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More local elected officials are embracing cryptocurrency

Crypto and the Big Apple: NYC Mayor-Elect Eric Adams' tweet that started it all.
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Crypto and the Big Apple: NYC Mayor-Elect Eric Adams' tweet that started it all.

New York City, under Democratic mayor-elect Eric Adams, appears ready to embrace cryptocurrency, which has piqued the interest of some local elected officials.

Adams tweeted that he would receive his first three paychecks in Bitcoin. Then, he suggested that blockchain technology and digital assets be taught in schools. Next came news that the Big Apple is getting its own digital token called NYCCoin, not officially connected with the city, which follows the August launch of MiamiCoin in Florida.

A hundred miles upstate, Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson, also a Democrat, says Adams' actions haven't gone unnoticed.

"You know, I love to see, you know, municipalities move in innovative ways, and, you know, kind of changing the way things have been done for so long," said Johnson. "I would be definitely interested in exploring it. I think, at this point, you know, I'm not educated enough to take it on. But, you know, I've been listening and reading and watching a bunch of stuff as they move. So I'm definitely interested to see how things play out."

Matthew LeMerle, Managing Partner of San Francisco's Blockchain Co-investors, sees Adams' support of digital currency as a reflection of the city's population: young, and “digitally enabled.” He says everyone under the age of 40 was born into a digital world.

"The average age of people in New York City is 36, according to the Census," said LeMerle. "Two-thirds of the people in New York City are 44 years old or less. And the largest single cohort of people in New York City, are between the ages of 25 and 29. And these are Census statistics. They are all digital natives. New York is a city of digital natives. And then the second key point is, New York is the world's financial center. And in order to continue to be the world's financial center, New York must embrace digital monies, digital assets, and the infrastructure that goes with them, or it will be left behind."

In Hudson, Johnson says he is always ready to do innovative things that would affect residents directly. The Columbia County city of about 6,000 has already rolled out a Universal Basic Income program that was recently expanded and now includes 75 residents.

"Now I'm just looking forward to seeing how this kind of crypto momentum plays out," said Johnson. "And you know, how it matches up with you know, something maybe we can do here in Hudson."

Although there have been environmental issues raised about Bitcoin miners and its impact on climate, including in Plattsburgh, fellow Democratic Albany County Legislator Sam Fein says changes to the economy brought about by the pandemic makes crypto worth a look.

"New York's already a leader in financial industry, we're the center of the world's financial industry," Fein said. "Why not embrace Bitcoin moving forward? You know, I think there's potential here. In terms of teaching it in schools, I think we need to teach Finance more in schools in general. These are important skills that a lot of young people don't learn when they grow up. So Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, I think that's part of that general necessity. And you know, I know there are some environmental concerns around, you know, the energy consumption for Bitcoin, but I think that's not something that should stop us, we have to do is look toward solutions. There are some solutions on the table. There's even a bill in the legislature to address a lot of the environmental concerns. I think we can do both. It's addressing environmental concerns but also moving forward and embracing cryptocurrency here in New York."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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