Atlantic Cities

The End Is Near for New York City's World-Famous 'Graffiti Mecca'

The End Is Near for New York City's World-Famous 'Graffiti Mecca'
Pelle Sten/Flickr

New York City is about to lose 5Pointz, quite possibly the largest collection of street art in the world. 

For the past 20 years, a Queens factory owner has allowed artists to cover his building's facade with colorful names, superheroes, monsters, zombies, and much more. This "graffiti mecca" is a top destination for visitors from around the world. Some come to paint, others to admire the work or use it as backdrop for film and fashion shoots.


Sights around 5Pointz (Top left: Dan Nguyen/Flickr, Top right: Dan Nguyen/Flickr, Bottom: Pelle Sten/Flickr)  

5Pointz is located in a largely industrial part of Long Island City, but that's about to change. Developers plan to replace the factory with two high-rise apartment towers. The proposal, for a 1,049-unit luxury compound, first surfaced in 2011. The New York City Council officially approved the plan last month.


Rendering of the potential development taking 5Pointz's place. (via NYC Dept. of City Planning)

Developers Jerry and David Wolkoff offered to provide 10,000-square-feet of "art panels and walls" in the new buildings. But that arrangement did not satisfy artists, who immediately filed a lawsuit and were granted a 10-day injunction. On Tuesday afternoon, the court ruled against a permanent injunction.

That decision leaves the artists scrambling to re-apply for landmark status before the Wolkoffs rush in with the wrecking ball (a previous application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission was rejected in August). A spokesperson for 5Pointz insists, however, that the fight is not over. "The building is not going to go down before 2014," she told The Queens Courier, explaining that a demolition permit still needs to be issued and tenants have until January to move out.

So far, the public has been split on the news. Banksy, whose New York residency spurred street art mayhem last month, left these parting words on his website: “It's been fun. Save 5pointz. Bye."  But others support the plan, saying the current site is in noticeably bad shape and an inefficient use of space.

Undoubtedly, though, the demolition would also be a huge loss for riders of the city's 7 train, which runs between Manhattan and Flushing, passing right behind 5Pointz. Regular riders have seen 5Pointz countless times. Those who pay extra attention may even notice the dozens of new works added each year, painted right over the old ones.

YouTube offers an extensive collection of videos showing a 7-train view. Here's a shaky, blurry video from 2006.  

And a high-quality version uploaded this past August:

Absorbing 5Pointz from the windows of the 7 embodies the romance of urban living: exposure to alluring signs of life, without even trying, on the average train ride home. Banksy’s month-long street art scavenger hunt was thrilling, but 5Pointz has staying power. At least, until now.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the new development will offer condominiums — the two towers will offer rental apartments. 

Top image by Pelle Sten on Flickr. 

Jenny Xie is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

Join the Discussion