by Joseph McKeown

Last Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced the city identification program, the largest program of its kind in the country, which will grant government-issued IDs regardless of immigration status. This free card, one of de Blasio's campaign pledges, promises to bring "peace of mind and access to City services that come from having recognized identification. IDNYC benefits every city resident, including the most vulnerable communities—the homeless, youth, the elderly, undocumented immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and others who may have difficulty obtaining other government-issued ID." The mayor said that the ID is just a "'piece of plastic, but it's going to open so many doors for our fellow New Yorkers.'"  

While the ID card is ideal for those who do not have government-issued ID, the administration also hopes to entice those who do by providing numerous benefits, including allowing the IDNYC card to serve as a library card in all five boroughs (anyone who has tried to sign up or has moved frequently around the boroughs knows how beneficial this could be), a one-year free membership to thirty-three of New York City's many leading museums, zoos, concert halls, and botanical gardens, as well as discounts for prescription drugs, gym memberships, and entertainment.

To qualify for the IDNYC card, applicants must be fourteen years or older and a NYC resident. Applicants must first make an appointment (the earliest available appointments for many of the interview sites were several months in advance), fill out an application confirming New York City residency, and then attend an in-person appointment with documents proving identity and NYC residence (for those who are not homeless). There have been many reports of long lines and delays. We tried out the system ourselves and received numerous error messages after several attempts to schedule an appointment, so the site still appears in need of improvement. The mayor denied there were any similarities with IDNYC to the ill-prepared rollout. Others have expressed privacy concerns over how the city would release and use the data obtained from those signing up for the program.

One of the first recipients of the IDNYC card was Esther Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant and mother of three from Mexico, who was invited to speak beside the mayor at the news conference, and who said: “This ID card is the key to having a more fulfilling life[.]”