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Being a New Yorker could mean free museum admission some day soon

Howard Halle

While Congress dithers on immigration reform, City Hall has made its own move on the issue, proposing a municipal identity card for all residents of the Five Boroughs, including illegal immigrants. The program, expected to be implemented in January, aims to provide some form of documentation to New Yorkers who do not have a drivers license or passport. Although there are fears that an ID card could lead to abuse—mainly, that it could be used to locate people for deportation—a potential perk for the new card could benefit all New Yorkers: free museum and concert admission. Cultural affairs commissioner (and former Queens Museum director) Tom Finkelpearl put the idea on the table last week, and says that so far, it has received a positive reaction from such city-owned institutions as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Museum and Lincoln Center. City-owned, of course, is the crucial distinction here. It’s pretty unlikely that private museums like MoMA the Whitney and the Guggenheim would go along. But they are not-for-profits, and receive tax breaks from the city, so there may be room for some arm-twisting there. Plus, almost all of New York’s museums get the majority of their revenue from tourists. We’d venture to guess that most New Yorkers go to museums on pay-as-you-wish evenings (and despite what it might try to tell you otherwise, the Met is always pay-what-you-wish), so why the hell not let them in gratis? But don’t tear up your memberships just yet: free museum admission is far from guaranteed, and ID cards won't be issued until 2015.


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