THE BRONX — A trip to the Bronx Zoo for Jose and Mildred DeLeon and their two sons can easily cost more than $100.
"When we come to the zoo, we pack a lunch because it's so expensive," said Mildred DeLeon, a public school teacher in Queens.
Designed to give New York's half million undocumented immigrants identification, the city is luring other New Yorkers to sign up for the card with the promise of free access to some of the city's most storied cultural facilities, including Carnegie Hall, the American Museum of Natural History and El Museo del Barrio.
"We want this card to do a lot of things at once. We want to get a lot out of it," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the Bronx Zoo, where the program was announced.
"We want this card to be for everyone," said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
The program is designed to provide government-issued identification for people who don't have it, including undocumented immigrants, the homeless and displaced youth.
De Blasio said the card will also help smooth police-community relations.
"If you have ID, it's a different reality than when you don't," de Blasio said.
The program is set to launch in January, and de Blasio said there was still time to work out the card's remaining issues, such as identifying which documents will be required to positively confirm a person's identity and age.
Police Commissioner William Bratton expressed concerns about the "validation process" for the identifications in April.
Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Nisha Agarwal said the city has drafted the rules about acceptable forms of identification required to attain the card in conjunction with police. A hearing will be held next month.
Other municipal identification programs across the country have attracted about 1 percent of residents on average, but the city expects to do much better, Agarwal said. The city is also working with banks and private retailers to gain wider acceptance and discounts for the card.
For the city's cultural institutions, the benefit is to attract new potential members and open access to culture more broadly, said Arnold Lehman, director of the Brooklyn Museum and chairman of the Cultural Institutions Group, a group of private nonprofit organizations that are located on city property.
It is the 33 members of the CIG that are participating in the program. Some like the Bronx Zoo and American Museum of Natural History will offer free admission for municipal ID holders, while others like the Public Theater will offer discounts.
Lehman said there was "concern" from members of the group about "what it might cost and the complications," he said.
All members of the CIG receive city funding but Lehman said the group's members won't be receiving any additional funding from the city to offset the cost of the free memberships.
"We are doing this because we believe in it," Lehman said. "This is an investment in the future."
Lynn Kelly, CEO of Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden on Staten Island, and Jorge Daniel Veneciano, director of Museo del Barrio, both agreed.
"For every person that signs up in our organization, we'll be able to get their email so after the year is up we can continue to engage with these individuals," Kelly said.
Veneciano said, "It's like when companies give out free samples. If people like the product, they are going to go back."
Jose DeLeon, a construction worker, said he was excited that he'll soon be able to take his family to the zoo without breaking the bank, but he wishes the municipal identification card had been around 25 years ago when he emigrated from Latin America.
"I know if we had this ID available it would have been easier for me, my family and friends," he said.
Nicholas Rizzi and Gustavo Solis contributed reporting.