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Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Getting an IDNYC may be free, but not easy

Last week I received a mailing at my apt that read "YO SOY NYC es la nueva tarjeta de identificacion gratis para todos los residentes de Nueva York." Luckily the flip side was in English.
This postcard informed me that there was a brand new, FREE ID card for all NYC residents. It also told me that there are 8 million New Yorkers and ONE card for all of us! Not only would it get me into over 33 museums and attractions, it also would work as an access pass to many benefits like discounted movie tickets. Yay!

I was super excited about getting free one year memberships to the ballet, my favorite museums and gardens. Who wouldn't be? It all sounded great- except for the part where I would have to drag my ass to one of the enrollment centers, to get an ID in addition to my New York drivers license to prove my residency. I KNOW what you are thinking.... Oh cry me a river, white people problems....
But the postcard in my hand assured me that signing up would be easy AND quick. It also assured me that if I was an illegal immigrant, they totally won't care....(seems like great plot to nab some illegals.)
Aside from free memberships for hipsters & yuppies, a major motive of the IDNYC card is to provide immigrants, homeless, or those who have no formal identification with one.  Everyone knows the NYPD thrives on arresting homeless and even students who have no ID on them. It helps them meet their numbers. This could be a step forward in that respect.
I was curious to find out how easily accessible this ID actually would be, so I followed the link online and made my appointment at nearby enrollment center.

When I showed up at The Mid Manhattan Library, there were tons of rent-a-security-guards standing around. I thought maybe I was entering the White House with all of the security. One rent-a-guard barked at everyone in the line- "You all gotta have an appointment to be in this line. Do youz all have one? Anybody who doesn't needs to STEP AWAY AND DON'T COME BACK UNTIL YOU HAVE ONE."
We all nodded that yes, we did indeed have one. A few people snickered and chatted about how ridiculous this all seemed. Rent-A-Guard then allowed us to continue in line to a fold out table, where two men sat with laptops & enrollment forms. I'm not sure if they were volunteers or staff, but they had been total assholes to everyone in line before me. These guys were like the soup nazi of ID's.

"NEXT!", shouted one of the men. I cautiously stepped forward and told him that I was there for my appointment. He rolled his eyes, didn't verify that I had one, and asked me for my ID.
I handed him my NYS Drivers license. The IDNYC website states this will act "as full proof of residency for 4 points". Despite this, he insisted that I show him ANOTHER proof of address.

Luckily I had a utility bill on hand as backup, and was able to use that. He stared at my items in silence for about a minute. He actually looked disappointed that he wasn't able to tell me to go back home and return with proper ID, like he had to five people before me. I was then rewarded with an enrollment form, and instructed to fill it out in the waiting area.

As I filled out my form, I was already envisioning kicking my feet up at the Botanical Gardens. About fifteen other people sat around the second waiting area filling out applications. Staff members kept announcing "ONCE YOU HAVE FILLED OUT THE APPLICATION, COME INTO THE NEXT ROOM". So, when I was done, I walked toward the next room. A hand quickly shot up in front of my face and stopped me in my tracks.

"Whoa, whoa" the woman said, "I need your ID and proof of address". It was in my hand, so I showed it to her to verify for the second go round. She told me to go back to my chair and she would call me when they were ready. (but in the tone of voice you use to non English speaking tourists and dumb people.) Not even 12 seconds later I was called inside.

Inside the next room, incredible odors of B.O. wafted around as bad as on the subway in Summer. There was a guy who kept ordering people to change seats. First he wanted everyone with a passport on one side, then moved them back to the other. He then had us sit in one row, but kept moving us around to other random empty seats. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it. I think he was just on a power trip and wanted to feel important.

After a few more minutes of waiting, I was finally sent down to one of the numbered desks. No one was actually taken in order of their appointment time. It kind looked of like a Trader Joes checkout area, but with mean cashiers. The person I was sent to had changed desks, so I had to go back to the waiting area with the musical chairs nazi. A few minutes later, the chair nazi shouted "DESK 8!" and pointed at the desk-just incase I couldn't read numbers.

The woman at desk 8 basically looked like she wanted to end her life. She didn't look up from her computer when I said hi, and asked if it was my first time applying. It was, so she said "ID AND ENROLLMENT FORM." I handed her my stuff and she typed for about ten minutes in silence, then proceeded to scan my info. When she gave me a final form to verify that she had entered the correct information, it was all wrong. She had a random apartment number, and a different zip code than I had written. Once she fixed her errors she told me to go sit in front of the blue screen for my photo.

The flash went off without warning and startled me. The woman said "you need to hold still for photos, and no hair in front of your ears."
She took another photo and said "You had teeth showing. You can't show your teeth in these photos." The hair and teeth thing might have been useful to mention prior to taking the pictures. After a third flash, I apparently took an acceptable image. She told me my ID would arrive by mail in 4-6 weeks. The whole process took about 40 minutes, and wasn't quick or easy in my book.

My main thought upon leaving was, if they are giving shit to people WITH proper ID, I can't imagine it would actually be "easy" for someone homeless to get an IDNYC. Homeless people have to be nomads, they rarely have bills, or something with an actual address. For this same reason, the people who need help the most are often unable to receive city benefits and are forced to beg for food and change on the streets and subways.
The major flaw in the system is that a "care of letter" from a shelter is likely the only proof of residency a homeless person is able to obtain. This is only worth 1 of the 4 points required. IDNYC requires that it be from a city funded shelter, and that the person must have received services there for 60 days. With shelter waitlists in this city, it is rare that homeless can actually rely on one shelter for 60 days without switching.

For New Yorkers who already have state issued ID cards with a NYC address, this seems like overkill. Think about it. If these places are giving away free year memberships to NYC residents, why can't anyone who already has a state ID or license which lists NYC address get one? And why have we been missing out all these years and having to pay to begin with?
I'm sure NYC has some big brother, ulterior motive with this new system. It's also very possible that IDNYC has created a kick back deal with these organizations to make it worth their while.

Nether-less, there is no reason that the staff of these centers need to be so condescending and rude to everyone applying. I'm sure they deal with many morons who can't follow directions, but the majority of the people there the day I was were educated  people who just wanted to go to The Met for free.

Have you gotten your IDNYC yet? What was your experience like?


Josh M. said...

Great post! I was looking around to see if anyone had written about this yet. I got mine a few weeks ago in Brooklyn but the people were still total douche bags. Typically anything involving NY City workers sucks.

Anonymous said...

The point you make about homeless is very true. Not many of them have any photo ID to begin with so how would they get the other 3 points needed? Hopefully some advocates are working with shelters on this one.