The rickety ladder of the fire escape swayed as he climbed. Paint from the rungs peeled off and stuck to his palms. The metal cans clanged in his backpack, but he kept up his steady climb.
Reaching the rooftop, he hoisted himself up and swung his legs over, rolling onto his side with the ease of someone who had done this many times. He allowed himself a moment to admire the sight: luxury condominiums touching the sky, the 7 train chugging along, and a bird’s eye view of the living collage of graffiti artwork that covered the walls of the building he was standing on.
Digging out his own aerosol cans from his backpack, he turned to face the half-finished mural of a little girl’s face he was painting on the roof. Kneeling on his knees, he started spraying her strawberry-blond hair, alternating between brown and orange cans.
“I promised you a portrait, little sis,” he whispered, glancing up at the sky. “I hope I make you proud.”
© Jade M. Wong 2017
The name “5 Pointz” signifies the five boroughs of New York coming as one, but because it became an epicenter of the graffiti scene, aerosol artists from Canada, Switzerland, Japan, and other countries around the world traveled here to add their artwork onto the walls.
In 2014, despite protests from the artists, 5 Pointz was demolished by the owner of the building, with plans to be replaced by a luxury condominium.
As a New Yorker, I was really proud of 5 Pointz and felt it added to the culture of the city. To think such a unique piece of artwork and history will now be replaced by yet another luxury condo saddens me. On top of that, the artists didn’t even get a chance to photograph or document their art work so it could be replicated elsewhere. Years of talent, art, and memories just disappeared overnight.