The Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce announced last week that vendors at its Flushing Night Out (FNO) event on August 24 won’t accept dollar bills, but rather “Unispheres.”
Attendees will buy Unispheres and use them to buy food and other goods, and at the end of the event vendors will re-exchange them for cash.
The community currency will help the chamber track where attendees spend their money and gauge the economic impact of the event, but executive director John Choe thinks the Unisphere could play a role in Flushing’s economy in the future.
“If it is successful at the market, we want it to have a larger presence in the community,” said Choe. “One idea is to work with local banks to print, distribute and exchange the currency for dollars.”
Choe pointed to other cities that have created its own currency, such as Ithaca and Berkeley.
“We also think it will create a lot of attention and get people excited to come to the community,” said Choe. “A lot of older restaurants have closed, and we worry that is the canary in the coal mine.
“We have to get innovative and creative,” he added.
The first Unisphere features a photo of Lewis Latimer, an accomplished inventor who worked with Alexander Graham Bell and called Flushing home.
“We feel this is also an opportunity to showcase historical figures in our community,” said Choe.
The chamber hosted the first FNO in 2015. This year’s event will feature nearly 20 food vendors, as well as a full lineup of performances. It will take place from noon to 6 p.m. on 38th Avenue between Main and Prince streets, as well as inside St. George’s Church.
“This is a time for those who live and work here to celebrate, but we want those who live in other communities to come here and experience what we have to offer,” said Ed Staniszewski, general manager of Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel.
The event is also meant to showcase the intermingling of cultures that takes place in Downtown Flushing.
“We have something more rich than diversity, we have people who have been raised by two cultures,” said Queens borough historian Jack Eichenbaum. “It’s an interwoven fabric, and we are leading the world in this.”