NEW YORK (PIX11) — It’s designed to help move out of the shadows at least a half million New Yorkers who, for whatever reason, don’t have formal I.D. cards. However, New York City municipal identity cards, which are widely expected to be approved by the city council on Thursday, still have some challenges to overcome before they end up in people’s wallets.
Still, it’s a concept so strongly supported by a city council and mayor that identify themselves as progressive, that Mayor Bill de Blasio designated $8 million in his proposed budget for municipal I.D. card development.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and her staff have said on more than one recent occasion that they expect the I.D. card legislation to pass in a vote on Thursday.
The need for I.D. some people know firsthand. “Sometimes the cops arrest you because you dont have I.D.,” Charlie Guerrero told PIX11 News. “You don’t have the proof to demonstrate who [you] are.”
Guerrero said that he has a driver’s license, but knows many people with no local photo I.D., people like Elsa Cardozo. She was able to attend a fifth grade graduation at a Sunset Park, Brooklyn elementary school on Wednesday, but she said, in Spanish, through her daughter’s translation, that she can’t always gain access to her children’s school buildings without identification.
“I have three daughters,” Cardozo said, “and for an emergency, I [need the municipal I.D.] for identification.
New York would not be the first U.S. city to issue I.D. cards, if the proposal for them passes. In San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland in California, and in New Haven, Connecticut, the cards help illegal immigrants, the homeless and others be visible parts of their communities.
They can also allow people underserved by financial institutions to finally get access to some very basic banking services, according to the co-director of an organization that advocates for greater financial services for lower income communities.
“A working New Yorker, [or] a New York family can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees that they’d have to pay to check cashers or to borrow money from pawn shops and other places,” said Deyanira Del Rio, co-director of the New Economy Project.
The sort of universal access she talked about is what the co-sponsor of the municipal I.D. bill called the foundation of his legislative proposal.
“The message we’re trying to send from the city council is that we have your back,” said Carlos Menchaca, a Democrat who represents Red Hook, Sunset Park and parts of central Brooklyn.
He seemed confident, in an interview with PIX11 News Wednesday, that his municipal I.D. bill would pass the following day. He also admitted that there are still issues to be worked out, particularly involving identity theft and other personal safety issues.
“We want to make sure this is a secure card,” Menchaca said. “So we’re building some of the most high tech components for privacy and fraud protection.”
The card, if it gets approval from the city council, would most likely not end up being issued to people until January 2015, Menchaca said. In the meantime, its designers are working with the NYPD both on fraud issues and to ensure that police officers treat the card as a legitimate identification card, just as they treat a driver’s license
One thing the New York City I.D. card would not be is a debit card. Oakland, California’s I.D. card doubles as a debit, if bearers so choose. That Northern California city found itself in controversy when it was discovered that it hadn’t warned card bearers that using the debit feature would cost them $2.99 a month, and that cardholders would have to pay $.75 per transaction.
New York City is hoping to offer other types of incentives, like discounts to area attractions, to encourage people to sign up for and use the cards.