Source: Yahoo News, New York Daily News
Northern Brooklyn artists encourgage local spending with unique currency
BY Jeff Wilkins - DAILY NEWS WRITER
It's as if they have a license to print money.
Artists in northern Brooklyn are coming together to create their own cash in hopes of uniting the community and encouraging shoppers to spend locally.
The new funny money, the Brooklyn Torch, is slated to hit the neighborhoods of Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bushwick sometime this fall.
"We want people to be excited," said artist Mary Jeys, 30, who dreamed up the Greenpoint greenbacks. "This medium of exchange has more to do with meeting people and feeling that you're connected to a community versus a monetary system."
The Torch would be available for Brooklyn residents by an exchange program. The initial exchange rate between dollars and Torches will be one to one. Businesses might provide incentives for shoppers to spend money locally, ultimately raising the Torch's value.
Jeys and a seven-person committee of Brooklyn artists, calling themselves the Brooklyn Torch Project, have worked all summer selling local businesses on the idea of community cash.
"I think it's an awesome idea," said Melanie Campbell, owner of Asia Dog, which sells gourmet hot dogs at bars in Williamsburg. "I like the idea that it raises this sense of community in the big city. We are definitely intrigued."
It's legal to print your own money in the U.S. as long as you don't re-create or deface the dollar, according to the Treasury Department. The Torch would be subject to the same taxes as the dollar.
"It's not some form of tax evasion," said Jeys. "It's way to create a community exchange and make sure money won't leave the area."
Similar currency programs have succeeded elsewhere in the country in cities like Ithaca, N.Y. and Madison, Wis. Ithaca's hometown currency, the Ithaca Hour, started in 1991 and is now accepted by more than 500 businesses.
The Brooklyn Torch Project is in the process of deciding on designs for the currency. Saturday, more than 50 people put their two cents into the design of the torch at Greenpoint's Msgr. McGolrick Park.
"We definitely had kids as young as 7 and adults in their 40s," Jeys said. "We had some really great ideas. Someone drew a kielbasa in the portrait space."
Other ideas included a mustache, a woman holding her finger over her lip, an ice cream cone and a man with lightning coming out of his eyes.
The committee will meet soon to go over the designs.
"The kielbasa looked really nice in orange, I actually liked that one," Jeys said.