Bitcoin gold rush hits New York City

The Bitcoin Center New York City opened for business in January, 2014. Credit: Miles Dixon
The Bitcoin Center New York City opened for business this month. Credit: Miles Dixon

On a Monday evening in early January, a group of businessmen chatted enthusiastically at a Midtown Manhattan bar. The men weren’t talking about sports, women or vacation plans though — they are discussing Bitcoin, a digital currency that has accelerated in popularity during the past few years.

“My wife asked me last week, ‘What do you love the most, me or Bitcoin?’” one of the enthusiasts joked.

“If there is anyone’s ego I want to put money on it’s Kanye West’s,” another businessman said, talking about Coinye West, an alternative cryptocurrency that was supposed to launch this month but was stopped by the hip-hop star’s legal team.

Bitcoin was invented in 2009 by an individual or group – no one knows for sure – using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The digital currency can be bought, sold or traded for services rendered.

“Bitcoin is intended to be something like a currency based on mathematics and cryptography, that works without any sort of central bank,” Columbia University computer science professor Steven Bellovin explained. He said that the first form of digital cash goes back 30 years, but that all attempts at digital currencies until now lacked a central authority to avoid double spending.

“Bitcoin has a different way to solve the problems of double spending, something called a public block chain: a sort of distributed, decentralized repository that records every transaction made with Bitcoin,” he said.

Bellovin calls it clever mathematics but points out concerns, including the risk of a person’s computer being hacked, the volatility of the value of Bitcoin – which started at less than a penny per “coin”, peaked at $1,200 per coin, and as of print time stands at $900 per coin. There is also a programmed limit of 21 million Bitcoins.

Despite the concerns Bitcoin has grown more popular in New York City. In January, the world’s first Bitcoin Center opened in New York City at 40 Broad St., just a short distance to Wall Street.

“I think Bitcoin is an honest currency compared to all the other ones. We’ve created $19 trillion out of thin air the past six years,” Bitcoin Center co-founder Nick Spanos said. “People store their labor and their life’s work in these pieces of paper, and then someone on a whim can make as much as they want.”

The Bitcoin Center is an educational institution dedicated to promoting awareness of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. There are events and educational classes everyday, including free introductory lessons about Bitcoin, and leases out booths to people with businesses that accept Bitcoin payments.

Other New York City businesses have also started accepting Bitcoins. RentHop, an online apartment search marketplace, started accepting the currency in December.

“My goal is that I see this as a potential to lift real estate out of the stone age,” said Lee Lin, a RentHop co-founder. He said one of the perks of Bitcoin is that it doesn’t have fees like typical bank transactions.

And for those who want to whet their whistle using bitcoin, Old Man Hustle, a bar in the Lower East Side, started accepting Bitcoins as payment last year.

Michael Jarmuz, owner of the bar, said some of the people spending Bitcoins are just trying to impress their dates, but given its increasing value, everyone paying him in the currency “would be a dream come true.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Actor Tracy Morgan wasn't wearing seatbelt in June…

By Jonathan Stempel(Reuters) - Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan and others in his limousine were not wearing seat belts when their vehicle was struck by…

National

Connected cars: Is AT&T leaving Verizon in its…

By Marina Lopes and Bernie WoodallWASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - Verizon Communications, the No.1 U.S. wireless carrier known for its widespread coverage, is falling behind its biggest…

Local

Grand jury begins hearing evidence in Eric Garner…

A grand jury began hearing evidence Monday relating to the death of Eric Garner while in police custody in July. Garner, 43, of Staten Island,…

Local

Mayor announces plan for solar panels at city…

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the planned installation of 24 new solar panels at city schools on Monday morning. The panels, a $28 million investment,…

Going Out

Taste what Lower Manhattan is cooking at today's…

The Lower Manhattan food scene has changed a lot in three years, which you can taste first hand when the neighborhood's food festival returns. On…

Television

Review: 'Selfie' tries to coast on the charm…

"Selfie" offers cute leads and some good jokes, but focuses too much on a vague distaste for social media.

Movies

Review: Jason Reitman's 'Men, Women & Children' is…

Jason Reitman's "Men, Women & Children" takes a hysterical and melodramatic look at disconnection in the digital age, turning strong actors into zombies.

Television

TV watch list, Monday, Sept. 29: 'Castle,' 'Mom'…

Tune in for the season premieres of "Castle," "Mom" and "NCIS: Los Angeles."

NFL

Ryan Quigley making a big impact for Jets…

Ryan Quigley, now in his second year as the Jets punter, had an exceptional afternoon with six punts for an average of 51.7 yards per punt.

NFL

3 positives to take from Jets loss to…

The Jets suffered another loss Sunday — 24-17 to the Lions — but the reason why it hurts so much for Jets fans is that…

MLB

Joe Girardi not confident David Robertson will return…

David Robertson was as seamless as anyone could be replacing Mariano Rivera as he converted 39 saves, with a 3.08 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony preaches patience with new coach, offense

While star forward Carmelo Anthony said he’s “enthusiastic” and “optimistic” for the upcoming season, he still wants everyone — from within the locker room and…

Education

How to ace your private school interview

Getting ready for a private school interview can be daunting for many, most of whom might never have been in an interview situation before. We’ve…

Education

5 questions parents should ask while visiting private…

It can be hard to know what to look for when searching for a new school for your child. Parents considering several different schools can…

Education

3 ways to save money on college application…

With the average high school student applying to 5 or 6 schools, hefty application and test score fees can add up quickly. We’ve compiled some…

Education

Nap rooms: The latest college campus trend

College is a time filled with new experiences (and lots of schoolwork), leaving little time for students to get a good night’s rest. University of…