Graffiti sell out?

Wolkoff promises to retain echoes of the graffiti haven, with gallery space and "art walls" in a pedestrian area.

But the wild style days are over.

"It can't be all, it can't be 100 percent of the building, it can't be two 47-storey towers with graffiti all over it," he said.

Graffiti is an inherently uncertain, temporal business, so, in a sense, the death of 5Pointz might be expected.

But artists say the building has transcended its raw street roots, achieving the status of a bona fide gallery - or even museum - for a popular art form.

"At the end of the day, this is a place where people come for cultural enrichment," said Andre Pinard, a market researcher who follows the graffiti world.

Perusing the walls, a visitor will find works by graffiti luminaries like Stay High 149, Cope2, and Tats Cru, some of them coming from as far away as Brazil and Japan.

"There's a sense of history," a visitor, Jay Diaz, 31, said. "I wish (the building) could stay up. It's like any gallery."

While regular New York graffiti artists - many would call them vandals - risk fines and even jail every time they spray walls, the denizens of 5Pointz enjoy a more comfortable existence.

There's a rebel vibe. "Dear ARTWORLD, when we inherit the EARTH, YOU aren't invited. Love, MY Generation," reads one painted slogan.

But the tour groups, corporate team building opportunities, and sales of graffiti-emblazoned baseball caps and other merchandizing, tell another story. Graffiti has become a business.

Banga remembers the thrill of painting illegally - "the adrenalin, the fear of dying all the time" - but at 42 and with children, says, "I don't do that anymore."

"I sell canvasses," he said.

Still, for young street artists, the more elemental lure of graffiti will survive 5Pointz's disappearance.

"I remember first time I was on a roof I was scared. I cried," a young man who said his tag was Peal GI, told AFP. "But you get a rush. You're climbing, you're breaking the law. It's wild."

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