Emmanuel Dunand /AFP/Getty Images
People walk in front of New York's graffiti iconic spot "5Pointz," after the building was painted white in New York.
It was a reversal of traditional roles: Painters contracted by the owners of an unoccupied building in Queens, New York, worked under the cover of night Tuesday morning to white wash years of graffiti that had turned 5Pointz into a street art mecca.
As The New York Times explains, the building was a stop on many tours and was the canvas for some 1,500 artists. The paint-over came after months of public debate and an attempt to declare the building a landmark.
"We are supposed to be the vandals, but this is the biggest rag and disrespect in the history of graffiti," Marie Cecile Flageul, an unofficial curator for 5Pointz, told the New York Times.
A tour guide told the paper: "I don't know how you can erase 12 years of spectacular art. It's cruel."
As for the owner of the building, Jerry Wolkoff: His family had allowed artists to use the facade of the buildings as their canvas for more than 40 years.
He told The Wall Street Journal, however, that now was the time to raze the site and build new stores and apartments.
This was painful for him, he said.
He hired a crew to paint over the art because he could not fathom watching the street art come down as the building was demolished piece by piece.
"This is why I did it: it was torture for them and for me," Wolkoff told the Wall Street Journal. "They couldn't paint anymore and they loved to paint. Let me just get it over with and as I knock it down they're not watching their piece of art going down. The milk spilled. It's over. They don't have to cry."