- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is adding incentives to encourage more New Yorkers to obtain a municipal identification card, aiming to increase the card’s reach once it is unveiled next year.

The card will be available to anyone who can prove their identity and New York residency. It is particularly aimed at those who do not currently have ID, like the elderly, homeless and an estimated 500,000 immigrants in the city who live in the U.S. without legal documentation.

But to prevent the card from being viewed as something only used by immigrants, the city is adding incentives so all New Yorkers will want one - including free membership at 33 of the city’s signature cultural institutions.

“This is a really good deal,” said de Blasio as he announced the program Thursday at the Bronx Zoo, where he was flanked by elected officials, cultural leaders and two statues of a rhinoceros. “We want this card to do a lot of different things at once. We want to get a lot out of it.”

The card, to be unveiled Jan. 1, would come with significant savings: an annual individual membership at the zoo, for instance, is $79.

Other institutions involved include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. A cardholder can obtain a free one-year membership at any of the venues.

Elected officials stressed that these institutions would now be more available to New Yorkers who otherwise couldn’t afford to visit.

“These New Yorkers are our neighbors, our friends, our family, our co-workers,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “They send their kids to school and contribute to New York in various ways, so truly this will be an ID for all.”

The card, dubbed NYC ID, is meant to help New Yorkers - many of whom don’t drive or have a driver’s license - take care of their day-to-day business, such as cashing a check, signing a lease or entering office buildings for job interviews or public schools for parent-teacher conferences. The city is also negotiating with banks to treat the card as acceptable identification to open accounts.

Other U.S. cities that issue such cards include Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Haven, Connecticut.

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