New York’s broad street bitcoin community is learning, trading, and planning for the future within a stone’s throw from the stock exchange.
New York is a metropolis that continues to captivate the attention of the entire world. It has long been associated with prosperity, the core of the American economy, and a land of opportunity for immigrants from all over the world.
A single characteristic has enabled most of New York’s illustrious history: its long-standing status as the world’s financial capital.
Many historic landmarks and institutions may be found in Manhattan’s financial sector. The world’s oldest and largest banking institutions are housed in buildings that are over a century old. JP Morgan and the New York Stock Exchange, in particular, are located on Broad Street, which has served as a barometer of America’s economic health for nearly 200 years.
The NYSE, with its neo-classical exterior, is a stone’s throw from Wall Street and maybe the quintessential legacy of ancient American hegemony; the exemplification of the dominant financial status quo. A newbie, an upstart – a David surrounded by Goliaths – lives barely 100 feet down the road at 40 Broad Street.
There is something for everyone.
The Bitcoin Center NYC is a sparse, modern room that lacks the towering stone columns and rich design of many of the street’s other buildings, as befits its mission. However, what it lacks in outward detail, it makes up for with openness and enthusiasm.
It is the area’s most prominent bitcoin facility, hosting a variety of classes, presentations, and a trading floor on Mondays and Saturdays.
During my visit, it became clear that the Bitcoin Center has something to offer everyone, whether they are new to bitcoin or a seasoned pro. The environment, though, is maybe the most significant aspect of what the Bitcoin Center has to offer.
The people that work at the Center, as well as others who stop by, perfectly reflect the spirit of the cryptocurrency community and what makes the bitcoin movement so enjoyable to be a part of. All of them are exceedingly friendly, knowledgeable, and, most importantly, infectiously eager.
These individuals will inform you on everything you need to know about the Center and the larger bitcoin movement.
The narrative of a co-founder
Thanks in great part to co-founder Nick Spanos, the Bitcoin Center NYC debuted at the beginning of 2014.
From a young age, Spanos shown a strong mathematical and technological aptitude. He went on to study computer science at the New York Institute of Technology, but dropped out after earning $80,000 in real estate in just one summer.
Throughout his life, Spanos has been an ardent entrepreneur, starting a number of enterprises and websites. He then worked as a database manager and analyst for the Ron Paul presidential campaign, and is a self-described libertarian.
Spanos met James Barcia, the Communications Director of the Bitcoin Center, through his political participation, and learned about bitcoin for the first time.
“In one of those conventions, we were talking about rival currencies, and someone brought up bitcoin — this was back in 2010,” he remembered.
Given his experience, it’s hardly surprising that bitcoin has piqued his curiosity. As a self-made, libertarian IT entrepreneur, Nick Spanos embodies the usual list of characteristics that bitcoin enthusiasts share.
He remarked of the Bitcoin protocol,
“Truth has a place in our society now. There is now, for the first time, universal, chronologically verifiable truth in the monetary system. As a protocol, it’s better for us”.
Ascending the ladder
The NYC bitcoin group first convened in Union Square, more like an informal club than a formal organization.
Spanos recalls the incident that prompted him to look for a better place for the renegades to stay.
“It was late, and we were leaving the park at night when someone working at a restaurant accidently dumped all this trash all over me when I was walking by. I think at that point I told myself ‘We’re better than this. We belong in Wall Street’.”
After Spanos and some of his real estate associates secured the location at 40 Broad Thoroughfare, the group was able to move within spitting distance of America’s most renowned street. Bitcoin was on its way to becoming a major player.
Many people at the Broad Street Bitcon Center, like the rest of the bitcoin community, have shared political or social experiences that have made them acutely aware of problems in monetary systems that most people in rich countries take for granted.
The Bitcoin Center, on the other hand, is not devoid of variety.
Alex Andros, who is in charge of external relations, is Greek and Spanish, and has firsthand experience with inflated currencies and over-extended governments, as well as a background as a financial analyst.
He initially learned about bitcoin through a friend who had been directly impacted by the Cyprus financial crisis, and he was immediately intrigued by its economic implications.
Andrew Vecchio, on the other hand, didn’t know anything about bitcoin when he first went into the Center, but was immediately attracted by the protocol’s decentralized structure and the variety of options it provided users.
“I really adore being at ground zero,” he explained, evidently touched by the bitcoin community’s excitement.
While many in the bitcoin community believe the sky is the limit, there are still some significant obstacles to overcome. One of these impediments is a lack of basic education.
Despite the fact that bitcoin has grown at an exponential rate over the last year, many people have never heard of it, don’t comprehend it, or are entirely misled about key elements.
That’s where a physical site like the Bitcoin Center comes in — a place where anyone can come in and learn more about bitcoin. From curious individuals to small company owners to expert economists, the Center has seen it all.
Explained Alex Andros:
“All kinds of people come to our classes to learn how to take advantage of bitcoin. That tells you a lot about how widely appealing cryptocurrencies are. One of the funny things you often see here is the younger guys are usually teaching the older ones how things work, not the other way around. It’s the newer generation especially that is taking to bitcoin”.
The Center has garnered overwhelmingly positive media and community responses, a reflection of the high caliber of people who work there.
Beyond basic teaching, the Bitcoin Center is beginning to benefit from New York’s most important asset: its networking capability.
New York, being the most densely populated city in the United States and the world’s financial capital, is a hotbed of talent and resources.
Furthermore, ongoing regulatory development will very certainly provide bitcoin businesses in New York increased credibility, which Nick Spanos wants to fully exploit:
“We want to be the first regulated exchange in the world. It’s going to be more like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange than anything, with a daily live floor and an online counterpart.”
He went on to explain “We don’t want to hold anyone’s funds like Mt. Gox or these other exchanges. They’re using these old models that just don’t work well with bitcoin. People will be responsible for their own funds, we just bring them together […] keep the whole thing decentralised.”
“We’re not just a kid with a computer like Mt. Gox, we’re not amateurs. We have connections in business, in Wall Street, and we have experience.”
In a market plagued by security breaches, theft, and exchange shut downs, such a move would undoubtedly have significant ramifications.
More information will most likely have to wait until later this year, but Spanos plans to start the full-time exchange later this year, promising that it will not interfere with the Bitcoin Center’s ongoing instructional activities.
History teaches us something.
Many people are still skeptical about bitcoin’s long-term viability, let alone its ability to disrupt the global financial system. Indeed, despite its location, the Bitcoin Center NYC’s inconspicuous exterior will likely do nothing to persuade detractors to reconsider their thoughts.
However, it’s crucial to preserve some historical perspective when comparing it to the much older and more powerful institutions that surround it. In the year 1607, a group of traders in Amsterdam spent their days negotiating with one another on the Warmoesstraat, one of the city’s principal commercial streets.
However, to the surprise of many, these dealers were not exchanging commodities or even anything tangible. They were exchanging stock in the Dutch East India Business, the world’s first joint-stock company.
The market for that one stock grew so large the following year that an indoor exchange was erected near the town hall to accommodate the merchants. A financial revolution that would influence the history of the world began in that inconspicuous building, with humble beginnings.
Today, the New York Stock Exchange and the rest of Manhattan’s financial district stand as the pinnacle of that revolution, and are seeing firsthand what has become an all-too-familiar scene in history.
These Goliaths should be concerned about the newcomer down the street if they aren’t already.