All posts by Richie

Richie is a native New Yorker who has lived in three of the five boroughs. The consummate underdog, not only is he a rare NYC Republican (albeit a moderate one), but he is also a lifelong Mets, Jets, Rangers, and Knicks fan. Undaunted by this, he retains his optimism that better days for all those groups are not that far off. When he isn't catching a game, taking in a concert or a show, or becoming a better photographer, he is usually reading about the latest gadgets or opining the need for more moderate political discourse and policymaking.

Would You Let Someone Destroy MOMA in Favor of Apartments?

Sometimes I’ll read an article or blog post bemoaning the gradually dissappearing ‘edginess’ of New York City. Most of the time, I don’t take such pieces too seriously since they, more often than not, equate crime, dirtiness or silliness like Off Track Betting with the character that is being lost, while informal institutions of art and culture fall to the wayside with little or no protest. Now, I’m not talking about protesting new archways or paneling of a building that still maintains its original use or theme. Many times, those protesting such changes don’t really know or understand why they are doing so, and they get caught up in the small details at the expense of the big picture.

Every now and then, however, there comes a time when it is wholly justified to stand in the way of forces that threaten a significant cultural center, even if said center isn’t very well known. Which is why I’m dismayed, though not very surprised, at the lack of writers, activists and media outlets coming to the defense of one of the very institutions I speak of, whose very existence is now at stake.

Panoramic view of 5 Pointz

5 Pointz in Long Island City is widely considered to be one of the world’s great standing street art and graffiti exhibitions, providing artists with space on the outer walls of a 200,000 square foot factory building and fairly priced studio space within the building itself. Founded in 1993 as the Phun Factory, the purpose of using this particular building was to encourage street artists to showcase their work in a formal, legal setting and expand the scope of their work. Today, it is known worldwide as one of the greatest havens for graffiti artists to create their work, and it costs nothing to enjoy the final product – you can see much the art from the 7-train as it leaves Queens Plaza.

Along with other such spaces, street artists and events, 5 Pointz can be partly credited with transforming what was once considered to be a lower form of art (if at all), limited to the inner city and done illegally, into a medium that can you can now place a bid on at Christie’s and other auction houses. All you need to do to see how far street art has come is watch Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary about the complete absurdity of the art world viewed through the lens of street art.

As contemporary visual art spaces go, 5 Pointz is second to none, offering a unique perspective into this still emerging mainstream artform. People were creating art there at the Phun Factory when no one else cared to even make the trip to LIC to see it. Now that the area is primo real estate, as young professionals are priced out of Brooklyn and Manhattan, the owner of the space, developer Jerry Wolkoff, who has himself called 5 Pointz a ‘great place,’ is seeking to redevelop the property. His $350 million plan includes residential buildings in place of the 200 studios presently there and commercial space in place of the walls these artists have used as their canvass for 18 years.

Simply exploring the idea of destroying 5 Pointz in order to build residential and commercial property says all we need to know about the status of street art, its place in the art world and how far it still has to come before it is truly taken seriously, and that is a shame.

5 Pointz from below the 7-train

Anyone who has read my December 20th post on the Provincetown Playhouse knows that I’m not one of those people who constantly hollers, kicks and screams any time something changes in this city. What is most important to me is that an art space’s essence and purpose is preserved, rather than specific elements of the building itself. While I am sticking to that sentiment in this case, 5 Pointz shows us that in order to protect that essence and purpose here, we must preserve this physical space.

There are few spots that offer such a vivid image of the New York City I know and love, and 5 Pointz is one of them. It brings street artists of different backgrounds, different skill levels and different visions together around one space. And unlike other museums, it doesn’t only showcase well-known artists. The very definition of street art makes it a medium that is meant to be accessible to all – it is ground level instead of ivory tower, it is created within the surrounding environment rather than in spite of it and it communicates to people within the people’s domain. It is in that sense that 5 Pointz is a premier contemporary art space that reflects the medium it is showing, and it should be treated as such.

Staircase inside 5 Pointz

It offers a truly unique urban feel, the New York grittiness that so many people wax poetic about. And it’s about to fall victim to the continued homogenization of this city, another in a long line of casualties that has that has claimed other capitals of art and culture that we were once proud of here.

So take a moment and visit 5ptz.com to learn more about the space and sign their petition to let Mr. Wolkoff know that you value the art that has been created there throughout the years, and you think it should be allowed to continue. Or at least take a look out of the window the next time you ride the 7-train.

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Privacy in the Digital Age

To many in the tech community, yesterday’s State of the Union address was significant, to say the least. Channeling his inner JFK, President Obama spoke of our nation’s ‘Sputnik moment,’ a time where we need to step up and take on our toughest challenges in a new digital age. As with the dawn of the space race, the United States has lagged behind other nations in its technological development. But with the resources at our disposal, and the classic American quest for excellence, last evening’s speech marked a new day where we can move forward in our digital development as a nation. And at the core was President Obama’s vision for a new age in technology, led by us.

Continue reading Privacy in the Digital Age

To Design Safer Streets, NYC Should Look to Boston

In the fall of 2009, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino kicked off the modern era of street design in his city, stating that ‘the car is no longer the king in Boston.’ No longer would the city welcome newly designed streets that place the needs of motorists above all. Instead, in an effort to promote smart growth, healthier living and an overall strengthened quality of life, motorists are now placed on equal footing with cyclists, pedestrians and users of mass transit in its Complete Streets approach to street design. Streets won’t simply be a way to get from one destination to another, but they would be destinations in and of themselves, serving as beautifully designed public spaces in addition to conduits.

Just as our neighbor-metropolis to the north has embraced the fact that the city needs to design and create streets that also serve as aesthetically pleasing public spaces that are accessible to cyclists, pedestrians and mass transit users as well as motorists, New York City should follow its lead and make greater efforts to kick off similar Complete Streets initiatives. Continue reading To Design Safer Streets, NYC Should Look to Boston

NYPD Crackdown on Cyclists Exposes Misplaced Safety Priorities

Just one week into 2011, motorists on Brooklyn streets have claimed one life and injured four others – one by a hit-and-run driver and three by a speeding driver. That hasn’t stopped the NYPD from, once again, failing to identify the real threats on New York streets that are, as often forgotten, shared by pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorists. As the Brooklyn Paper reported late last week, the NYPD instead has announced a new crackdown on ‘vehicular offenses’ by cyclists – things like failing to obey traffic signals, tailgating, speeding and even turn signaling. Continue reading NYPD Crackdown on Cyclists Exposes Misplaced Safety Priorities

Why Reince Priebus is Bad for the GOP, Great for Democrats

While this may not be a mainstream issue, the election of a new RNC chairman may have more residual effects than one realizes. As frontrunner and Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus widens his lead in the race to become the next chairman of the Republican National Committee and we are introduced to him, it becomes apparent that his election might be the worst possible scenario for Republicans and could become the most significant motivator of the Democratic base as we begin to gear up for the 2012 presidential election. Aside from his closed-minded and polarizing philosophy on how he would run the RNC, signs also point to possible strategic and logistical flaws that will not place the GOP in a particularly strong position to contend for the White House next year. Allow me to explain. Continue reading Why Reince Priebus is Bad for the GOP, Great for Democrats

Exploration of the Secret New York

Throughout my 26 years of life in NYC, I’ve moved around quite a bit and I have connections to different parts of the city. My grandparents are still in the East Village apartment where I lived as a child, I can still remember playing in the schoolyard across from the apartment where I was raised in Bushwick and today I’m living in Queens. I’ve never lived anywhere other than NYC, and I’ve had a unique opportunity to experience many different New Yorks all within roughly 300 square miles. Continue reading Exploration of the Secret New York

Two Vastly Different Mayors. Two Vastly Different Responses to the Blizzard.

After a week in Central America and another week relaxing and recharging in Key West (hence the lack of posts), I have returned to a snow-covered NYC to experience the aftermath of the blizzard that slammed the northeast, rendering one of the largest cities in the country nearly inoperative for days. The unfortunate truth is that the seemingly inadequate response to the storm by NYC government is hardly a rare occurrence. Whether it’s snow, wind or rain, the response by the respective city agencies tasked with handling the effects of these natural events is usually a relative comedy of errors, with no tangible indication that conditions will improve. Continue reading Two Vastly Different Mayors. Two Vastly Different Responses to the Blizzard.