At the legendary corner of Bleecker and MacDougal streets, several storefronts are empty. Pasted on the windows are mysterious posters resembling oversized Monopoly cards.
"It looked like a big game between tenants and landlords and politicians, and nobody wanted to take responsibility for anything, and everybody was just trying to play this big game," said the artist who created them.
The artist says he has placed them on 80 vacant storefronts in Manhattan over the past three weeks, a one-man protest of how rising rents are forcing many shops and stores to close. He agreed to talk to NY1 only if he appeared in disguise.
"New York as a vibrant city is losing something," he said. "We gain nothing from storefronts that sit empty. There’s no nightlife, there’s no life there, there’s no merchandise. Nothing's happening, and it’s a loss for all of us."
One Monopoly card is posted on 203 Bleecker Street. Carol Walsh's store, Native Leather, had been here 49 years until October, when she says the landlord made it impossible to stay.
"He wanted to practically double the rent for the next tenant," she said. "And I mean, I couldn’t do it."
NY1 recently counted more than 50 empty stores along Bleecker Street, an iconic Greenwich Village address.
Experts say it's not just rising rents causing the wave of vacancies, but also the shift to e-commerce.
The Monopoly cards also are displayed along Broadway and Lexington Avenue, and around the Lower East Side.
The artist says he would love to make Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue versions of his Monopoly cards to paste on empty storefronts uptown, but he’s worried that area might be a little too high-profile for his unsanctioned art.
"Lots of security cameras, so maybe in the stealth of night, I'll visit them," he said.
He came up with the monthly rent prices on the cards from Real Estate Board of New York reports.
He says the response, online and on the street, has been overwelmingly positive.
"People really seem to fall in love with this, and they're really understanding and getting the message, which I find fantastic."
He says he will continue to post his Monopoly cards because in this real life game of real estate, New Yorkers continue to be losers.