New York helps Paris integrate after terror attacks

NYC Office of International Affairs match-makes the world’s best initiatives

A New York city initiative to integrate vulnerable migrants has been repurposed in Paris to combat terrorism after last year’s attacks.

The scheme, which is centred on an ID issued regardless of immigration status, is part of efforts to ‘match-make’ the most innovative ideas with the countries that need them. Drawing on New York’s unparalleled access to 115 consulates and 193 permanent missions to the UN, these efforts have scored big successes, including making New York’s traffic safer than for a hundred years.

The ID cards now being distributed in Paris are intended to prevent the civic fracturing that may foster extremism by drawing the city’s more alienated residents back into its cultural and communal life. Unveiling the cards, mayor Anne Hidalgo said they embodied the Paris’s values of ‘liberty, diversity and tolerance’.

Documents for the Undocumented

New York’s municipal ID card is aimed at recent immigrants who are in danger of falling through the social net, including at least half a million undocumented migrants estimated to be living in the city. It guarantees access to public services, allows holders to open bank accounts, gives discounts on prescription drugs and provides membership benefits at cultural institutions like the Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.

The free card is available to anyone who can prove their identity and their address, and close to a million people have signed up since it was launched last year. Created under the auspices of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the NYPD, it allows police to issue a summons instead of making an arrest.

There have been some glitches in the programme’s implementation — few banks initially accepted the card and some of the people most in need of the card were unable to prove their identity. The city has called on its guest consulates to help identify their citizens and has recently begun to accept more types of primary ID on the application form, including tickets issued to offenders upon release from prison and paperwork provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The New York ID issued to the Pope when he visited last September

In order to obviate the risk of the cards becoming stigmatised, the mayor’s office has used its connections to the world’s largest collection of diplomats to convince high-profile people, such as Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, to sign up first. Mayor Bill de Blasio even issued one to the Pope when he visited in September.

Paris after the attacks

It was de Blasio who introduced the scheme to his Parisian equivalent Anne Hidalgo, showing her his own card after attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket left 17 dead in January 2015.

Two weeks later, Hidalgo announced that she would create an equivalent to counter radicalism, engage citizens in the life of the city and foster communal cohesion in the French capital.

The perpetrators were second-generation immigrants who had been born and/or grown up in the city, but fallen catastrophically out of touch with mainstream culture. Paris has historically had an infamously poor record on integration, particularly in the socially isolated suburbs, the banlieues, which in 2005 erupted into rioting in which several people were killed and 3,000 arrested.

Bill de Blasio offers condolences to Anne Hidalgo after the January 2015 attacks

Now Hidalgo, who took office in April 2014, is rolling out the carte citoyenne-citoyen de Paris. It provides similar benefits to the New York model, but also allows holders to take part in allocating part of the city’s annual budget as well as in tours and cultural events intended to develop active citizenship.

International match-making

The connection between the administrations of de Blasio and Hidalgo came out of a conscious effort in New York to use its international connections to both spread what was working in the city and to learn from abroad.

New York is uniquely well prepared to take advantage of international sharing of solutions. Not only is it home to the world’s largest diplomatic corps, the mayor also has an Office of International Affairs, which caters for the diplomats and connects visiting experts and delegations with local officials.

One of most successful ideas New York has adopted is ‘Vision Zero‘, a Swedish scheme for using open data and crowdsourced citizen reports to identify dangerous junctions or stretches of road and redesign them. Last year, fewer New Yorkers died in traffic accidents than in any year since 1910, despite the population almost doubling.

Changes made at Jackson Avenue from 11th Street to the Pulaski Bridge in Queens (illustration via Vision Zero; other images Wikimedia, Twitter, NY Mayor’s Office)

More than 10,000 people gave comments such as ‘not enough time to cross’ or ‘can’t see where traffic is coming from’, guiding the Department of Transportation in 80 improvement projects.

Despite the tremendous diversity of interests among the world’s countries, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have given them a framework for collaboration. As a result, the Office of International Affairs has launched a programme called “Global Vision | Urban Action”, the idea being that although worldwide change is the ultimate goal, it can only happen one city at a time.

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