Thursday, August 25, 2011

LIC Development: No Love

Long Island City has seen much development since the 2000s.
The westernmost Queens neighborhood went from bring an industrial blight only recognizable by the Pepsi Coke sign to "Manhattan East" in a nanosecond.
Most of the gray areas gave way to high rises, the Citibank skyscraper and Court Square.
With yuppies from all over making LIC their home, the few places that corporate shills have yet to touch are dying out.
5 Pointz: The Institute For Higher Burnin' stands along with P.S.1 and the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum as a bastion of organic life across the East River. With worldwide popularity, it baffles the mind why the city hasn't taken extra measures to protect this landmark.
Or why owner Jerry Wolkoff is letting the gentrification monster eat his warehouses as the dessert after making its surroundings the main course.
In March, Wolkoff angered many Queens residents, hip-hoppers and bombers when he announced plans to destroy the graffiti mecca and replace it with more high rises. While the warehouses still stand, so do Wolkoff's plans to get rid of them. His comments in the April edition of the Village Voice blog prove how out of touch he really is with what the people want.
When asked how LIC has responded to the news, Wolkoff claimed that "the people in the neighborhood love that they're taking it down. Not everybody loves that type of art." Try telling that to the thousands who created an online petition called "Show Your Love To 5 Pointz" to voice their discontent, along with the "Save 5 Pointz" Facebook page.
Matter of fact, say that directly to Meres 1, the guy who decides which artists can tag on the 200,000 sq ft wonder. Unlike Wolkoff, who stays in Deep Long Island, Meres is actually at the site every day. Its been that way practically since 2002, when he first came on as the site's manager.
Wolkoff says that only 15-20 people come to 5 Pointz on a daily basis.
Meres 1 sees it a little bit differently.
"I would say a couple hundred people a day," he remarked while sitting in his green van behind the warehouses.
The most idiotic retort Wolkoff gave to those who want 5 Pointz to stay open is that it has no redeeming value whatsoever. An outdoor public graffiti museum, the only one of its kind in New York City, is worthless?
Once again, the incomparable Meres sets the real story.
"5 Pointz brings a lot of tourists. It opens a lot of people's eyes to the art form who may not, you know, be aware of the art itself, the way it's done and even what it says or means," the curator said. "It allows people to kinda enter our world and firsthand see it and understand it better."
Reflecting its universal appeal, people of every ethnicity and origin can be seen tagging their signs along the yellow and red infrastructure.
It's pretty normal to hear dialects like Bengali and Swahili mingling among themselves with no conflict.
Sometimes, English won't be found unless you search for it.
Poland native and B-Boy Zajcew may not know much about the King's language, but he knew enough to tell Wolkoff what he needs to hear.
"For me, it's like, big shit. You know, cause this place is like a huge gallery for all the people from all over the world. That was my first place in New York," the newcomer shared.
"When I come (came) to New York two weeks ago, my friends took me here and told me (the) whole story about this place. So I think, fuck this guy who wants to close this place. "
Zajcew says he's already signed the petition to save 5 Pointz and plans on telling his friends about it when he returns to Poland, proving word about the development is stretching far beyond New York boundaries.
When you get down to it, Wolkoff is just another Bloomberg in disguise. He'll tell you he knows what's going on with his properties, yet he's there as often as a deadbeat dad who comes around here and there to pretend he actually cares about his sperms. Nobody truly knows how much longer 5 Pointz has until the bulldozers make it into another long gone NYC memory. Meres 1 just wants to make it as enjoyable as he can in the meantime.
"For now, what we're concentrating on is this year and hopefully next year. It's undetermined if we'll be here longer than that. So the time we definitely have, we wanna concentrate on making the best time, and just pretty much go day-to-day. Not so much get overwhelmed with what might be."
Note to City: If this place closes down, expect the second subway graffiti era. We'll bring our cameras.

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