New York City is commonly referred to as a melting pot of cultures, but in actuality, its residents are frequently divided. Despite culturally diverse communities existing in close proximity, tensions between tenants and landlords, and communities and developers, are ever-growing. As rent in one area of the city increases, residents are forced to move into other cheaper areas of the city––until rent goes up there, too. This process—in which rent hikes, development, and zoning dramatically alter a neighborhood—is commonly referred to as “gentrification.”
So why do people choose to stay in a city full of tense residents, uncomfortable living conditions, and outrageous rent hikes? That answer could be found through a surprising source, an artist collective’s new version of a classic board game: Monopoly.
Since New York City native Michelle Marie Esteva founded the collective Chinatown Soup in 2014, its Chinatown space has been a hub for artistry, activism, and community-building. The collective operates with wide-ranging missions, but recently, Esteva decided to focus on one in particular: “Respond to gentrification.” This statement may seem daunting, but for Esteva, one of the most pertinent ways to tackle gentrification is to educate others on what the process actually looks like. That’s why she, along with fellow Chinatown Soup members, set out to create Monopoly: Chinatown Edition. “Money helps you move around [New York], but the Monopoly men don’t define New York,” Esteva told Artsy. “No matter how expensive rent gets, there’s a reason people want to struggle in this city. Soup’s Monopoly asks why.”