Op-Ed: The Bronx Can Be The Next Innovation Hot Spot

The Bronx is the birthplace of hip hop, and now it is time for the Bronx to lead as a pioneer in cryptocurrency. With this technology, everyday people can claim their financial independence and strengthen their communities. It can empower small business owners to generate alternative revenue streams to underwrite and jumpstart their dreams. By embracing cryptocurrencies and making the Bronx a hub for blockchain, we can combine our energy and forward-thinking to lift up low and middle-income communities of color and chart a course for the borough to become a new hot spot for innovation and financial freedom.

Grassroots organizations like Bronx Crypto are here to energize our communities. We aim to end generational curses by harnessing emerging technologies and investing in new markets. This financial revolution will be inclusive – blockchain is not just for the well-connected and venture capital-backed tech world. It has the potential to empower average citizens and every Bronx resident.

Sadly, the Bronx has some of the highest poverty rates in the country. And the Covid-19 pandemic didn’t help. When everyone looked forward as the pandemic waned, the Bronx still ranked number one in poverty and unemployment. The poverty rate is 24%, the unemployment rate is 7.2%, and in the South Bronx alone, 40% of kids face financial hardships.

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres has been a strong supporter of cryptocurrency, and he understands its potential to transform lives and communities across the Bronx. With crypto, you’re not beholden to rates and fees imposed by credit card companies or ATM withdrawals. It facilitates how money moves without delays, and it is a reliable way for Bronx residents to send money to friends and family, including those who live outside the country.

Another strong supporter, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, introduced a bipartisan bill that will provide essential regulatory clarity to pave the way for cryptocurrency growth. There are a number of unbanked and underbanked people in our communities, and in addition to making it easier to start investing, crypto opens up spaces to educate others about financial literacy and how this knowledge can strengthen the overall well-being of our neighborhoods. The combined leadership of Rep. Torres and Sen. Gillibrand will have a direct impact on the economic development of the Bronx and all immigrant and communities of color unfairly left out of opportunities to grow wealth and income.

The Bronx has thousands of small businesses–including restaurants, pharmacies, dry cleaners, and contractors like plumbers and electricians. Most of these small businesses operate with very little available cash. On average, a typical small business only has enough cash on hand to last a month or less which makes them vulnerable during sudden economic shifts, a painful lesson learned during the pandemic. Limited access to credit due to an unfortunate history of racial and ethnic bias, combined with the fact that small businesses are often considered a risk for lenders, put up roadblocks to those looking to fulfill their dreams. By using cryptocurrencies to create new streams of revenue and launching NFTs to grow their brands, locally-owned businesses will have more resources to expand, create jobs, and control their financial future.

The Bronx is teeming with musicians, writers, and artists who can use blockchain technology to ensure their groundbreaking work and creative talents are fully valued, too.

In the Bronx, we have the drive and dynamic and diverse people. We have local business and political leaders like Rep. Torres and Sen. Gillibrand who believe in and support our entrepreneurial spirit. We would love to see more support from elected officials in the Bronx and throughout New York City – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, and Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. With more leaders in our communities and in Washington embracing this technology, we can use our success to encourage and influence other regions and communities. The Bronx is ready to lead in the cryptocurrency and the web3 revolution.

Julio Barrios is the founder and CEO at Bronx Crypto, Inc., a digital assets learning platform focused on unlocking the potential for decentralized finance in the Bronx.

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