As the above-ground train rolls past the Court Square stop on the 7 line, a stone’s throw into the heart of Long Island City, passengers are awakened by a defiant cacophony of shapes and colors against a backdrop of the graying and decrepit Queens skyline. There, a red-brick warehouse stands proud, one entirely outfitted in graffiti tags and murals by aerosol artists. Born of a mission to create a legal urban canvas for the criminal art form flaring up in excess throughout the city during the early ’90s, the brainchild of founder Pat DiLillo—then known as “The Phun Phactory”—opened in 1993. In 2002, Jonathan Cohen—an FIT grad who had been tagging since he was 13 and is better known in these parts by his nom de plume Meresone—began curating the work. He soon rechristened the building “5 Pointz,” after the five boroughs of New York City. But it has since branched out and become a cultural mecca of sorts, with pieces by artists from cities such as Paris, Madrid, London and Germany.
On any weekday, while businesses—a clothing factory, storage space for city hotdog vendors and a small non-profit gallery called Local Projects—hum away inside the building, Mr. Cohen can be found in or around the building, monitoring projects and making sure nobody is painting without his permission.
“I’m here every day, I have no life.”
But the 39-year-old Flushing Native may soon be getting his free time back—at the price of his life’s work. Read More