Thousands of New Yorkers have enrolled in the city's new municipal identification card program since it launched Monday, and more than 50,000 others have booked appointments to learn how it can give them access to key city services they were previously unable to obtain, officials said Friday.
The card, dubbed IDNYC, was approved last year and is aimed at those who do not currently have a government-issued ID, including the elderly, homeless and an estimated 500,000 immigrants in the city who live in the U.S. without legal documentation.
Mayor de Blasio hailed the program, the largest of its kind in the nation, as a "gateway to city services," enabling those otherwise lacking documentation to have acces to crucial benefits and participate in all aspects of civic life.
New Yorkers without IDs lined up all week to apply for them. On Friday, the line included one person whose job is to deliver food but can't get into most buildings without a government-issued ID and an Upper West Side resident who wants one in order to get access to museum discounts. A grandmother waiting in line said she needed an ID to pick up her grandchildren from school.
"Most buildings like Rockefeller Center, World Trade Center, they ask for a state ID," said the delivery worker, Luiz, adding that customers have gotten annoyed when they had to come down and pick up their deliveries when he can't produce ID.
Ken Thomas said he's in it for the discounts and memberships.
"Just about every museum in the city -- the Met, MoMA, the Whitney and Frick," she said.
Appointments are required for enrollment; the city says it is no longer accepting walk-ins. In total, nearly 55,000 appointments have been made since the program launched, including 14,000 secured on Friday alone. Nearly 5,700 have already enrolled. The city has been so flooded with interest in the program that its next available appointment is not until the middle of April.
"Before we launched, people were saying things like nobody's going to come out because they're concerned [about privacy], immigrants aren't going to step forward," said Nisha Agarwal, commissioner of the mayor's office of immigrant affairs.
But it's clear that tens of thousands of people in just the first few days of the rollout have set aside any confidentiality concerns to get the card.
A city official said there have been some glitches with the rollout, but they've been worked out. Extra work stations have been opened at existing locations so there's more staff on hand to process appointments, and two more enrollment centers will be up and running in the next two weeks -- one at LaGuardia Community College in Queens and another at the Center for Family Life in Brooklyn.
To help mitigate long lines at the enrollment centers, the city has been reminding New Yorkers they can call 311 or use the IDNYC website to schedule appointments. A spokesperson for the mayor's office said 311 wait times were an issue earlier in the week, but they were down to 4 minutes and 23 seconds by Friday afternoon. It wasn't clear how long the average wait time was at launch.
As one city official put it, New Yorkers want the cards now. Membership is free, though a fee may be applied in the future, city officials have said, and is not limited to a calendar year, so if someone doesn't get a card until April, his or her membership will be valid until next April.
All New Yorkers age 14 and older are eligible, as long as they can prove their identity and city residency. Applicants without a home address may prove residency by providing a letter from a city agency, nonprofit organization, religious institution, hospital or health clinic where their mail is received.
To prevent any possible stigma that the ID is only carried by immigrants who are in the country illegally, the city has created an incentive program to entice all New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status, to get a card. Cardholders are eligible for free memberships at many of the city's signature cultural institutions as well as other discounts.