Identifying Marks

Hundreds of people waited outside the library in downtown Flushing this week to be among the first to obtain the new municipal ID that would identify them as New Yorkers. The faces in the crowd confirmed Queens’ reputation as the most diverse county in the country as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the details of the program at a news conference inside.

Known as IDNYC, the card will give thousands of nameless New Yorkers proof of both their identity and their residency.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, who attended the event, said the card is “an affirmation that if you live here, that if you pay taxes and if you send your kids to school here, you are a New Yorker.”

Demand for the government ID was so strong later in the week that the city now requires applicants to make an appointment by calling 311 or going online.

Both undocumented and legal immigrants will be prime beneficiaries of the ID. But many others have struggled with producing documentation of who they are, such as the homeless, the elderly, veterans, ex-convicts and transgender residents. They should be able to get cards mailed to their homes within two weeks of applying.

The municipal ID will also solve a major problem for the estimated 50 percent of city residents who don’t have a driver’s license, which makes New York unique among the nation’s urban areas.

Residents as young as 14 can apply for the free plastic card, which comes with a benefit package of discounts on tickets to movies, Broadway shows and sports events as well as free memberships to museums, zoos and libraries. Discounts on prescription drugs are also part of the program.

The largest municipal ID undertaking in the country will give the recipients access to at least 10 financial institutions, an industry in which extensive paperwork is often required to simply open a bank account. It’s a good deal all around with far more perks than the state ID card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

There are some reservations, however. The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed fears that the ID program could become a database to track illegal immigrants, but the mayor insisted that this would not be the case since applicants are not asked about their immigration status.

The program may not be perfect, but it is giving many people in Queens and other parts of the city the right to exist in hospital records, government agency files and public school data with a new official identity that the rest of us take for granted.

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