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

Eating Culture: New Restaurants for the Arts

In the past couple weeks, two popular chefs have opened their newest eateries with a little more culture then ever before. Culture being literal as the venue for celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s American Table is in Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, and the team behind the beloved M. Wells Diner has launched M. Wells Dinette, their new eatery inside MoMA PS1 in Queens.

“To me, Lincoln Center symbolizes New York City’s passion for culture and performance,” said Samuelsson. “As a lover of the arts, I am honored to showcase the diversity of the American dining scene at this iconic institution.”

Samuelsson’s new cafe is situated along the large glass windows in the concert hall’s foyer, and is helmed by executive chef Charlene Johnson-Hadley, who worked her way up from being line cook at Red Rooster in Harlem. The fare at American Table includes smoked Caesar salad, turkey meatball sandwiches, country ham biscuits, and, naturally, apple pie.

Over at PS1, chefs and owners Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis have converted an old classroom into their restaurant and offer a daily changing menu with items like escargot, rabbit terrine, and bibimbap with tuna and scallops. For those of you who were looking to try M. Wells’ infamous horsemeat tartar, according to Steve Cuozzo of The New York Post they will not be dishing it out any time soon after a PETA protest. M. Wells Dinette is open the same hours as the museum, but despite the classroom look, don’t expect it to be thronged with children as other museum cafeterias are.

With these new restaurants, almost all the hip cultural centers in New York now have the added draw of destination dining to them, mainly thanks to restaurateur Danny Meyer. His Union Hospitality Group runs The Modern at MoMA, followed by Untitled at The Whitney, and they have upped the food ante at Yankee Stadium by filling it with Shake Shack burgers, shakes, and fries. Now all we need is a true meshing of the two and have more food art.

Photo by Philip Greenberg

No Shit, Sherlock: Manhattan Is The Most Expensive Place To Live

Talk about anticlimactic. The Council For Community and Economic Research has released its Cost Of Living Index and confirmed what your checking account already knows: Manhattan is the most expensive place in the country to live.

New York City’s outer boroughs don’t fare much better, despite what your friends who live in Astoria try to tell you. The survey treated the city’s boroughs as their own cities and Brooklyn and Queens are rated the #2 and #6 most expensive places to live respectively.

The New York Post reports that the numbers were crunched based on various points like the cost of housing, groceries and transportation. Both Manhattan and Brooklyn ranked high for their costly housing; while Queens housing prices are less expensive, the beer garden borough has high transportation, health care and utility costs.

Don’t despair, little ducks. There’s always Staten Island!

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com Follow me on Twitter and Tumblr.

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.

Fort Tilden, the Next Top Beach: Yay or Nay?

Going to the beach should be fun and relaxing. But for those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have a car in the city (I sure don’t), the thought of melding with screaming children and their equally obnoxious parents on the subway has you already shaking, perhaps the hipster way is the best choice to take for your next beach adventure. Of course, as the service expands, it has its downside, namely, the takeover of Fort Tilden.

Now Rockabus, the Williamsburg-based shuttle bus service that specializes in transporting hipsters to the beach, makes stops to this unrestricted spot every couple of hours. Joy! Or not. I mean, it’s good for people to go there, but I am afraid if we are not careful, soon Fort Tilden will be less quaint and more annoying. Though, the upside to this might mean more awesome food choices like they have at Rockaway Beach. Right now, the only options at Fort Tilden are the glorious milkshakes in flavors like peanut-butter cup and Almond Joy, or a chili and pepper-cheese-topped hotdog from the Breezy Dog truck. Wish there was someway to bring the food, but leave the obnoxious crowds.

For the decade that I have lived in New York, Fort Tilden has been the place to go to for those souls who wish for a more laidback, cleaner, and topless beach time. Since it doesn’t have lifeguards or security, this spot is the best one to hit to if you like to drink, smoke, and swim out farther than allowed at other beaches. There’s a relative peacefulness to this beach, and though it’s been gaining popularity (heck, even the New York Times has raved about it), it still maintains on the down low.

But, if last year’s boom of Rockaway Beach is any indication of what can happen with easy access, Fort Tilden may loose this sweet serenity. At Rockaway Beach, they went from something most people didn’t think about to a cool-kids paradise. Where once the lone Rockaway Taco dolled out their tasty bites and DiCosmo’s Italian Ice served up cold, all natural fruit ices at a shack down the street, today both have expanded to the boardwalk. There, they are joined by other food purveyors including Caracas Arepa Bar, Lobster Joint, and Rippers burgers. About the time the food came, so did the Rockabus, which means more people and a perpetual beach party.  Not that Fort Tilden isn’t a party spot, but as of now, it’s a calm place to go, and hopefully that won’t change too much.

Thai to Wait For: Pok Pok Ny Continues to Wow

If you were biding your time to try Andy Ricker’s famous Pok Pok Ny until the hype, and the lines, died down, you bet wrong. With today’s two-star review by New York Times writer Pete Wells, Pok Pok is still all anyone can talk talk about. Who ever thought Thai food would be all the rage?

While the ubiquitous fusion food trend tends to strike Asian cuisine the hardest, Ricker’s straightforward menu doesn’t cross any boundaries. His solid Thai cuisine first gained a following in Portland, where he opened the original Pok Pok in 2005. There, he went on to open Pok Pok Noi, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and soon he will add another restaurant to the line up. That’s not all, in 2011 he won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northeast, and this year he debuted Pok Pok Wing in the Lower East Side before opening Pok Pok Ny in Brooklyn. The people have been queuing up since.  

Of course, despite the hype, Pok Pok Ny isn’t perfect. Wells writes in his review:

There are other ways in which Pok Pok Ny hasn’t synchronized its watches yet. An order went missing for ages, then showed up in duplicate. And one night I ran into two or three dishes whose flavors seemed to be napping, including a fried egg salad and even a papaya salad. I left downcast, humming Peggy Lee: Is that all there is?

No, it’s not. In my next visits I was thrilled to taste more remarkable dishes than the table could hold: prawns in smoky noodles simmered with soy and ginger in a clay pot; an eggy pancake of juicy, sweet mussels with garlic chives; a stunningly complex pork laap. Compared with other pork laaps I’ve had, this one seemed to have eight or nine extra dimensions. The memory of it will be enough to keep me docile next time I wait for a table.

In the meantime, if you want to good, authentic Thai food without the wait, try Zaab Elee, which not only is authentic and delicious, but inexpensive. For a modern twist on Thai, chef Hong Thaimee does some amazing things with papaya and lobster at her East Village restaurant Ngam. And, if you really want to go the extra mile (literally), go to Queens and eat at chef Duangjai Thammasat’s Ayada in Elmhurst or Sripraphai in Woodside.

New York Openings: Silk Rd Tavern, Chop Shop, Biang!

Options for casual Asian cuisine should not be limited to sketchy holes in the wall. New NYC additions Silk Rd Tavern, Chop Shop, and Biang! are plating elegant dishes that go light years beyond takeout hit or miss.

Flatiron newcomer Silk Rd Tavern puts pan-Asian twists on classic American comfort foods. Look for mash-ups like Everything Egg Rolls, with duck and foie gras, or a house mac ‘n’ cheese with Korean rice cakes and Vermont cheddar. Potpies upgrade pub grub, combining blue crab, black bean, and Singapore chili.

Chop Shop is the brainchild of Danny Emerman and Mah Chan of Bottino, which is just three doors down. The space is casual (no reservations), but the food is refined. The kitchen works Southeast Asian and Chinese angles, with black beans, chiles, and cumin putting some pop in your dining.

 Golden Mall staple Xi’an Famous Foods finally has a more upscale outpost, deep in Queens, with the opening of Biang!. All the classics are here, as seen on TV. There are also skewers of beef stomach and cubes of pig’s blood in a garlic-chile-vinegar sauce. If you’re adventurous enough for the haul to Flushing, you’re probably bold enough to give these delicacies a shot.