Jay-Z sells bitcoin in projects. Not everyone buys.

It was an eyebrow-raising venture from the start: Two billionaire crypto evangelists were funding a 12-week “Bitcoin Academy” for residents of a Brooklyn public housing complex, with courses ranging from “Careers in Crypto” to a seminar on “Why Decentralization Matters.” Three months later, the course was canceled and tenants of the Marcy Houses have very different opinions on the whole affair, supported by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and rapper Jay-Z , who reportedly grew up in Building 524.

Some residents are still ardent skeptics: “How do you help us if you ask us to invest $5, $10 and we are all on fixed incomes? asked Lydia Bryant, 57, adding that people’s money would probably be safer in “real stock” instead of crypto.

Some didn’t understand much: “I took the course but I really didn’t understand much,” said a retiree who worked as a school bus matron in Queens.

But some are new to Bitcoin, convinced that crypto markets will rise. “I thought Bitcoin was a scam,” said Danny Craft, 56, an academy graduate. “I come to find out, you just have to know how to do it. When you put money into it, you just let it rest and let it grow.

In terms of student sentiment, it didn’t hurt that graduates received a surprise: $1,000 in crypto for completing the program. A former student told the Daily Beast that she has already started moving some of her other assets into crypto, with plans to buy more with each paycheck.

“If you take it out, you lose the benefit of having something long term,” she explained. She said one of her takeaways from the academy was that her money would likely double or triple over time.

And if the opposite happened, was she worried? “As long as it goes back.”

Founded in 2009, Bitcoin’s value soared exponentially to an all-time high of $60,000 per token last year. But it remains very unstable. Over the past 12 months, the price has fallen by more than half, and on Monday and Tuesday alone, it has fallen almost 10%.

For someone like Dorsey — whose Twitter bio simply reads “#bitcoin” (plus a Bitcoin emoji), and who’s worth around $4.7 billion — that volatility is manageable.

But from the perspective of some Marcy residents, the risks are much greater, especially if they start pouring in their own savings.

“For you to take your money that you worked for, or your government-subsidized funds, and invest it in something like bitcoin that’s really risky, that’s a no-win,” said one tenant, who asked not to be named out of concern. about the “reaction” of some of its crypto-bull neighbors.

Even the $1,000 grant, she said, is unlikely to produce a life-changing return in a place where some “people are broke and struggling to live.”

The retired bus matron, meanwhile, said that while she doesn’t fully understand how Bitcoin works, she’s gathered enough to know “I can’t gamble with the money I get for my retirement”.

Others felt that the academy had sufficiently highlighted the risks of crypto and said the courses gave participants information to help them make their own financial choices.

“The class wasn’t telling them… ‘Yo, take your savings and convert it to Bitcoin,'” Matthew Powell said. He attends sessions with Craft, his childhood friend; both said they understand that digital currency markets carry risk.

Powell said he “messed with bitcoin” before enrolling in the academy, but when the price tumbled, he cut his losses and bailed out. His new lesson outline: “Take something, put it there and let it rest.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for The Bitcoin Academy said the group viewed the first session as “a pilot, and [we] will definitely iterate and improve over time. We’ve surveyed students along the way and are reviewing their feedback so we can better understand the classroom experience and get data on their interests and goals as we think about how to design the next one. phase of the program.

Sitting on a cluster of benches on the south side of the Marcy complex, another Bitcoin Academy graduate, who goes by the name Queen Bee, said she found the classes interesting. Classes came with a different free dinner each session, she said, including oxtail, fish, prawns and a “vegan night”.

Attendees had access to WiFi devices and smartphones if needed, and although Queen Bee said she had to miss some sessions due to COVID and hospitalization, she received her $1,000 bonus. She has no intention of selling, as it would incur a tax liability, and she said she has no interest in paying tax on something given to her for free.

Sitting next to her, another participant, Tina, also had positive comments about the course, although she missed sessions after her husband fell ill before he passed away. “I would do it again,” she said.

Built in 1949, the Marcy Houses were made famous by Jay-Z. When he was young, he said, the area was notoriously dangerous. “I’m from Marcy Houses, where boys are dying by the thousands,” he rapped on his 2017 track, “Marcy Me.”

The rapper has been giving back to the community for the past few years, and several residents have praised his generosity. “He’s so good to our people,” said Jessie Mackey, a 65-year-old tenant who had to miss most Bitcoin events to care for her sister.

Edith Williams, who said she attended one session, is pushing her adult children to enroll in the academy’s next cohort, assuming they get the chance. She has invested money in crypto and plans to wait a few months to see if it goes up. And if so, she said, she has no intention of cashing in: “Let it roll, let it roll, let it roll.”

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