The City of New York is following the same path as the state in trying to use regulation to push Bitcoin into obscurity. A Manhattan Community Board ruled that a Bitcoin decentralization block party would be refused permits.
The block party was a co-venture between GMT Tavern, a bar and restaurant located in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, and Cut Rush Creative Labs, a Brooklyn-based film production company that specializes in promoting virtual currencies and decentralized solutions through visual media.
When the State of New York proposed the BitLicense, Ben Lawsky promised that it would be fair and balanced. When it was finally released for community comments, though, “fair and balanced” was not a term that could be used to describe it.
Now a New York City community board has ruled in a meeting, held in October, that it “adamantly opposed” the very idea of a block party to promote Bitcoin. The reasons for the opposition are suspect. The alliance between GMT and Cut Rush Creative Labs was described by the board as a “loose group of individuals who are supporters of decentralized currencies like Bitcoin to promote its use, … who primarily live in Brooklyn and have no ‘indigenous relationship’ to the area.
Van Nguyen of Cut Rush Creative spoke to Cointelegraph this morning and believes that the community board is not necessarily opposed to Bitcoin. Instead he believes that they are simply protective of their neighborhoods and are reluctant to issue permits such as this. He said:
“They were reluctant not because of Bitcoin, but because the community boards for each area are very reluctant to do any events in their area. What I don't understand are the countless food events where it's just funnel cake and kebab stands. The community board argument is that my event doesn't improve the community and I'm not from that neighborhood. I'm sure most of the kabob stands aren't from the area either.”
Nguyen has a point. Not only are they friendly to food events, but also to the fashion industry. On September 16, 2014, the Bleecker Street community sponsored “Teen Vogue,” which featured retailers such as Blackfleece, Intermix, Brunello Cucinelli, Mulberry, Tommy Hilfiger, Steve Madden, Rag & Bone, Cynthia Rowley and others. While some of these companies have offices in Manhattan, none have offices in Greenwich Village.
Another objection that the community board made was that the planners of the Bitcoin event could not be considered a “formal organization registered as a non-profit with either the State of New York or the IRS,” implying that this was a requirement. Tommy Hilfiger was not a registered non-profit either.
Finally the Board argues that the inclusion of GMT Tavern, which is actually located in the neighborhood, was “nothing more than a matter of convenience and neither it nor any other business or resident in the area has an active role in planning or managing this event.” Again we must look at previous events and ask how many of the local residents or merchants had active planning roles.
Abuse of Regulations
The community board seems to be very selective in its definitions over what businesses could be considered to be “meaningfully tied” to its community. Promoting Bitcoin, whose adoption by local merchants could save them a great deal of money in future transaction fees, could by itself be a service to the community.
Nguyen says that he is working to get local merchants in the area more involved with Bitcoin. The management of GMT is already excited, and a forward-looking area like Greenwich Village could be a prime location to promote virtual currencies. There is a good chance that given more local involvement, the excuses of the community board will be less effective in the future.
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