BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
All New Yorkers, regardless of citizenship, are now eligible for City identification cards. The City Council voted last Thursday to approve the creation of municipal IDs, which would allow undocumented New Yorkers to open bank accounts, obtain a driver’s license, enroll in a public school and access other City services.
Information on the card will include the cardholder’s name, date of birth, address and photograph, as well as an expiration date. Cardholders may also opt to list a self-determined gender, which will allow for cardholders such as transgender and intersex individuals to define their gender.
No permanent address is required to obtain the card – acceptable proof of residence documents include written verification from a City-funded homeless shelter or from a City hospital, health clinic or social services agency.
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) co-sponsored the legislation with Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn).
According to Dromm, the City Council worked with the NYPD regarding the safety of these cards. Dromm said negotiations determined that a to-be-chosen City agency other than the NYPD will keep municipal ID documents for two years.
“With this two-year agreement, I think that if there will be any cases of fraud, we have a way to go back and trace it,” Dromm said. “I’m not worried about the potential for fraud, especially because the NYPD is not worried about it now.”
Daniel Coates of Make the Road New York, a nonprofit that advocates for Latino and working class communities, said he believes the card’s potential for wide appeal will work against any stigma that may become attached to it.
“That’s our challenge ahead,” Coates said. “The ability to choose your own gender [and] the fact that the card will be accepted by all agencies, including the NYPD, will both go a long way to making it broadly attractive, but also really useful for people across the City through all sorts of walks of life.”
“By virtue of a lot of people having it, it gets rid of any stigma attached to it,” Coates added.
Dromm similarly said he hopes the City ID will attract a wide range of cardholders.
“This is a municipal ID for all and everybody in the City can get this card,” Dromm said, adding that the City Council will work with the Mayor’s office to attach certain perks to the card, such as discounts to cultural institutions or partnerships with banks.
“I’d like to say that this will be the must-have accessory for all New Yorkers,” Dromm added.
Bianey Garcia is a transgender woman and the LGBT organizer at Make the Road New York. She said she intends to get the municipal ID “as soon as possible.”
“For my community, it’s very important, because they can choose their gender and they can show that ID to the police,” Garcia said. “Before this, my community, being stopped by the police and sometimes they don’t have any type of ID, and they get arrested for it.”
“We were fighting for this for many years,” Garcia added.
A handful of other cities, including New Haven, Asbury Park, San Francisco and Oakland, have instated or will soon instate municipal IDs. New York City’s municipal ID program will be the largest in the country.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.