Friday, October 11, 2013

5Pointz, I Hardly Knew Ye

Over the weekend we were watching a cheesy movie called "Now You See Me" about a team of magicians that pull off increasingly elaborate heists. (In fairness, I'm not sure it's possible to make a non-cheesy movie about a team of magicians.)

The finale takes place in New York and features a chase on the Queensboro Bridge, complete with shots of Roosevelt Island. Then the magicians head to a graffiti-strewn warehouse called 5Pointz where they put on one last performance.

At the time I thought, "This movie is so unrealistic — they even had to make up some fake venue called 5Pointz."

Well, it turns out 5Pointz is real. In fact, it's not far from the Roosevelt Island Bridge in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens.

Photo courtesy of Gothamist.

The place — an old factory that's 200,000 square feet — is known as the the world’s premiere “graffiti mecca” (with more than 350 murals) and it's played host to concerts by everyone from Doug E. Fresh to Joan Jett.

From the 5Pointz website:
The name 5Pointz signifies the five boroughs coming together as one, but because of its reputation as an epicenter of the graffiti scene, the industrial complex has actually united aerosol artists from across the world. Legendary writers from Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Japan, Brazil, and all over the United States have painted on the building walls.
How have I missed this place until now? Anyway, here comes the sad part. Within days of discovering 5Pointz, I learned that it's being shut down.

It was announced this week that the venue will be demolished in favor of two luxury condo buildings. But don't despair. The developers say they will "honor and recognize the tradition of 5Pointz and the history of the legacy of aerosol art and the artists." It will be interesting to see how they try to pull that off.

I can't really claim to be too broken up about all this. I only learned about 5Pointz a few days ago, and it was from a movie where Dave Franco wards off an attacker by flinging playing cards at him. (Yes, this is an actual scene in the film.)

Still, the situation reminds me of the bittersweet decision to finally shut down the Defenestration Building in SoMa (pictured below).

Photo courtesy of As I See It.

In both cases, the neighborhood is probably better off with housing than a quasi-abandoned building. But for San Francisco and New York, an increasingly rare bit of urban whimsy will vanish forever.