NYC’s municipal ID program a big hit with immigrants and natives alike, de Blasio boasts
More than 863,000 New Yorkers have snagged one of the city's municipal ID cards since the program launched a year and a half ago, data released Thursday show.
Mayor de Blasio touted the results in his weekly appearance on the Brian Lehrer show, saying the card has proved vastly popular with both immigrants and native New Yorkers.
More than half of card holders — 52% — use the IDNYC as their primary form of ID, a number that jumps to 67% among immigrants, according to the city's survey.
"It's very helpful for undocumented folks, and that was one of the prime motivations, to show respect and embrace for almost half a million people who are our neighbors and happen to be undocumented," de Blasio said on the radio show. "But we found it's very valuable for a lot of other people too."
Even Pope Francis has an IDNYC, which he received when he visited the city last September.
In the survey, 24% of card holders said the IDNYC is the only form of identification they have. Among immigrants, the number was 36%.
Most participants — 58% across the board and 70% of immigrants — have used the card as a form of ID at some point.
The IDs, which are free, can be used to get free one-year memberships to around 40 museums and cultural institutions, and offer discounts on things like movie tickets and prescription drugs.
The city found that 52% of people with cards have used them to get a membership to visit a cultural spot, a number that jumps to 67% among seniors. And 400,000 memberships have been redeemed.
De Blasio said beyond the practical benefits, many report it increases their feeling of belonging.
"It also says New York belongs to you, New York embraces you, you are a New Yorker. There's even some folks who have gotten it simply because they like the fact that it is a badge of honor as a New Yorker to have it," he said. "It says, 'I am a New Yorker,' and that means so much to a lot of people."
While about 12% of participants said they'd used the card to open a bank account, the program has hit some roadblocks because most major banks won't accept it as a primary form of ID. About a dozen smaller banks do accept it.
"I don't buy it, and I am disappointed," de Blasio said of banks' argument the ID isn't secure enough. "We're going to push them very hard across the board, big and small banks, to accept this."
Another 12% of people have used the card when asked for ID by the NYPD, 24% to get into their child's school, 26% for doctor's offices and hospitals, and 35% to get into a private building.
The ID also allows transgender people to choose which gender to have listed on the card, and 44% of transgender applicants said that was a significant reason they got one.
But applicants are not allowed to use a name other than their legal one, which has caused some headaches.
A transgender woman named Diana who called into the Lehrer show said because her social security card had a different name, she was treated like a "criminal" by program staff.
"I found the experience so unpleasant," she said.
De Blasio said that shouldn't happen. "It's not right of them, it's not what we want, it's not what we believe in," he said.