproval from the Long Island City community, the developers who plan to turn the graffiti mecca known as 5Pointz into two high-rise apartment buildings have decided to make changes to their proposal.

According to Joseph Conley, chair of Community Board (CB) 2, G&M Realty’s plan has been altered to include about 78 affordable housing units, an addition of 10,000 square feet to the initial 2,000 square feet planned for artists’ studios and community use of the parking garage for below-market rates.

Conley said the changes came after Jerry Wolkoff, whose family has owned the property for the past 40 years, heard of the community’s vociferous objections to the initial plan.

The new plan also includes the installation of art panels on the street to continue to display artists’ works. There will also be a program to curate the works and establish a community advisory group to work with CB 2 before, during and after construction.

“He wanted to make sure, before he moves forward, that he came back and met with a group of people to talk about how he could reestablish connections and solidify connection with the community he’s been a part of for 40 years,” said Conley. “The important part is that it shows his concern about the community.”

The Wolkoffs intend to demolish the graffiti-covered warehouse on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street and construct two apartment towers there. One would reach 47 stories and the other 41 stories, with close to 1,000 rental apartments, 30,000 square feet of outdoor public space and 50,000 square feet of retail space between them.

CB 2 voted against the owners’ land use application in June. However, constructing the towers is within their rights. The Wolkoffs are continuing their application to the Department of City Planning to build to larger dimensions than allowed by current zoning rules.

“Our vote does not change,” said Conley. “It’s not a question that he will do a bait-and-switch. He will be obligated to [do] what he said as he goes forward. Mr. Wolkoff immediately made the changes without hesitations. It expresses his willingness to work with the community.”

David Wolkoff previously told The Courier that his family has and will continue to listen to what the community has to say.

“We had always taken into consideration what the community wants,” he said.

However, according to Marie Cecile Flageul, a spokesperson for 5Pointz and an event planner, artists were not consulted in the recent changes to the Wolkoffs’ proposal.

“5Pointz is not included in the plan,” said Flageul. “The extra space will not be given to any of the 5Pointz collective. We wished the community board would have consulted us before saying the changes are satisfactory.”

On Wednesday, July 17 Borough President Helen Marshall announced she approved the Wolkoffs’ land use application.

The application will be reviewed by the City Planning Commission, the City Council and finally the mayor.

 

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LIC resident comes up with plan to relocate 5Pointz


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of Kris Schrey

As the demolition date of the graffiti mecca known as 5Pointz gets closer, one Long Island City resident has come up with a proposal to save the art that covers the building.

Kris Schrey, co-organizer of the Long Island City Parents Group, proposed moving the art from 5Pointz onto the concrete walls surrounding MoMA PS1 across the street. Schrey developed this idea after stepping out of a public hearing at PS1 in May during which the Wolkoff family, owners of 5Pointz, discussed their special permit application.

The Wolkoff family, which has owned 5Pointz for decades, plans to demolish the graffiti-covered warehouses on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street and begin construction on apartment towers by the end of the year. Although Community Board 2 voted against the special permit in June, the Wolkoffs can still demolish and build at the space in keeping with their rights as owners.

Schrey’s idea first appeared in a weekly newsletter for his parents’ group.

“Could there be a better synergy than between MoMA’s high concept art and mind-numbing street art of the aerosol kind?” Schrey wrote in the column. “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.”

According to Schrey, the new apartment towers would bring residents that could help boost the businesses in the area and help the community.

But for 5Pointz spokesperson Marie Cecile Flageul, the idea came with good intentions but unreasonable solutions.

“Three walls at PS1 wouldn’t cut it. I think it’s a laughable idea, in the sense that it is funny and great that there is a parent association in Long Island City and as a resident he is trying to come up with ideas” she said. “But don’t you think before making a statement about this, you should have spoken to both parties involved?”

According to Flageul, if there were any need or willingness from the museum, MoMA PS1 would have already reached out to the artists. She believes the warehouse should be maintained to make the area cleaner and safer for both artists and visitors.

Schrey hopes to speak with members of 5Pointz and the community in the weeks to come and later present his idea to MoMA PS1 MoMA PS1 did not respond as of press time.

 

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Community Board votes down 5Pointz permit


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Artists and supporters of 5Pointz can breathe a little easier after Community Board 2 (CB 2) voted against the owner’s special permit application to develop the graffiti mecca into two high-rise apartment buildings.

The Wolkoff family, who has owned 5Pointz for decades, plans to demolish the graffiti-adorned warehouses located on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street and begin construction on apartment towers by the end of the year.

Although the community board voted unanimously against the special permit on Thursday, May 6, members warned that their vote was merely advisory. This means that the decision only applies to the developer’s application to build the proposed building larger than allowed by the current zoning rules. It does not stop the demolition of 5Pointz.

“As a matter of right, they can tear down that building and build something,” said Stephen Cooper, co-chair of CB 2’s land use committee. “If you want to stop that, you have to go and get it either landmarked or have it historically designated or have the art commission designate it. You’re going to have to go way beyond this room to do that, and I encourage you, if that’s what you want.”

Plans for the buildings — one reaching 47 stories and the other 41 stories — include close to 1,000 rental apartments, 30,000-square-feet of outdoor public space and 50,000-square-feet of retail space between them.

Upon listening to supporters who spoke during the public comment session of the board meeting — with one breaking into a rap song and another in tears — CB2 made the decision noting the proposed project is too excessive and “fails to address the impact on the community.”

On behalf of the board, Cooper said in order for such a large project to be considered, the developer must in return provide benefits for the community. Some of these include improvements to local mass transit, a percentage of the units in the buildings designated as affordable housing, partnership with local art organizations and a fund for local community groups.

After hearing the board’s decision, David Wolkoff said he was “disappointed” with the vote but will still continue moving forward.

“It’s disappointing but it’s a democratic process,” said Wolkoff. “We’ll move forward and I’m confident we’ll build the building we want.”

Although the construction of the buildings is still scheduled for 2014, Wolkoff plans to continue listening to the considerations and ideas from the community his family has been a part of for the past 40 years.

“I — we — will listen to all of them,” said Wolkoff. “We have always taken into considerations what the community wants.”

 

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Artists, residents voice outrage over 5Pointz demolition


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo / THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

5Pointz will soon be gone, replaced by two high-rise apartment buildings.

At a public hearing hosted by Community Board (CB) 2 on Wednesday area residents packed the MoMA PS 1 lobby to discuss the special permit application by thee Wolkoff family, owners of 5Pointz for decades, to build the complex.

The plan looks to demolish the graffiti adorned warehouses, located on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, and begin the construction of the rental apartment towers by the end of the year.

“It [Long Island City] is in the midst of great change, positive change,” said David Wolkoff, who is leading the development. “We believe that with the new and attractive addition to the Jackson Avenue corridor that we are adding to this fantastic transition. It’s a transition from the past and present into the future.”

The two buildings, one reaching 47 stories and the other 41 stories, are planned to have close to 1,000 rental apartments, 30,000-square-feet of outdoor public space and 50,000-square-feet of retail space on the first two floors.

But residents and members of the Long Island City art community are looking to save their “beautiful landmark.”

For the past 11 years, 5Pointz has welcomed aerosol artists to use the property, free of charge, just as long as the art was community friendly. Through that time, the warehouse has blossomed into an canvas for artists from all over the world.

Trying to keep the art community involved in the development, Wolkoff said the plans include art walls where murals can be painted, seven artists’ working spaces and a gallery for works to be presented.

“The building will be a homage to art and artists while creating a new and wonderfully exciting place to live and to play,” said Wolkoff.

Yet, though Wolkoff strongly emphasized continuing to work with the art community, members of the audience, including artists who have left their marks on 5Pointz, questioned his intentions and voiced their opposition to the proposed plan.

“In the past when development happens, the neighborhood is going to change and I’m not sure if the local artists are going to be here,” said Gabriel Roldos of Local Project, an arts nonprofit which is one of the tenants at 5Pointz.

Jonathan Cohen, founder and curator of 5Pointz, took the stand Wednesday night to thank the Wolkoff family for giving him the chance to take on the project 11 years ago.

Yet Cohen’s appreciation quickly shifted to disappointment.

“My only regret is that the same people who allowed me to, unknowingly, create such a cultural gem don’t see it as I do,” said Cohen.

As the meeting progressed, protesters gathered outside holding signs against the floor-to-ceiling windows. Some of the signs, reading “FOR THE GOOD OF L.I.C.? OR THE…WEALTH OF WOLKOFF??”, accused the family of neighborhood neglect and one sign asked CB2 chair Joseph Conley to listen to the community carefully.

“In America there is change, but there are also some things that ought not be changed,” said George Colon, a graffiti artist and founder of SSB, one the largest graffiti crews in New York City. “If the price of this is worth the future generations, then it’s your conscience.”

Angel Del Villar, whose claim that the community owns the building was met with cheers, asked those present to join him in the future to make a chain around the building to prevent the demolition.

“Do you guys think that any of that stuff is as attractive as the most beautiful building in the whole world,” asked Del Villar. “Is it mandatory to change things we’ve gotten right? Why don’t we change the things we’ve gotten wrong?”

Community Board 2 will vote on the special permit application at its next meeting on June 6 and if the first step is approved, 5Pointz is planned to be demolished by the end of the year, with the first tower constructed by 2015.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Wednesday: Overcast with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain. High of 86. Winds from the South at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%. Wednesday night: Overcast with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain. Low of 70. Winds from the SSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: International Star Andy Statman Plays Mandolin and Clarinet

Considered one of the world’s premier mandolinists and clarinetists, the Grammy-nominated musician Andy Statman has played with everyone from Itzhak Perlman to Jerry Garcia. This concert on Wednesday, May 22 at LeFrak Concert Hall, Queens College is part of a national tour in honor of Statman’s recent National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

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After a decade in Long Island City, Local Project searches for a new home


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Carolina Penafiel-16

At the edge of Long Island City, where warehouses haunt like rusty fossils of an industrial past, obscured by the elevated subway tracks, street art fights for survival.

Encircled in graffiti-wrapped sarcophagi, the low brow legacy of Local Project and 5Pointz await doomsday, untouched by the sterile glass high-rises that erupt from the ground almost monthly — for now, at least.

It’s only a matter of time before the building they share becomes nothing more than piles of scrap metal and drywall dust. Several months ago, the space’s owner announced plans to sell the warehouse to a builder who would turn the space into luxury condominiums – “yuppie projects,” scoff the locals. Local Project, a space for emerging artists to nurture their craft and connect with the public, that shares a building with graffiti holy land 5Pointz, must depart their home in search of new prospects.

Carolina Penafiel, a part-time food stylist and Local Project’s founder, moved to New York from Chile 13 years ago in pursuit of her American Dream.

“I wanted to live like in the movies,” she said.

Penafiel began her career as an artist, but a bad experience during a group show changed her mind. It took too much to be an artist, to open her work to the masses, resting on talent and believing in the message behind her art. Even the title “artist” felt wrong.

“I’ve always done exactly what I’ve set myself to do,” said Penafiel. “Thankfully, I’ve always gotten where I’ve wanted to go.”

Instead, she focused on her administrative skills, training as an independent curator. She fell in love with the process of putting together a show, nurturing artists and watching them develop. One show called “Hot in Hell’s Kitchen,” held at the Fountain Gallery – a center for those struggling with mental illness. The exhibit told stories from the iconic Manhattan neighborhood. Visitors stuck notes to the wall, scribbled with memories from Hell’s Kitchen – “I got drunk,” “I met my ex,” “I kissed somebody.”

Penafiel’s shows center around creating community rather than bringing culture to high society. Local Project’s doctrine of art for the people allows her to build bridges – the most rewarding part of her job. Instead of judging artists based on reputation, Local Project celebrates unknown entities on the rise. Each resident artist is required to spend 40 hours in the building during their two week stint, creating a setting where visitors can dip into the work organically.

Local Project draws tourists from around the world. One artist, keeping tabs on the gallery’s visitors, had a person from every livable continent come see his show in a single day.

“That’s what makes us different from other spaces,” Penafiel said. “You get to come in and talk to the artists. How cool is that?”

Artists of all mediums present in the space. Every Saturday, a DJ spins for a crowd who dance and chat, huddled together in the chilly space. They host video festivals, including one of exclusively horror films before Halloween where the audience dresses as zombies and four times a year, emerging musicians play acoustic sets in a series called “Music under the 7.” Penafiel said they do as much as they can – as much as everyone wants to do.

But now, everything needs to go somewhere else.

They have begun searching for a new space – a topic not easily broached among the staff, unhappy about the move. For years, rumors of the demise of the building on Davis Street swirled. Now they are coming true.

It’s happening all too much in New York City – art institutions knocked down in favor of bourgeoisie-friendly entities. Penafiel mentioned DUMBO, formerly raw, now spotless and new like a suburban art fair.

“Unfortunately, we, the ones who helped bring [LIC] to that level are not the ones that live there or have stores there,” said Penafiel. “That’s just life I guess. I don’t know what’s going to happen in Long Island City.”

Lady Pink: Graffiti’s feisty first lady


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

DSC_1963w

Graffiti was a man’s world— until she painted it pink.

Lady Pink, graffiti’s first and fieriest female figurehead, still reigns supreme as an icon in the American art arena. While her medium switched from subway cars and cinderblock walls to canvas over the years, the Astoria-based creative is still spreading her message — art is everywhere.

Lady Pink, born Sandra Fabara, emerged on the scene in 1979, when girl power prevailed and the public worshipped fierce, feminine idols like Charlie’s Angels and Marsha Brady. Riding on pure personality and perseverance, at 16, she busted into the proverbial boys club, proclaiming that girls could do anything boys could do, only better. The older male artists adopted her as their little sister and influenced by her fixation on historical-romance novels, they bestowed upon her the intentionally girly and definitely regal moniker, “Lady Pink.”

In the early 1980s, she scaled fences and scrawled her designs on subway cars.

“It was all about the adventure and the fame,” she said. “It was less about the art then, it was just teenagers having fun.”

She was expelled from the High School of Art & Design in Manhattan after some kids from the Bronx shot up the school during her first graffiti exhibit. While no one was killed, a stray bullet struck a kid in the back and injured him. After a heated argument with the principal and the dropping of a single f-bomb, Lady Pink’s show was shut down and she was told to leave school.

She said she didn’t like school anyway, but went on to graduate from public school.

In 1982, Lady Pink starred in the film “Wild Style,” a graffiti hip-hop amalgamation that elevated her to cult figure status. Regardless of the seemingly inseparable connection between the musical genre and the art style, Lady Pink says it’s a lifestyle she never subscribed to.

“The grassroots beginning are connected,” she said. “Other than that, there is little we have in common. They lump us up as background art so it can be a nice complete culture that can be packaged and sold. The truth of the matter is most graffiti writers are only exposed to the music of the area they come from.”

While working, Lady Pink listens to The Beatles and Metallica.

Graffiti remains, according to Lady Pink, very much its own entity, retaining what she feels is an incredibly sexist attitude.

“My background grants me respect but I see other young ladies struggling to be heard and seen,” said Lady Pink. “We have to bust our butts twice as hard to be seen and noticed.”

When she and her husband, another prominent graffiti artist whose tags terrorized multiple mayors throughout the 1970s and 1980s, work together on projects for their professional muralist company, she has him deal with the overtly-macho and occasionally misogynistic contractors and construction workers. She believes it’s about playing the game and not fighting nature.

A lifetime of running the streets, she says, prepared her.

“Graffiti to us when we’re young is like what people go to college for,” she said. “It’s boot camp for artists — how to work fast — how to work with sharks at your throat. It’s how to survive in the real world.”

Even though a portion of the population still regards graffiti as a nuisance and an eyesore, Lady Pink believes the art form gained legitimacy through sheer exposure. The artist has shown work in countless galleries and museums including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles and the MoMA PS1. Nevertheless, there are always people waiting below her scaffold, ranting about the bright colors of the mural she’s painting.

“I get robbed, I get insulted, I get harassed by the police,” she said. “I welcomed the invention of the Walkman. I put on my music and shut them out.”

Lady Pink mentioned the newly announced demise of 5Pointz – graffiti’s holy land, recently fated to be closed and turned into high-rise apartment buildings. She hopes the displaced artists will find artistic refuge somewhere else, but recognized the city’s shortcomings in artistic preservation.

“That’s progress in New York City,” she said. “All murals are fleeting. You paint it and kiss it goodbye.”

The loss, she says, will be devastating in the annals of art history.

In contributing to the continuity of art, Lady Pink teams with kids from the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts. They design and paint public murals around Astoria and Long Island City, covering walls under the Hell Gate Bridge with sweeping images from Greek myths.

“I put the kids in big situations because that’s what happened to me,” she said. “Kids perform better when they’re given responsibilities and tasks beyond their comprehensions — their confidence grows.”

She insists her apprentices bring their own music to listen to while they paint.

“Music makes better art,” said Lady Pink. “I don’t know how art can happen in the quiet.”

Together, they put on their headphones and drown out the noise of the world.

Local artists angry over plans for 5Pointz


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo by Alex DiBlasi

Taggers armed with cans of spray paint who flocked to leave their mark on the paint-laden walls of graffiti mecca 5Pointz may soon be searching for another canvas.

The 200,000-square-foot Long Island City graffiti art exhibition space, home to over 350 multicolored murals, could soon be knocked down in favor of building two high-rise apartment complexes.

“We’ve been waiting for this sort of transformation,” said building owner David Wolkoff. “We saw it happening a long time ago because of its proximity to Manhattan. We knew that Long Island City was going to transform at some point and now it’s happening at a rapid pace.”

According to Wolkoff — whose family’s business has owned the 5Pointz property for 40 years – the new structure will include dual rental towers equaling approximately one-million-square-feet, outfitted with state-of-the-art amenities including a gymnasium, pool and media rooms. The structure, expected to be completed by 2016, will also boast retail space.

“We have a very good feeling about the project and the likelihood we’ll get the changes we’re looking for,” said Wolkoff. “Nothing is 100 percent certain. I think the neighborhood is very positive about the project. A project like mine will bring life to the area. I think Long Island City is ready for it.”

While Wolkoff believes the development will benefit the neighborhood, area artists are upset at the alterations.

“Now everyone wants to be in LIC and everyone who created it is going to be kicked out,” said local artist Carolina Penafiel. “Changes are good but when they change history it’s screwed up. Everyone new is coming and the old ones are leaving.”

Wolkoff claims the building plans include keeping walls in place where graffiti artists can continue their craft, as well as opening two 1,200-square-foot open art studios.

“There will at least be a link to what it was at one point,” said Wolkoff. “We love the art that’s on the walls and we want to continue that.”

5Pointz, which earned its name by bringing together the five boroughs of New York City, attracts aerosol artists from across the country as well as the Netherlands, Japan and Brazil. Hip-hop artists and singers — enamored by the site’s visual stimuli — including Doug E. Fresh, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Kaz, Mobb Deep and Joss Stone, found creative ignition inside the abandoned factory.

According to a representative from the Department of City Planning, an application to demolish and rebuild at the current 5Pointz location has yet to be submitted.