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IDNYC Records Can Be Destroyed by City in 10 Days, Judge Rules

By Nicholas Rizzi | April 7, 2017 11:46am | Updated on April 9, 2017 9:06pm
 Judge Philip Minardo ruled that the city can delete application data used to apply for IDNYC after two Republican assembly members sued to retain the data.
Judge Philip Minardo ruled that the city can delete application data used to apply for IDNYC after two Republican assembly members sued to retain the data.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

ST. GEORGE — A Staten Island judge on Friday ruled that the city can destroy documents used to apply for IDNYC — but not until after April 17.

Judge Philip Minardo agreed that the city had a right to destroy the information gathered when people applied for the municipal identification program, which Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would purge to shield undocumented immigrants from prosecution or arrest by the federal government.

Republican Assemblymembers Ron Castorina Jr. and Nicole Malliotakis had sued to force the city to retain the information, saying it was necessary to preserve public safety and violated Freedom of Information Laws.

The pair said they plan to appeal, and have until April 17 to do so after Minardo granted a stay through that date as requested by their lawyers.

"We respectfully disagree with the findings," their lawyer, Ravi Batra, said. "What is at stake here is public safety and open government. New York City says they should be a secret government, but that's a very slippery slope."

In his decision, Minardo wrote that FOIL laws do not require places to retain documents and — because the existing ones would need to be heavily redacted — could cost up to $6 million to release them.

"Much ado was made about the recent federal election of a Republican President with an immigration agenda and petitioners' support of the President," Minardo wrote. "Notwithstanding these positions, this Court cannot make new law based up a political party's agenda."

Castorina said he thinks the decision had a lot inaccurate understanding of the law — and didn't think the amount to release to documents was accurate — so was confident they'd be successful in the appeal.

"I think it's ripe for an appeal and I think it would ultimately be a success," Castorina told DNAinfo. "It's my opinion that this decision will make us less safe as opposed to more safe."

Castorina also didn't think the federal government would rush to grab the data within 10 days and argued there were other ways for them to find undocumented immigrants.

"Using this information as a Holy Grail for information on undocumented persons is complete political hyperbole," he said. "This has nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with public safety."

The mayor and other lawmakers across the city hailed the judge's decision.

"With this decision the State Supreme Court protected the personal information of a million New Yorkers," de Blasio said in a statement.

"IDNYC was created to protect people and connect them to vital services and today’s decision ensures it will continue to do just that. We applaud the ruling and will fight any attempt to appeal it."

After the suit was filed, the city changed the law to no longer keep any documents filed by applicants for IDNYC starting in January.

Malliotakis and Castorina argued that not keeping the data would create a security risk because it would make it impossible to trace people who use the card.

Despite their concerns, one of the city's counterterrorism experts testified in court that keeping the data poses a security risk itself.

"Anything that lives on a server can and will be breached," the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said during a Jan. 5 hearing.

"It could lead to a massive identity fraud operation."

De Blasio launched the IDNYC program in 2015 to give identification cards to residents who have trouble obtaining regular ID, such as undocumented immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and transgender people.

There have been more than 900,000 applications since it launched. The city has investigated 102 cases alleging fraud and confirmed just four, which involved people using bogus identities to get the cards, officials previously said in court.

"Today’s State Supreme Court ruling is a win for all New Yorkers," Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilman Carlos Menchaca said in a joint statement.

"This decision, which protects New Yorkers’ personal data, validates what we’ve known from the beginning: that all residents — regardless of their gender identity, permanent address, or immigration status – deserve access to all of our City’s critical resources."