Photo credit: Gabriel Friedman

Question: I’m new to New York. I’ve settled in my new apartment and am getting services from ConEd and Verizon and getting my new driver’s license, bank account and all of the other rigmarole that comes with a move. Now I hear there’s a NYC ID card. Should I get it? What’s the point?

— Settling In in Sunnyside

Dear Settling:

Now you can be a card-carrying New Yorker. Welcome!

It’s officially known as IDNYC. It’s valid identification for use with city agencies, city schools, libraries and for most interactions with city government — including the police. IDNYC also has lots of peripheral benefits, such as a free one-year museum membership to more than 40 museums, health club and entertainment discounts, even a deal renting a Zipcar. Several local banks and financial institutions accept IDNYC cards for opening accounts.

What the IDNYC card doesn’t do, however, is function as a generally accepted government ID. It’s not a driver’s license, and you can’t use it to get one. It’s not valid if a bartender asks you for proof of age. And most important of all, it won’t get you on an airplane; the TSA doesn’t accept it.

So you’re right to ask, ‘What’s the point?”

Before I answer, a little background. Twenty or so local governments around the country issue similar identification cards. The movement started in 2007 in New Haven, CT, as a way of helping illegal immigrants open bank accounts and use city resources. It was also a none-too-subtle thumb of the local nose to federal immigration officials.

The torch was lit, and other cities with significant immigrant populations picked it up: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington and others.

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the IDNYC program in his first State of the City address in 2014. The program, by far the largest in the country, launched the following year. More than 1 million of the free cards have been issued.

So what’s the point? Pretty much like New York itself, it’s its own point. IDNYC is just another tiny symbolic stitch in the fabric of the great city, further integrating, nurturing and welcoming all of us — legal immigrant and illegal, foreign born or domestic, city native or not — to our little island at the center of the world.

Lastly, if you want your own IDNYC card, go here.

David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.

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