Is The NYCID Really Benefiting Its Targeted Populations?


I got my NYCID in the mail last week, so it’s safe to say I now make the cut of being a real New Yorker.  Yes?  Maybe?;-)  For those of you who maybe haven’t heard of the ID yet, it’s “a government-issued identification card that is available to all City residents age 14 and older. Immigration status does not matter.”

Now I, like many of my friends who have the card, didn’t actually need it as a form of identification (that’s what driver licenses and passports are for, right?)  Instead, we jumped at the opportunity to get the card because it makes you “eligible for a one-year free membership package at 40 of the City’s leading cultural institutions, including world class museums, performing arts centers, concert halls, botanical gardens, and zoos in all five boroughs.”  Umm, yes please!!!

While some of these museums are technically free with donation all the time (MET and American Museum of Natural History, I’m talking to you!), having the ID and thus membership doesn’t make you feel completely cheap if you walk in with, say, a $2 donation, and also probably encourages you to go to these places more than once a year.  And, the ID gives you access to many places that AREN’T donation only, such as MOMA, the NYC zoos, Museum of the Moving Image, and many more.  It even has a few hidden perks, such as free tickets to rehearsals at the NYC Ballet, free tickets to rehearsals at Carnegie Hall, 5% discount off all purchases at Food Bazaar supermarkets in New York City on weekdays, Monday through Friday, from 7:00am to 7:00pm, 50% off most FDA-approved prescription medications at most NYC pharmacies through your unique card number which is part of BigAppleRX, steep discounts at many NYC theaters, and $8 movie tickets.  Awesomesauce, right?

Now, according to their website, the NYCID benefits “every city resident, including the most vulnerable communities—the homeless, youth, the elderly, undocumented immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and others who may have difficulty obtaining other government-issued ID.”  However, I think it would be fascinating to know out of the 750,000+ current card holders, how many of them actually fit into one of those vulnerable categories?  Obtaining the card isn’t difficult, per say, but you do have to make an appointment online to stop by one of the centers to get the card…and once there you have to have proof of current residency and a photo ID.  Even for myself, I realized once there that my driver license had my old NYC address on it…so then I had to go to a computer and print out a current bank statement with my NEW address before they would process the application…while toting around an infant.  And then once you actually HAVE the ID, you have to apply separately for each membership you wish to have…which, again, is a lot of time spent on the internet and mailing in forms.  

So again, all this leads me to wonder…is the NYCID benefiting those groups of people it was created for?  Or are the 750,000+ people who have the ID mostly middle class city transplants (like myself) looking to squeeze the most culture out of the city for the least amount of money?  Would love to see a report with that information published, wouldn’t you?  Let’s discuss below!

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  • Joanne Theodorou says:

    Well Jess, all is not as it appears. Many of these “benefits” are tricky to use, and limited in use. For example, entrance to the outdoor Botanical Gardens (up in the Bronx) is free….but it is not free for their internal exhibitions such as their annual Holiday Train Show nor their annual Orchid Show or the upcoming annually themed (this year it is ” American Impressionism:”) Spring/Summer Show.
    MMA is already “pay as you wish”…. as is the New Museum. If you work for New York City, the admission there is already free. Catching my drift here? My advice is to check with the institution you wish to visit as to their rules for use of this ID.
    My impression, and indeed the promotion of this NYC ID was to issue photo identification to aid the millions of New York City dwellers who do not drive, so therefore have no photo ID, our well meaning Mayor sweetened this offer by throwing in a few “alleged”: benefits.
    Indeed you are right to ask – who exactly is benefiting from this ID?

    • Used York City says:

      Ahh, thanks for pointing that out, Joanne! And it’s true, many of these museums are already “donation” based or have free hours anyway…and one can’t help but wonder how effective the cultural institutions are with issuing “membership” once you apply for it…for example, I contacted the NYCBallet over a month ago and still haven’t heard a word regarding membership! Odd, right?

  • Gail says:

    I thought the exact same thing when I got my ID. It’s a vicious circle: you need ID to get many of the forms of ID you can use to get the NYC ID that will help you get other ID. If you are homeless, it’s really difficult to prove residency. If you are undocumented, it’s difficult to get a ConEd or bank account, so you may not have what it takes to get the NYC ID.

    The lines at the membership desks at the Guggenheim and MoMA were really long.

    • Used York City says:

      Exactly! I would love to see the statistics of the homeless/undocumented/victims of domestic violence populations that have actually successfully gotten the ID–I feel like if it’s tricky enough for those of us not in those categories, it’s got to be even tougher for them.

  • Courtney says:

    Hmmm this is such an interesting topic! Thanks for sharing!!
    Courtney recently posted..Momofuku CCDCMy Profile

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