Farewell 5Pointz: Visit While You Still Can

The landmark factory building and world-famous “graffiti mecca” known as 5Pointz is officially on death row, having lost its latest battle against the landlord and developers who want to see it razed to make room for two luxury apartment buildings. Named to signify the coming together of all five NYC boroughs, 5Pointz encompasses 200,000 square feet of artist studios, galleries and walls covered in graffiti art.

“I made something special with the 5pointz—not me, but the artists,” Jeffrey Wolkoff, the building’s owner, told WNYC. “I created it, a vision, and we’re going to do something special on these buildings, something special by the time we’re finished with it.”

Marie Flageul, a spokesperson for 5Pointz artists, doesn’t see anything special about another luxury doorman building going up in New York, and in this case, she says it’s harming the creative community: “Long Island City is not Williamsburg. Long Island City is not Dumbo. Long Island City has been struggling from day one to keep an artists scene. And everything they’re doing in developing Long Island City is pushing out the artists.”

According the 5Pointz website, founder and curator Jonathan Cohen, a graffiti veteran mostly known through his tag Meres One, had “plans to convert the five-story, block-long industrial complex at Jackson Avenue and Davis Street into a graffiti museum.” He had been seeking a 501(c)3 certification for 5Pointz to receive tax-exempt status, which would have allowed tax-deductible donations. But instead, LIC will be getting two apartment towers, both more than 40 stories.

The site also notes: “Over the past decade, the striking, graffiti-covered warehouse has attracted several hip-hop and R&B stars, including Doug E. Fresh, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Kaz, Mobb Deep, Rahzel, DJ JS-1, Boot Camp Clik, Joan Jett, and Joss Stone.”

A small concession has been made, however. Wolkoff, who let artists cover his building in graffiti since 2002—including a celebrated portrait of the one of hip-hop’s founding fathers, Jam-Master Jay—said that the new buildings will have an arts space “for some artists, not graffiti, but regular artists.”

Not sure what a “regular artist” is, but for fans and purveyors of aerosol-based art, it’s a sad day—and time to make one last pilgrimage to the place known as the “Institute of Higher Burnin’.” The apartment complex’s residents will have to get their art fix from nearby MoMA/PS1, a converted public school that does feature some works painted directly on its interior walls (like Richard Artschwager’s famous pill-shaped “blips“).

Historically, graffiti has generally been viewed by the ruling class as vandalism, but it has found a warm embrace within the confines of contemporary art. Curator and art dealer Jeffrey Deitch, for example, has been a strong defender, having been involved with graffiti and street art culture for three decades.

Deitch’s first show in New York following his recent resignation from MOCA opens today at Leila Heller Gallery and reprises “Calligraffiti,” an exploration of Middle Eastern street art and calligraphy that he curated in 1984. The exhibition is timely. Just this month, the Amman, Jordan-based news website Al Bawaba observed that “[g]raffiti, once the trade of thugs and unruly teens, is having something of a second coming in the Middle East.”

Indeed, while many see graffiti as a scourge, it has often proven to be a unifying social force, particularly for communities that have undergone periods of shared hardship. In her essay “Graffiti as Trash Rhetoric: Debating the Future of New Orleans through its Public Space,” Doreen Piano, associate professor at the University of New Orleans, notes “graffiti’s role in the city’s recovery, engendering a vibrant local writing culture.”

And then of course, there is the art form’s lighter side. “Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing,” wrote graffiti artist and street art provocateur Banksy in his book Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall. “And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.”

For more information about 5Pointz, visit their website.

image: Ezmosis

Next Week’s NY Happenings: Txikifest, The Living Room, Taste of LIC

SUNDAY: Basque in the Sun At Txikifest
Legendary Basque wine Txakoli gets its turn in the spotlight at this year’s Txikifest. Chelsea’s Txikito (pronounced “chiquito,” but you knew that) does the hosting, with a mini-street fair going off in their back alley. Pintxos will be served by co-hosts El Quinto Pino and La Vara. Ringers like The Hurricane Club and Sullivan Street Bakery will also be pitching in on the Basque tapas action.
Txikifest at Txikito (240 Ninth Ave., Chelsea) starts at 1pm on Sunday, June 2nd. Tickets are $50, with proceeds benefitting Sanctuary for Families. To learn more about the restaurant, check out Txikito’s listing at BlackBook Guides.

TUESDAY: South Beach Into FiDi
The W New York – Downtown celebrates the return of the heat with this week’s Terrace Fest at The Living Room. Tuesday night sees W South Beach barman Tomer Doar paying a visit to the big town, with a Pavan Liqueur bar and Cuban sandwiches to keep the Miami vibes flowing.
Travel Tuesday at The Living Room Bar& Terrace (123 Washington St., Financial District) starts at 6pm on Tuesday, June 4th. Tickets are required. To learn more about the bar, check out The Living Room’s listing at BlackBook

TUESDAY: The 8th Annual Taste of LIC
To witness Long Island City’s continuing evolution, look no further than the 8th Annual Taste of LIC, which brings all the new hotspots to Gantry Plaza State Park. Alobar, M. Wells Dinette, and Pachanga Patterson are among the local heroes dishing out delights along the East River.
General admission entry to the 8th Annual Taste of LIC starts at 6:30pm on Tuesday, June 4th. Tickets are $60. M. Wells Dinette (22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City) will be among the many purveyors of food and drink. To learn more about the restaurant, check out Dinette’s listing at BlackBook Guides.

Know every inch of this city by visiting BlackBook’s NY City Guides

What We’ve Wanted All Along: Long Island City’s S Prime

S Prime, the steakhouse that opened this fall in Long Island City, certainly has some competition from the other side of the bridge.

In 1985, Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino crime family, was gunned down in front of Sparks at the behest of John Gotti, and it’s for this reason I’ve always had an affinity for steakhouses. I’m not partial to violence; I’m terrified of guns. But growing up as a native New Yorker plucked from my home city, visits back were always validated by a visit to Sparks (or Keens or Peter Luger), where the grounds of something as cartoonishly New Yorkey as a famous mob hit helps to beat on against the current of The Lion King on Broadway.

Which is to say, a good steakhouse ought not to dazzle with anything too inventive. Rather, it should give us those reminders—oysters on the half shell, thick-ass filets, buttered-up vegetables—of what we’ve always loved enough to shell out hundreds of dollars for. And it’s in this regard that S Prime knows what it’s doing.

The executive chef Joel Reiss – who’s made the rounds of The Post House, Maloney & Porcelli, Orsay, and Artisanal – strikes a blend of sincerity and not-taking-things-too-seriously that seems to get rarer in this city, between the purveyors of hipster ramen and any of those farm-to-table gastropub people the New Yorker has profiled. The only addendum to the meat itself is an optional Cajun spice rub. Every time Reiss mentioned it, he’d hold up his palms and go, “I make it myself,” all in one syllable.   

The signature cuts vary a bit from my admittedly infantile adherence to filet mignon (if I couldn’t gnaw through a rib eye at 5, why try now?). A 28-ounce, 60-day dry aged rib eye is Reiss’ trophy steak, again with the self-made Cajun spice that is, indeed, spicy.

The trio of tartares is a must: smoked salmon with bagel chips, spicy tuna with wanton chips, and a steak tartare you could eat a whole sandwich of. The sides list, divided between “Good Sides” (vegetables) and “Bad Sides” (fatty stuff), features a Lap Cheong fried rice and baby brussel sprouts rolled in butter and parmesan, which are much less bitter (maybe it was the butter?) than their larger siblings and are also, as I’ve discovered, incredibly hard to find in the grocery store. And then there’s the crab cake, which is pleasantly made of crab, as opposed to celery and bread crumbs. 

All this stuff is served in ample portions, and the food itself is appetizing enough that no frivolous design affects are necessary. The dining room, with tall ceilings and tufted leather booths, is night-clubby in a Queens sort of way. But the best part is that despite all the dark accents, the place is lit up enough so you can see what you’re eating.

Reiss, a Queens native, now lives in Oceanside, where he keeps a fishing boat that he takes out most mornings. “Catch a striped bass—that’s dinner for three days.” After a long whimsy about steaks, he conceded that most nights these days, it’s chicken or fish. “Twice a month I’ll have a piece of meat.” You know, as a reminder.

You Say Tomato, Alobar Says Tomatoes – and Lots of ‘Em

Kicking off the start of tomato season, Alobar, Jeff Blath’s nose-to-tail restaurant in Long Island City, Queens, is letting the red fruit loose with their Tomato Festival Menu, created by chef Ian Kapitan, formerly of Jo Jo, Vong, and Danube.

"What I like about tomato season is the versatility in working with tomatoes and the various preparations that you can do with them,” said Kapitan. “The most unusual preparation has probably been tomato water Jello. It throws your senses off until you figure out what it is."

Tomato gelatin won’t appear on the special menu, but there are at least six other tomato-based dishes to try, including an Algerian-style spicy tomato soup, roasted tomato ravioli with house-made ricotta and mushroom bacon broth, and tomato bread and jam. The restaurant also offers two drinks in honor of the festival: a tomato water martini and Bloody Mary’s with fresh-squeezed yellow tomatoes. The special menu runs from September 3 to 9 and $30 will get you two courses and a cocktail.

While tomatoes are the focus of that week, you can still order from the cozy restaurant’s regular menu, which features meaty dishes like country fried rabbit, maple bacon popcorn, Amish pig tails, and duck confit sloppy Joes. Plus, they have a great beer and wine list, creative cocktails like the Smoked Peach: a mezcal, jalapeño, and Cointreau drink. If you hit up Alobar on a Tuesday, you get the bonus of $8 whiskey drinks, bourbon flights, and appearances by various whiskey and bourbon distillers.