By Bill Parry
The demolition of 5Pointz is nearly complete and owner Gerry Wolkoff is pressing ahead with a construction project that will see two luxury residential high-rises go up in its place.
He was surprised to learn the National Trust for Historic Preservation put the destroyed graffiti mecca on its list of “Five Important Places We Lost Forever This Year,” joining the likes of the F.W. Woolworth store in New Orleans, a landmark of the civil rights movement; and a sacred native American place that is being turned into a two-mile wide crater by mining.
“That’s crazy,” Wolkoff said. “Don’t they know that building had to come down? That place was falling apart and one woman was nearly killed because the place was falling apart.”
Wolkoff is refering to Nicole Gagne, a jewelry designer who was nearly crushed when an outdoor fire escape she was descending collapsed on April 10, 2009. Gagne fell 3 1/2 floors and was wedged between two wooden pallets as concrete rubble and rebar came down on top of her.
“That scared the daylights out of me,” Wolkoff said. “Even after we were allowed back in I was always worried about the artists.”
He knew then that the massive 200,000-square-foot warehouse complex would have to come down.
In October 2013, the City Council approved a special zoning permit that allowed Wolkoff to develop the property and after the 5Pointz artists tried but failed, to stop him in court, Wolkoff ordered an overnight whitewashing of the work put up over the years by as many as 1,500 aerosol artists.
Demolition at the site began this summer and is now almost complete. Only a couple of small buildings remain facing Jackson Avenue. Now it is remembered by the National Trust, a Wahington-based organization that provides support and encouragement for grassroots preservation efforts.
5Pointz is joined on the lost list by Oak Flats in Arizona, 2,400 acres of public land that has cultural and historic significance to many native American tribes in the region. The Woolworth Building, where the first sit-in protest took place against segregation in New Orleans took place, the Mummers Theater in Oklahoma and Wheatley High School in Texas are also on the list.
“There’s a major difference between those places and 5Pointz in that 5Pointz is coming back,” Wolkoff said. “Just in a different form. Bigger, better and most importantly safer.”
When the 47-story and 41-story towers are complete, Wolkoff plans to call the complex 5Pointz. It will include 12,000 square feet of studio space for the aerosol artists to return.
“I’ve been screaming it from the rooftop and nobody believes me,” Wolkoff said. “The artists will be back because their canvas will be back. It’s not gone, goodbye like those other places.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.