Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Signs Legislation to Create Municipal ID Card

July 10, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: All right. Welcome everyone.

[Applause]

May I just say that outdoor bill signings are a really good idea?

Well this is a really important day for New York City. And I’m going to refer to something we’re all quite familiar with to make the point of what the changes mean. You know there’s an advertisement we’ve seen many times all of us, and the tag line is ‘What’s in your wallet?’

Well, here’s the thing about this city. For so many New Yorkers, a proper ID is not in their wallet. And that means a lot for their day-to-day lives. It creates a lot of problems and challenges for people. And that’s gone on for years and years. It’s gone on unaddressed. And New York City has some special characteristics that make this a bigger challenge than in a lot of the parts of the country. For a surprising number of New Yorkers, there is not the common experience of having a driver’s license. And so much of the rest of the country, a driver’s license is very, very common. But in New York City, roughly half of city residents 16 years old or older do not have a driver’s license. So right there we have a different reality.  And we obviously also have a city that has welcomed people from all over the world, every kind of person. A beacon of hope and inclusion for decades and decades. And that means that there are almost half a million of our fellow New Yorkers who are here who happen to [inaudible] undocumented. For them, an ID has not been a possibility, and that’s hindered their everyday life.

So we know that there are of course a number of people who do have an ID. But for those who don’t, they live a different life. And they don’t have access to some of the things that are so important, the things that should be easy and are so necessary if you want to open a bank account, you want to lease an apartment. Those things become so much harder when you don’t have proper ID. And it’s not just something that’s bad for the individual, it’s bad for the whole city when people don’t have that kind of inclusion and don’t have the opportunities that come with it.

Well today we’re going to change that. Because of the actions of so many people here, and ultimately with the stroke of a pen, we’re going to change that once and for all. The bill before me paves the way for the creation of the New York City Municipal Identification Card. And it brings us one step closer to fulfilling the promise I made in my State of the City address.

I wanted to thank so many people who have brought us to this day. And I like say – and we said this the other day at the hearing – that all of us who are blessed to serve as elected leaders have to acknowledge the grassroots leaders, the community organizations, and activists, and civic groups, and so many organizations that on a host of issues, fight for change and improvement in people’s lives, and finally have their voices heard at City Hall.

We’re here today in large measure because of years and years of activism from people who believed we had to get an ID for those who didn’t have it. So let’s give all of them a round of applause who worked for those years.

[Applause]

And I also want to take a moment to thank our hosts here in this beautiful plaza. I love this place. I can walk to my home from here and it’s a library that’s meant a lot to our family. So I’d like to thank my good friend, Nick Gravante, the chair of the Brooklyn Public Library, for letting us use this beautiful space and for being a partner in all we do.

[Applause]

And the libraries are going to play an important role in all this. And I want to also thank Tony Marx, the president of the New York Public Library who’s here with us and thank him for his partnership.

[Applause]

This is going to work because so many different institutions, so many different organizations are going to participate to help make it work. Libraries are going to be a crucial part of it. I also want to thank all the members of the administration, all the agencies of the city that are going to play an important role. The woman who’s been tasked with bringing this to fruition is doing an extraordinary job already – Nisha Agarwal, our commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

[Applause]

I want to thank Steve Banks, our commissioner of the Human Resources Administration.

[Applause]

Tom Finkelpearl, our commissioner of Cultural Affairs.

[Applause]

And I want to say, as I say the next thank you, there’s been a really fantastic, collaborative, smart process with a lot of different city agencies, with the City Council, with Nisha’s leadership, working through the legislation, getting it right, and I want to thank the NYPD for having played a crucial role working this through. I want to thank Chief of Intelligence Tom Galati for being with us.

[Applause]

Now, the reason we’re here today is because the City Council acted. The City Council acted with great energy and focus and speed to get this done. One thing I love about our speaker is that when she says she’s going to do something, she does it. It’s as simple as that. And she believed in this and she made it happen.

[Applause]

In addition to Speaker Mark-Viverito – I want to thank her for her leadership – and of course the two co-sponsors of the bill, who led with passion and energy throughout – Danny Dromm and Carlos Menchaca.

[Applause]

And we’re also joined by another council member who was there every step of the way supporting it, Antonio Reynoso. We thank you for your support.

[Applause]

We also gained greatly from the experience of other cities. And one of the things I’ve talked about a lot is in the absence of federal leadership on a host of issues, cities around the country are taking on the challenge of finding ways to create progressive change that helps all our residents, and then sharing ideas with each other, inspiring each other to action. We watch carefully what other cities do. We’re inspired all the time. And a lot of the times you’ll see that when one city acts, it helps pave the way for quicker action in another city. This is something I’m going to be working on with a lot of my colleague mayors from the US Conference of Mayors, because there’s so much we can do to help each other since we so often can’t depend on our federal government.

Well look what happened – New Haven, Oakland, San Francisco, paved the way on this. They helped us figure out how to make it work, and because of their experience we’re here today. Let’s thank all of them, even though they’re not here, let’s thank them.

[Applause]

I want to emphasize this card is important for all New Yorkers. It is important for all of us to have a better city. Even for those who already have ID, we’re going to make sure that this card brings a lot to the equation, a lot of benefits that will go with it. But for those who don’t have ID, it’s going to be crucial. And that includes a lot of people – I mentioned almost half a million undocumented immigrants. That’s the size of a lot of major American cities in terms of total population – half a million of our fellow New Yorkers. What about adults re-entering society after incarceration? They need extra opportunities this ID will help. Young people in foster care. Transgender people. For the very first time, transgender people will be able to choose their gender marker on their ID, and that’s an important opportunity.

[Applause]

And that will be recognized by city agencies, including the NYPD, and that’s a big step forward for this city. And homeless individuals, by definition, who have a challenge of lack of ID, and need ID to access benefits.

And it’s important to note that a safe city is a city in which anyone who comes in contact with the NYPD has ID available to show them. I’ve learned a lot working with the NYPD over the years, and ID is something necessary. It’s something necessary to help the police do their job. We want all New Yorkers, including those who are undocumented, feel very, very comfortable working with the police. We want them to be very able to identify themselves to the police, and to do it in an atmosphere of safety. This is, I think, going to play a crucial role in deepening the relationship between police and community, including a lot of our immigrant communities. And that’s important for the safety of all.

So a couple of points very quickly before I call up my colleagues. We’re working very intensely on the rollout of this card. We will introduce it for January – this coming January. For the first year the card will be free. It will be easy to enroll. The city will establish walk-in enrollment centers in all five boroughs at trusted institutions, including one of my favorite institutions, the Brooklyn Public Library.

[Applause]

There will be mobile enrollment units, there will be online applications. We’re also working with a number of institutions, including banks, to ensure maximum recognition of the card. And we’re very, very focused on something everyone has a right to be concerned about, the question of confidentiality and privacy. A lot of work has gone into making sure that privacy rights are respected in this process. The information necessary to provide the ID cards will not be shared with any other government agency or third party, except in two situations. One, when verifying the individual’s path to eligibility for benefits they have applied for. The individual applies for benefits and that verification has to happen, that’s something that the individual chooses to act on. And second, of course, in response to a court order, subpoena or warrant. But the applicants will not be asked about immigrant status. The card will be available to all, but we will not be asking about immigration status, and the application materials will be destroyed no later than two years after submitted. So a number of steps have been taken to ensure the right balance.

Now there are many, many stories in this city of people who will benefit. I just want to offer you one. A man named Juan Carlos Gomez. And he’s a New Yorker through-and-through. He’s been here for 14 years, immigrated to New York from the nation of Colombia. He lives in Queens with his wife and his nephew. He volunteers for the organization Make the Road New York to help build a better community, a better city, but he’s not documented, and therefore he doesn’t have an ID. And he never feels quite right, he never feels truly at home, he feels a vulnerability. And he can’t do the things that so many people here today would consider normal. For him to rent an apartment was a very difficult, long, challenging process. To get a bank account, even more difficult. And as I mentioned earlier, for someone like him and so many other people, the question of how to work with the police was made more challenging by the lack of an ID.

But with a city ID all those things get cleared up, life becomes simpler, more straightforward, easier for people carrying a lot of burdens. And it deepens the relationship we have with all New Yorkers, including our undocumented brothers and sisters. A lot of people work very hard in this city to make ends meet. They contribute to this city in many ways. Everyone should have the same opportunities, and that’s what this ID card aims to allow. And also moves us away from such counterproductive dynamics. If people needed an apartment and couldn’t get one, that’s not good for the city. If people who needed to work with the police didn’t feel that they could, that’s not good for the city. We’re taking actions that are going to help us all.

Again I have to express my profound thanks to the City Council. We knew in the administration this was one of our highest priorities, but we also knew from the beginning we had partners, true partners who wanted to get this done and get it done well and get it done fast and I want to thank and invite forward the speaker of the New York City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito.

[BREAK]

Mayor: Thank you very much. I am now going to speak Spanish less effectively than Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Hóy estóy firmándo la ley que ábre camíno a la creación de una tarjéta de identificación municipál. El ID municipál es un documénto oficiál accesíble y segúro que beneficiará a tódos los neoyorquinos. Es especiálmente importánte para quiénes ahóra tiénen problémas para obténer una identificación oficiál, como los inmigrántes indocumentádos, los jóvenes, las personas mayóres, y los desamparádos.

With that, I also want to note, sorry we missed a few important acknowledgements earlier on. We want to thank our deputy borough president of the wonderful borough of
Brooklyn, Diana Reyna, for being with us.

[Applause]

We want to thank Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez for all his support and for being here.

[Applause]

And I want to thank a good friend, a man who answers to a higher authority, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan. Thank you for all the work you do [inaudible].

Let’s make this thing law.

[Applause]

[Mayor signs bill]

Mayor: Okay everybody ready? Get assembled, get assembled. We’re going to do on topic first. Fire away.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Nisha Agarwal. Nisha labored over this for six long months. She will answer some of the particulars.

Commissioner Nisha Agarwal, Office of Immigrant Affairs: We are – now that the bill has been signed, we are in the process of finalizing which documents will be utilized for accessing this card. People will have to establish their identity and residency, and we’re likely to have a point system similar to the DMV.

Question: And what about holograms on the card or other [inaudible]

Commissioner Agarwal: The card will be designed with a range of different features to prevent fraud, things like holograms, various other sorts of features to ensure that it is a very official ID card and can’t be fabricated.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Agarwal: We worked very hard to balance two distinct goals. One was to protect – as the mayor said earlier – the confidentiality and the privacy of individuals who will be applying for the card. But also to protect against people becoming the victims of identity theft or fraud themselves. And the balance that we’ve struck in the bill would require the elimination of documents after two years. Access to the documents by law enforcement will only be subject to a judicial warrant or subpoena, so there’s a high bar for that. And we believe that we could defend against any sort of attempt to access these documents that are a fishing expedition of sorts. So we feel very confident about the security and the confidentiality of these cards.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Agarwal: No, we don’t have anything in the bill related to that, but we’re working really closely with the private sector to ensure that the card is accepted by a range of different private entities.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Agarwal: Potentially. And we’re going to talk to the private sector about that. One thing we’ve heard repeatedly from people is that even getting into buildings for a job interview, you often have to show ID. So this will at least remove that barrier.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Agarwal: We’ve begun a conversation with banks in New York City and credit unions, and we’re working hard to ensure that the banks will accept this card. We believe that the parameters of the card will actually meet the necessary federal regulations around what IDs banking facilities can accept. And we’ll be talking to federal regulators as well.

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Agarwal: We have not determined the cost yet. We’re going through a rule-making process, if we’re going to have a cost associated with it after the first year.

Mayor: But we want to make sure, whatever it is is affordable to everyday New Yorkers. [inaudible]. Okay, continuing.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: [inaudible] under that hat? I’m like, who’s this mysterious reporter?

Question: [inaudible] can’t get a regular ID card [inaudible]?

Mayor: I want to start and then Nisha can add and the speaker may want to add as well. I think we’ve got to start with the fact that, as I said in the remarks, you’ve got a huge number of people who do not have an ID in this city. And I think there’s so many problems that come with it, so many lost opportunities, so many difficulties for people and we don’t want that for our people. We want all of our people to have as good a life and as easy a life and as productive a life as they can. Again, I have come to learn from years and years of working with the NYPD that an ID card is one of the core dynamics in the relationship between a police officer and an individual citizen in anything that comes up. If you have ID, it allows the officer to move forward in working things through. If you don’t, it’s a whole different dynamic.

So, there’s so many reasons why we want people to have ID. But we have a difference here in this city to begin with. We don’t have the same usage of drivers’ licenses as other parts of the country. And right there, before you get to any other issues, you just have a lot fewer people with what is the most typical ID. Then, as I said, half a million undocumented people. And lots of other people whose situation has not given them the opportunity. So this is really about – I think it’s a great step forward for giving people opportunity. I also think it’s a great step forward in terms of public safety that the ID will be something that becomes more common. So, the reason I say that in answer to your question is, I do understand the theoretical argument about what some downsides may be, but I am much more focused on the here and now reality that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are suffering for lack of an ID. And that’s the problem we have to solve. Do you want to – does anyone want to add? Do you have anything you want to add?

Commissioner Agarwal: Also, Commissioner Finkelpearl was here before from the Department of Cultural Affairs. We’re working closely with him to see if we can have cultural institutions participate in the card. We’re working with private institutions to find out if we can get benefits and other discounts that every New Yorker will want to avail themselves of. I think one good way to look at this card is it’s an access point to not just city government, but to all of the amenities and attractions that the city has. And we’re working hard to make sure that all of those benefits are built into this card so that it is appealing to absolutely everyone.

Mayor: Yes. And – do you want to –

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito: Yeah. We’ve been telling people that, you know, we’re in the process now of having these conversations with private entities, but this is a card that’s going to evolve. So as every year progresses, right, we’re going to have other conversations and other benefits that we can attach to the card. But I think having [inaudible] here and talking about his personal experience is an incredible validation of why this card is important.

Mayor: One other point I want to make – you know, here we are in a city where we yearn so deeply to help get people employment opportunities. I thought that was a very powerful moment when someone said you can’t even get into the place you’re supposed to go for your interview without an ID. You know, you’re going somewhere for a job interview, you get to the front desk, of course they want to see an ID. So this is about normalizing and improving people’s lives. Did you go already? Did you get one? Maybe? What do you mean maybe? Maybe?

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Agarwal: So the mayor’s office is going to continue to be involved in developing the card, but the Human Resources Administration is going to be the back office support for the card and for the issuance of the card. And like the mayor said, by early next year you’re going to see Municipal ID cards going out the doors. So we’re really excited about that.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: January.

Commissioner Agarwal: January. But we don’t have a specific date and time [inaudible].

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Agarwal: So one thing I’ll say is that many undocumented immigrants actually are paying their taxes and are contributing to the public wheel, if you will.

[Applause]

And this card will, we hope, encourage people to feel – as the mayor mentioned – very comfortable interacting with all the ordinary aspects of life in this city, including paying your taxes, going to a job interview, going to the library, what have you. So we hope it will normalize across the board.

Mayor: Last one. All right.

Question: [Inaudible] federal law enforcement agencies [inaudible]

Commissioner Agarwal: We’ve spoken with law enforcement at all levels around this card and feel very reassured that law enforcement – the only [inaudible] they have in accessing anything related to this card is for the purpose of a criminal investigation. And that’s been made very clear to us, both by the NYPD, which has been incredibly helpful in developing the card, as well as the federal law enforcement.

Mayor: Off topic. Okay you’re good, thank you very much. Off topic.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I have not focused on that piece of legislation. I’ve heard a bit from people on both sides of it. But it hasn’t been one of my focal points so far. So I’m not involved in that [inaudible]. Right behind you, who hasn’t gone? Right there.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Well yesterday I participated in a press conference with Commissioner Bratton, and it’s obvious the NYPD is very prepared for this eventuality, as always. The NYPD, I think we can say, Chief, is an expert on every conceivable part of challenge – any kind of challenge that might happen to our city, including if the LIRR strikes. So we’re very, very prepared. That being said, I would urge all involved to look at the example of what we’ve gone through just the last few months in New York City. Very challenging issues that had be resolved, issues with labor that had been going on for three, four, five, six years. And we were able to resolve them in a spirit of cooperation. So I just want to urge both sides to get back to the table and try at it with all they have to avoid this disruption to the people they serve.

Question: [Inaudible] what kind of conversations are you having with the governor [inaudible]

Mayor: Again, we’re hopeful the strike will be averted. I’m seeing the governor tomorrow and we’re going to be talking about it. The NYPD I know is very prepared and I know DOT is as well, but we’ll get you the details of that. Back.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Well we are doing a lot, and a lot more is coming. [inaudible] the whole Vision Zero plan has just begun. You’re going to see not only additional enforcement personnel and public education campaigns, you’re going to see a lot of physical changes. Already in some parts of the city you’ve seen dangerous intersections made safer by these physical changes –  lights being timed differently, more time for pedestrians to cross, bigger traffic islands – all sorts of changes that’ve just begun. They will continue for years. We have a commitment to deepen them each and every year. Special focus on zones around schools, obviously speed cameras, a lower speed limit – which will take effect in the coming months. So a lot of pieces moving very rapidly, and I know with each additional step we’re going to feel the result. But we’re not going to rest until we end this phenomenon. That’s the way we look at it. We know how difficult it is, but it’s our job to keep fighting every step of the way.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: This is a very, very aggressive plan and we are moving it intensely. What we will do as a result of this incident is look at this particular intersection again and see if there’s additional changes we have to make there. Sally?

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: You know I’ve said many times, it’s a very bad situation and we have to hope for an end to the bloodshed. But clearly Israel has a right to defend itself and has been under constant rocket attack. In terms of plans, I don’t have any immediate plans. You know, obviously I want to be sensitive to what the needs of the state of Israel are and if there’s any communication we’ll work with them on that.

Question: [Inaudible] over-crowding [inaudible] move the trailers [inaudible]

Mayor: I appreciate the question and I appreciate the report. I’m a little surprised at some of the follow-up in the sense that we just in May announced an Executive Budget which we then voted on – what was it, 10 days ago or something – that had a huge  increase in capital funding to reduce overcrowding and to move us away from trailers. So I just ask for a little more historical memory of things that happened just in the last few weeks. We’ve made a huge, huge investment and we’re going to apply that very aggressively. The overcrowding problem is unacceptable, it’s something that unfortunately has been going on for decades, but if the answer is a lot more capital spending on education, then that’s what we’re doing.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: From what I’ve heard of it, it is absolutely ridiculous. And it’s inappropriate after all the suffering that went on and after – on 9/11 and since. It seems to me this is a very insensitive and inappropriate action. And certainly we’re going to work with the City Council, and I believe the City Council will share our view that this should never be on the ballot.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I’ve endorsed Jeff Klein and Tony Avella because they are Democrats and they’ve made very clear their intention to join the Democratic majority. And that’s what we need in this state, as in we need it for the whole state. I think the people of New York City need a Democratic State Senate, and I think it’s the right thing to do to support Democrats who are devoted to that mission, and they clearly are. So I’m happy to stand with them. Thanks everyone.

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