Tag Archives: Graffiti

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.

Waging war on graffiti in Queens

| tcimino@queenscourier.com

Photos by Tony Ringston

Graffiti be gone.

Rollers in hand, enthusiastic community members, officers of the 102nd Precinct and some very civic-minded kids gathered on sunny Sunday, May 20 to help erase vandalism.

Members of the John Bowne High School Air Force Junior ROTC, 102nd Precinct Explorers, Richmond Hill Block Association and Community Emergency Response Team tackled various locations, covering up the tags and banishing the blight.

“This is a typical type of community event [for them],” explained Sergeant Nephtali Robles of the ROTC, noting that the members have logged over 3,000 hours of service so far this year.

“It makes the community better and makes you feel better,” said Liliana Garcia, 16.

With 50 gallons of paint from Borough Hall, Community Affairs Officers Joseph Martins and Jose Severino, along with Lieutenant Rob Seaman, Officer Richard Mann — whose 12-year-old son Zachary also pitched in to clean up — and various others waged the war on graffiti.

If you would like to help by donating time or supplies, or to learn more, contact the 102nd Precinct Community Affairs at 718-805-3215.

Vandalized fence in Whitestone to be replaced

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Dan Halloran

A graffiti-splattered construction fence in Whitestone will soon plague homeowners no more.

According to Councilmember Dan Halloran, the eyesore at 24-19 Francis Lewis Boulevard that infested the neighborhood for years will be replaced with a six-foot chain-link fence within a week. The councilmember said he struck a deal with Robin Singh, the new property owner, and he said he has also gained approval from the Department of Buildings (DOB).

“One of the problems is that this lot has changed hands several times recently,” Halloran said. “The new owner is anxious to be a good neighbor, and we are pleased to work with him on behalf of the community.”

The new fence will be higher by two feet and will no longer be slatted, Halloran said, which he hopes will deter graffiti vandalism, dumping and trespassing.

“[Singh and I] both had the same idea of sowing wildflower seeds on the property in the hope that after all these years, our neighbors deserve some beauty, instead of a ghastly eyesore,” Halloran said.

The once-abandoned property sat idle for over a decade after former property owners failed to pay taxes, the councilmember said. Local leaders said the plot had become a dumping ground for garbage and out-of-service construction equipment over the years.

‘Draw’ing inspiration from Astoria

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


A blank canvas – lacking a defined identity and purpose – can be a daunting task for any artist. Many grow to hate its vacant stare, praying for inspiration to end the monotony of its colorless complexion. Often, it can lead to hasty or unimaginative work.

Such dilemmas are nonexistent for Louie Gasparro, who adores his canvas as much as, or perhaps more than, his work – because his canvas is his city.

Gasparro, an urban contemporary street artist born and raised in Astoria, found his feet in art in a nontraditional manner.

“When I was a kid, I would ride the ‘RR’ train to Queensboro Plaza and the No. 7 to Main Street, and that’s where I first saw bubble writing and cartoons on the train,” Gasparro said. “The fact that it was moving on a train, it was like a flying cartoon in front of me.”

Following his fascination for the flying images he observed, Gasparro grew to create icons of his own. He began visiting train yards after dark to spray paint – a practice he continued for roughly six years. He would draw his tag name, “KR.ONE,” or whatever images he viewed in his mind’s eye, aiming to evoke the same joy in other subway riders that he experienced as a kid.

“I tried to take this flowing and fantastical lettering and combine it with my graffiti style lettering,” he said. “Graffiti when it began was name based. It was all about how many different ways I could draw my name and bend the alphabet.”

In his early years, Gasparro credits cartoons, comic books and the rock and roll album covers his brothers gave him for motivating his artistic creations. Artists he admired include Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

A classic western Queens kid, Gasparro received his entire education in Astoria and Long Island City schools. His art edification he left to his own studies, having never received any official training.

As Gasparro grew in age, and as an artist, he never struggled to find inspiration – wherever he looked, it was in view.

“I’m inspired by good people, truth, music and nature,” said the 46 year old. “I get inspired easily, I guess because I still have this childlike approach to it all. I get inspired so easily because there are so many things I appreciate that are all around me.”

His greatest inspiration, however, will always be his hometown – where he discovered his craft and found his first professional work as an artist.

“Where I grew up was the perfect vantage point for me to view all the different graffiti styles happening at the time,” he said. “From 1974 to 1983, I absorbed all of that which was going on with graffiti. I wouldn’t trade when and where I grew up for anything. I grew up around the corner from Kaufmann Astoria Studios. I met Aerosmith when I was 12. I saw Michael Jackson and Diana Ross making “The Whiz” when I was a kid. I was immersed in art growing up – it was around every corner I turned.”

Beginning in the early 1980s, Gasparro was commissioned to paint murals across western Queens, and he was particularly well known in Astoria. He painted frescoes for neighborhood spots such as the Beebe Diner, Boutique 92 and a schoolyard located at 28th Street and 36th Avenue in Dutch Kills, affectionately known as 204 Park. He has also been featured numerous times at L.I.C.’s 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center – an outdoor art exhibit space considered by many to be the Mecca of graffiti.

Gasparro’s most common graffiti topics are assorted lettering fonts – which he considers the purist form of the art – and subjects pertaining to New York. Along with his urban contemporary street art, Gasparro also enjoys creating abstract and fantasy pieces.

What he relishes most, he says, is the process of combining many genres and forming a free flowing finished product – allowing the piece to come together on its own.

“Fifty percent of the time I’ll be bold, and I’ll look at the canvas and just go immediately. I just go for it,” Gasparro said. “I get in an improvisational flow – like jazz. You have to take chances and you will make mistakes, but you have to make mistakes to achieve perfection.”

Gasparro has also pursued a career in his second passion – music. He joined the band Murphy’s Law in 1982 and traveled the world performing as a drummer. Regardless of where he went, his true love was never far away.

“I went to Europe and I was amazed. Europe really grabbed graffiti and held it to its bosom and nurtured it,” Gasparro said. “Europeans have had art and culture for centuries, so they have more of a vision. America is a much younger country when you compare it to a country like Greece. Graffiti is huge in Greece, Italy and Germany.”

Despite its international popularity, Gasparro is proud that graffiti is from New York, and his neighborhood was a leader in the art’s rise to fame.

“Graffiti is a worldwide phenomenon. It is probably the biggest art movement in the world, and it is from New York,” he said. “The phenomenon that it has become is because of New York. I don’t know of any other art movement that so many people were doing at the same time.”

Gasparro does not appreciate the negative connotations often applied to the word “graffiti.” The art was never about breaking the law for him, but meant something more than the paint in the can.

“When people asked me why we were doing graffiti, I told them we had to express ourselves,” he said. “What we felt was so deep that we had to go big. We were expressing ourselves in a big way. There is the graffiti problem, but what about the art side? We can’t always look at the negative. Why can’t we get kids who are acting out and get them to express themselves through this art form?”

Now an accomplished artist, Gasparro is frequently commissioned to work on clothing, furniture, cars and even private homes. He has been published in several anthologies, and is currently in the process of writing a book of his own – chronicling the life and work of Don 1, an influential graffiti artist.

He was recently re-welcomed to the site of his artistic genesis, when his work was displayed in an exclusive show – Bringer of the Kolor Storm – on March 10 in L.I.C. More than 100 people attended the event – which featured Gasparro’s urban, contemporary, fantasized, graffiti-style art – and every painting was purchased. Due to its success, Gasparro is currently planning a subsequent show.

“For me to come back and do a show in my hometown, where I practiced and started – the place that turned me on to art – was amazing,” said Gasparro. “It is great that LIC has become this artistic place when an artist like me can show my stuff.”

Maspeth church vandalized

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Vandals defaced a Maspeth church recently in what is being investigated as a hate crime.

Trinity-St. Andrews Lutheran Church on 60th Avenue was found vandalized on Wednesday, February 29 when the church’s pastor, Terrence Weber, arrived at the religious institution.

“As I was coming to the church’s office door I noticed a Star of David and in the star was a swastika,” the pastor said. “People being what they are today I knew exactly what it was.”

Weber circled the church and parish house searching for more signs of defacement. He discovered a Star of David with the words “Christ” and “Thor,” the tag “UG” with a bomb and a “pornographic scene” scrawled on the house of worship.

Police said they are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.

“We are an aging congregation,” said Weber, who has been with the church for 18 years. “In my own mind there is no kind of vendetta people would have against us.”

Assemblymember Rory Lancman recently announced legislation that would provide greater protection to houses of worship.

The bill would increase the penalty for any damage to a religious institution from one year to a maximum of four years in prison.

Trinity-St. Andrews has been a pillar of the community since 1899.

This is the first time the church has had to deal with this kind of act, Weber said, adding that the church has a very good relationship with the community.

“Parishioners were numb [to the graffiti] because nothing in this day and age is sacred. It is a sign of the times,” Weber said. “It’s always somebody else, but when it comes to your backyard, you say, ‘I can’t believe it’s right here.’”

No arrests have been made. Repeated calls to the 104th Precinct went unanswered as of press time.

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 11/14/2011: Livery Cab Driver Shot Dead In Far Rockaway

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Man Killed In Richmond Hill Car Crash

Police said a man was killed when his car slammed into a tree in front of a Queens hospital and burst into flames early Sunday morning. According to police, the unidentified man was speeding southbound down the Van Wyck Expressway about 2:15 a.m. when he tried to exit at Atlantic Avenue and lost control of his BMW. Read More: Fox News

Police Continue Search For Hit-And-Run Suspect

The family of hit-and-run victim George Gibbons joined Council Member Eliazbeth Crowley (D-Queens) to assist the NYPD in the efforts to apprehend suspect Peter Rodriguez. The 37-year-old Gibbons was a passenger of a livery cab when he was killed after the Lincoln Town Car he was in was slammed by a Chrysler Sebring that was driving in the wrong direction. Read More: Fox News

Livery Cab Driver Shot Dead In Far Rockaway; Reward Offered For Capture of Killer

Sunday of a livery cab driver found slumped over the wheel of his car with a bullet in his head and clutching a wad of cash. Relatives of Patrick Hall, a 30-year-old father of three, called the shooting “senseless,” and cops said the killer walked away from the 7:30 a.m. bloodshed in Far Rockaway without a cent. Read More: Daily News

“Occupy” Protester Interrupts Congressman Turner’s Local Swearing-In Ceremony

Occupy Wall Street protestors made an unexpected appearance at Congressman Bob Turner’s ceremonial swearing-in on Sunday in his district Queens. Months after he took office, the Republican took an oath before a large crowd at Queens Metropolitan High School in Forest Hills. Read More: NY1

Woodhaven Man Charged With Killing Neighbor

A Queens man was arraigned on murder and weapons charges in connection with the death of his neighbor in Woodhaven. Police say Mustafa Omran, 53, lived upstairs from Yasmen Rabban on 91st Avenue. Authorities were called to Rabban’s apartment last month after she had not been heard from in a while. When they got to the apartment, they found Rabban dead, with puncture wounds to her neck. Read More: NY1

Queens Swastika Graffiti Suspect Arraigned On Four Counts Of Criminal Mischief

A 40-year-old man was arraigned on hate crime charges in Queens Saturday. Franco Rodriguez is being held on $5,000 bail for allegedly painting swastikas on several buildings. He did not enter a plea during his court appearance. Rodriguez has been charged with four counts of malicious mischief, all as hate crimes. Police sources say he was identified on video surveillance. Read More: NY1

State Ban On Smoking At Outdoor Commuter Rail Platforms Takes Effect

A new state law that bans smoking on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s outdoor commuter rail platforms, including Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road stations, took effect Sunday. Smokers now face a $50 fine for breaking the rule. MTA police officers will give out warnings before they start writing tickets. The agency said the ban promotes a healthier, cleaner environment and reduces the chance of a track fire. Read More: NY1

Plans pitched to turn landmark New York State Pavilion into multi-million-dollar air museum   
Author Jeannette Remak wants to re-fashion the New York State Pavilion — built for the 1964 World’s Fair but left vacant for decades — into a tourist hotspot where vintage airplanes hang from the ceiling. Remak has support from the Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in East Elmhurst, which has offered interns to help run the museum. Read More: Daily News

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 11/08/2011: Boxing legend Joe Frazier dies, 67

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Severed Foot Found On Front Lawn In Rosedale; Turns Out To Be Bear’s

There’s relief in Rosedale this morning after a gruesome discovery rattled nerves. A man taking out the garbage Sunday night found what appeared to be a severed child’s foot on his front lawn. Police responded to the scene to investigate. On Monday morning, the Medical Examiner’s Office determined the foot was that of a bear. Read More: CBS News



Man Arrested For Alleged Groping Of Shayne DeJesus On Train

Police in Queens say they’ve arrested the man who allegedly groped Shayne DeJesus at the Union Square subway station. Froylan Andrade, 39, is charged with sex abuse after cops were able to identify him from a photo DeJesus snapped on the train. Read More: WPIX



Feds forced to return nearly $1 million to Gallagher’s 2000, a Long Island City strip club 

The feds have been ordered to return nearly $1 million seized from a Queens strip club after a judge cleared the owner of civil charges of financial improprieties. Robert Potenza, the pistol-packing owner of Gallagher’s 2000 in Long Island City, ran afoul of government agents who suspected the strip club king had made more than 100 bank deposits in amounts less than $10,000 in order to avoid federal reporting requirements. Read More: Daily News



Graffiti legend was also an NYPD cop

Police have discovered the identity of one of New York City’s most prolific graffiti vandals — and he’s one of their own. Steven Weinberg, 43, of Flushing, a patrolman who retired from the NYPD in 2001 after hurting his leg, is the notorious “Neo” — one of the peskiest subway taggers of the 1980s. Read More: New York Post



Boxing legend Joe Frazier dies, 67

In another era, Joe Frazier—”Smokin’ Joe” to anybody who cared about boxing—might have perched serenely atop the heavyweight boxing division for a decade, his powerful punches and stolid visage epitomizing pugilistic grace. Mr. Frazier, who died Monday at age 67 after a brief bout with liver cancer, was small by heavyweight standards. But he was a warrior who smothered his opponents with punches, including a devastating left hook he used to end many of his fights early. Read More: Wall Street Journal

Waging war on Woodside graffiti

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer - Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer united with residents of Woodside on November 1 to remove unwanted graffiti in the neighborhood.

The war against graffiti in Queens is never ending, but Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer has no reservations about arming himself with a brush and leading the charge.

The councilmember united with CitySolve, a graffiti removal company, and residents of Woodside on November 1 to stand in opposition to the vandalism that has plagued the neighborhood.

During the demonstration, Van Bramer painted over graffiti at the corners of 57th, 58th, 63rd and 64th Streets along 39th Avenue.

“Vandalizing private property with graffiti is a crime against the individual who owns the property and the surrounding community,” said Van Bramer. “I am proud to fund this free, district-wide service which aims to eradicate graffiti in our neighborhoods. We can’t get every tag, but we’re certainly going to do our best to get those reported to us within a week. That can only enhance the quality of life in Woodside and throughout all of the neighborhoods I represent.”

The councilmember’s fight against graffiti began roughly a year ago, when he initiated his District 26 clean-up program. Now in its second year, the program has led to the cleaning of over 1,000 locations, including monthly graffiti removal on the corridors of Broadway, Skillman Avenue, 43rd Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue and Woodside Avenue. The initiative recently expanded to include 43rd and 48th Avenues as well.

As part of the program, residents of District 26 can also report graffiti anywhere in their community by calling 718-383-9566, ext. 3, and the unwanted vandalism will be removed within a week.

Along with funding the anti-graffiti program for $30,000 a year through the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, Van Bramer also supports graffiti clean-up days with groups like Sunnyside United Neighborhood Network, Woodside on the Move and the 114th Citizens Observation Patrol.

Residents of District 26 appreciate the efforts taken by Van Bramer, and they are hoping he can help rid the area of graffiti once and for all.

“I think graffiti can be demoralizing to a community,” said Sheila Lewandowski, a resident of Long Island City and a victim of graffiti. “You choose how you want the front of your place to look, and when someone vandalizes it without your permission, they are laying claim to its appearance, and I find that very demoralizing. I believe the councilmember’s anti-graffiti campaign is a very positive way to bring people together to reclaim the appearance of our community.”


Artist’s plight after cleaning up blight

| ecamhi@queenscourier.com

After textile designer/artist Paola Belotti transformed a graffiti-laden wall in a Maspeth alleyway into a giant Tuscan mural last August, she not only elevated a “wall of shame” to a “wall of fame,” she brought a sense of peace and beauty to many of the local residents.

The mural was born through a happy accident that occurred while at an afternoon barbecue in the alleyway behind Maspeth Wines & Liquors on 69th Street. After learning of her talent, the owner had asked her to simply cover the graffiti behind his store that she noted “looked terrible.” She suggested a mural of Tuscany to reflect the theme of wine.

Through the three weeks it took to complete, the mural unfolded organically – without any sketches.

“It is everything in my mind. I grew up in Italy where I could see vineyards, barrels, lemon trees, wall fountains with lions, bricks and columns,” noted Belloti of her work.

She recalls meeting residents who were curious and joyful at the transformation. She said many commented on how peaceful it made them feel. She also recalls hearing local employees making plans to lunch in the alleyway, so they could enjoy “lunch in Tuscany.”

“With my mural I wanted to give a message of simple beauty and serenity, instead of the screaming graffiti, and I think I achieved that,” she said.

Painting the mural also gave her the “therapy” she needed during a difficult time.

“I was going through all these difficult moments. My Green Card had been denied … I was really struggling.”

The struggle is ongoing for Belotti. After 14 years of being a successful textile designer with a Midtown firm, she is now facing deportation.

Originally from Lake Como, Italy, she was recruited to New York in 1997 under a work visa. When her Green Card was denied at the same time she was laid off in 2010, she knew she was facing deportation. She is now here under a tourist visa and is appealing her Green Card.

Belotti claims her lawyer did not submit a thorough Green Card application back in 2002.

She says she has put thousands of dollars into renewing her visas and believes it would be an “extreme hardship” to start her life and career over again in Italy.

Belotti calls art her “passion” and wants to continue her career in the U.S. because she believes she has “much to offer.”

“I own an an apartment,” she said. “I have my own bank account and no debts.I have always obeyed the law and have paid my taxes diligently from the first day I arrived in the U.S. I was hoping to one day have the privilege of voting.”

Since the mural, Belotti has been commissioned for various paid and unpaid projects, but has yet to find a permanent job.

Although somewhat downtrodden by the struggles, she remains determined.

“At least I can say I tried,” she said. “I will try hard to stay until the last straw.”