I Got an IDNYC Card in 20 Minutes, and So Can You


Update, 4/7/15: Two Village Voice staffers received our IDNYC cards over the weekend — just ten days after we applied. Huzzah!

Read the original story below:

In the days following the launch of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s IDNYC initiative — the most expansive municipal identification program in the country — New Yorkers flocked to enrollment centers like pigeons gobbling up breadcrumbs.

And admittedly, the crumbs aren’t half bad: The IDNYC card entitles residents of New York City to free one-year memberships (for the 2015 calendar year) at cultural institutions like the Bronx Zoo, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Public Theater, MoMA P.S.1, the New York City Ballet, and more. You can use the card at the New York, Queens, and Brooklyn public library systems. And most importantly, the card can be used as proof of identification, no matter your immigration status. They’ll even waive the proof-of-residency requirement for victims of domestic abuse and the homeless.

So it’s no surprise that after the program’s January 12 launch, news outlets were reporting unwieldy lines at the city’s fifteen enrollment centers (plus two additional pop-up facilities), and hour-long waits just to get through to 311 to make an in-person appointment. The IDNYC website instructs people to make an appointment at an enrollment center and arrive with documents proving identity and residency in New York. Applications are available in PDF form in 25 languages on the website, or you can fill one out in person at the center.

The site closest to the Village Voice office at 180 Water Street listed November as the earliest available date for an in-person appointment when we checked this week. Some other locations, like Brooklyn’s Center for Family Life or the Bronx’s Department of Finance, have similar wait times. Others have appointments available in April, May, or June; very few are left for March.

New Yorkers are too busy for that shit. So here’s a tip: Just show up!

I showed up at the Water Street location, without an appointment, on a drizzly, gray morning. Just a girl and a dream to spend zero dollars on cultural activities this summer. I arrived at 10 a.m., an hour after the center opened, and signed in at the lobby. On the twelfth floor, there were five or six people in line to fill out an application. Two girls in front of me had also showed up without appointments. A man at the head of the line checked our documents and pointed us to a table where we could pick up applications in English, Spanish, or Mandarin. A woman added my name to a list of walk-ins, and directed me to take a seat amid one of the rows of chairs set up near the table to fill out the application. A few minutes later, I was ushered into another room where eight people sat behind computers verifying documents and taking photos.

All told, I was in and out in twenty minutes. What’s more, the experience couldn’t have been further from the typical bureaucratic slog you might experience at the DMV — the people were gracious and helpful, and the process was seamless. The cheery mood among employees seemed more akin to a start-up, not a city agency issuing IDs. Most employees skewed younger, and while inexperienced — “No, Mandarin is a simpler version of Chinese. I just learned that,” said one employee to another as a cluster of six people waited for applications — it was warm and welcoming.

There were no invasive questions. No suspicious eyes. No doubting my motives. The lovely woman who took my picture told me I would get the card in the mail in about three weeks. Easy peasy.

For those who want their IDs, and want them now: Go early, and, according to one of the workers I spoke to there, it wouldn’t hurt to pick a crappy day, weather-wise.

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