New York’s new mayor gets his first paycheck on Friday – and as part of his bid to keep the city “on the forefront of innovation”, he’ll be receiving his wages in cryptocurrency.
“New York is the center of the world and we want it to be the center of cryptocurrency and other financial innovations,” Eric Adams said in a press release.
But even in the center of the world, trying to live on ethereum or bitcoin might be a struggle. The subway won’t take it, and it’s hard to fit dogecoin in the quarter slot at the laundromat. So what will Adams actually be able to do with his paycheck?
Will he be able to eat?
Yes. Getting groceries might be difficult – in 2019, Whole Foods began accepting cryptocurrency via an app-based payment system called Flexa, but a customer care representative said on Thursday that the company was not currently taking cryptocurrency.
But the vegan mayor might have better luck at restaurants. Yelp allows users to filter for restaurants that accept cryptocurrency – though calls to the spots and visits to their websites suggest some of the claims are inaccurate.
He could also use a workaround and purchase a gift card with bitcoin using one of various platforms such as Bitrefill and Fold. That could get him a coffee at Starbucks or an order through DoorDash; it also works for Amazon, Netflix and other companies.
(Adams’ cryptocurrency paycheck is itself the result of a workaround, since department of labor regulations require the city of New York to pay employees in dollars. The mayor’s office says the paycheck will “automatically be converted” to cryptocurrency before it is made available to him, using the platform Coinbase.)
That means that Adams’ paycheck must first be converted from dollars to cryptocurrency, then be converted to a gift card, and finally be used to buy a smoothie. Efficient!
Another trick: he could turn to PayPal, which lets users spend cryptocurrency for transactions (Mastercard has a similar program). But the app first converts the cryptocurrency to actual dollars – creating another pointless cycle and contributing to a system that, according to Cambridge researchers, uses more electricity per year than the country of Argentina.
Will he be able to keep the lights on?
Probably not without turning to his actual bank account. Con Edison, New York’s enormous electricity and gas utility, does not accept cryptocurrency payments, a representative said. Cryptocurrency does a great job of draining the world of energy, but using it to buy some back appears difficult.
Of course, he’ll be living in Gracie Mansion, the New York mayor’s residence – meaning, presumably, he won’t be paying these bills anyway. Nor will he have to worry about whether his landlord accepts bitcoin.
Will he be able to get anywhere?
Not if he wants to take the subway like a normal New Yorker or any other transportation provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The MTA doesn’t accept cryptocurrency, a spokesperson said.
If he gets stuck, Adams might be able to hail an Uber using his paycheck, but it could be a long wait at the corner. Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, indicated in February that he was open to accepting bitcoin in the future, but when is unclear. In the meantime, he could buy an Uber gift card.
Will he be able to use the very internet that cryptocurrency depends on?
Again, he could have trouble. Verizon Fios, New York’s biggest internet provider, does not appear to offer a cryptocurrency option for online payments. Adams may find himself turning to his pre-mayoral savings if he wants to check the price of bitcoin.
So what will he actually do?
Adams’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But he may well just “hold on to it as an investment”, says Neeraj Agrawal, communications director at Coin Center, a non-profit focused on cryptocurrency policy. “That has become the more common use of bitcoin these days.”
Or, if he’s feeling really financially innovative, he could go totally virtual: it won’t get him a ride on the subway, but he could buy the word “MetroCard” as an NFT for the equivalent of about $30.