In Queens, City’s New I.D. Card Offers Promise, and a Few Problems

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Photo: Jennifer Kirby

Just after 6:30 p.m. on Monday, a crowd clumped together in the curved lobby of the Flushing Branch of the Queens Public Library. They were the last of the day’s applicants able to sign up here for IDNYC, New York’s new municipal-identification cards, which officially launched yesterday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill in July to create the cards. They’re available to anyone who can prove New York residency, but will especially help undocumented immigrants and others, including homeless people, who often can’t get government identification. The I.D.s — free this year — will be accepted by the NYPD, and will help people access city services and allow them to claim prescription drug discounts and free admission to dozens of cultural institutions citywide, including BAM and the Bronx Zoo.

Photo: IDNYC

The mayor’s office of immigrant affairs said they had received about 750 applications by about 5 p.m., though they expected that number to rise to 1,000 for the entire day. A four-day soft launch last week already drew in 2,000 applicants from the city’s nearly 8 million residents.

A few dozen people were waiting to reach the application counter, which had been set up in the library’s entrance, like a DMV dropped into the lobby. Most had already been on line for hours, and outside, rows of steel barricades were pushed against the building. The line was short now because employees had started turning people away at least three hours before the advertised closing time at 9 p.m.

The IDNYC site facilitators declined to speak to Daily Intelligencer. “Every day, whenever the library is open, we’re here,” one of them told group who had just found out they missed the deadline. “Come back.” The reps tried to help when they could, circling around, answering questions in a Chinese dialect or Spanish. They nodded over documents. Yes, this works; no, that’s not enough.

Potential applicants kept trickling in, alone, or with families, kids and strollers tagging along. A yellow “Caution” cone was put to block the entrance to the line, but people kept slipping around it. After they were told to come back, some loitered in the lobby, as if willing their luck to change.

Paulo lives in Woodside, originally from Ecuador. He missed the cutoff, and he pulled out the application from inside his jacket pocket. He wants the I.D. mostly to help him find work, since he doesn’t have anything else to use right now for a reference. (IDNYC isn’t a work authorization of any sort.) “Un apoyo,” he call it — a support. He doesn’t know when he’ll come back, work comes first, but he will be back.

Photo: Jennifer Kirby

Kenneth Grant has lived in New York for more than six decades — born in Manhattan, he and his wife today live in Astoria. This was their second attempt to apply for I.D. cards that day. They had already been turned away once, at Make the Road, in Elmhurst. Still, he said they would come back, though maybe wait until the crowds thinned out. "We like the idea of sampling many museums," he said. 

Those who were left, and able to apply, had been standing for hours. Mariana, a working mom from Queens, had gotten on line at about 2 p.m. She had little choice — Monday was her only day off. She has a young daughter, and the card will help her get into her child’s school, as well as help when Mariana needs to visit the doctor. Mariana finally took her photo, standing up in front of the turquoise-blue screen around 7 p.m. She’s told she’ll get the card in the mail in about 15 days.

Kujinder submitted his IDNYC application a little after 7 p.m. He had waited since around noon. Once he reached the front of the line, it wasn’t too bad to get the application processed, he said — about 15 minutes, maybe. When he gets the I.D., he’ll be able to open a bank account. He’s been in the U.S. for about five years. Today’s wait was short by comparison.

IDNYC Offers Promise, Some Problems on Day 1