On June 27, calling it “the most dangerous place in the state of New Mexico” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference standing in front of Coronado Park to announce its closure and to discuss his reasons for ordering the parks closed and saying it was imperative even without a fully formed plan for how to do it and what happens next.
The primary reason Keller gave for closure of the park was the extent of the crime. According to APD in the last two years there have been at least five homicides, 16 stabbings and 20 assaults. In 2021 APD responded to 651 calls at the park, and as of July 21, 2022 there have been 312 calls for service.
Keller said this:
“We’re not going to wait any longer. We have all the evidence we need that says that we have to do something different. … It is not going to be something where every question is answered, and every plan is thought out. … We do not have the luxury of a perfect plan. … At this point, if we don’t close the park now, it will never be a park again. … There was unanimous consensus that at a minimum, temporarily, this park has to close. … This is the first step. We welcome everyone to help us problem-solve, but someone has to step up and make a decision … And that’s what people elected me to do.”
City officials have said that upwards 120 people camp nightly at the park. Homeless occupants will be told of other housing options offered by the city. The city will continue to offer services and housing options to those using Coronado Park, including making limited property storage available to those who are interested or in need of it.
Keller said the immediate closure of the park will be “messy” and that dispersing park residents could create other problems. Keller said that no decision had been made about the park’s specific closure date. He also said no long-term plans have been made for the property but said options include reopening it as a park, using it for the neighboring fire station’s expansion or turning it into a “safe outdoor space” which is a managed site with rules, toilets and showers where people who are homeless can legally camp.
The links to quoted news sources are here:
KELLER’S COMPLETE REVERASAL
Mayor Keller’s decision to close Coronado Park was a dramatic 100% reversal from when he gave excuses why he could not close Coronado Park. It was an astonishing admission of failure when Mayor Tim Keller said this about Coronado Park:
“[The federal courts] will not allow us to just walk in and arrest someone because they’re homeless and the current situation beats the alternative. … It is not lost on me that we created Coronado Park because Wells Park said, ‘We don’t want these folks in our neighborhood,’ and we agree with them. And that’s why they were all grouped to one area. … So you also got to remember the alternative. You can’t have it both ways — you want to close Coronado Park, you are going to open all of Wells Park neighborhood to something none of us want to see.”
Link to quoted news source:
KOAT TV TARGET 7 REPORT
On August 8, KOAT TV Target 7 reported that Coronado Park remains open, things have only gotten worse at the park and no visible progress has been made closing it. Following is the full transcript of the news story entitled “It’s starting to get worse’: Eight days into August, Coronado Park Still Not Closed”:
“Rio Bravo Brewery sits at 1912 2nd Street in North West Albuquerque.
“Some people don’t like the idea that it has concertina wire across the top,” said Rio Bravo Brewery c0-owner Denise Baker.
The brewery didn’t always have wiring.
“They’ve thrown trash. They’ve slept out here. And so, we’ve had to add cameras. You’ll notice we have cameras almost every spot in the place,” Baker said.
The precautions at the brewery are now needed.
“It’s starting to get worse,” Baker said.
That’s because the business is right across the street from Coronado Park.
“The vandalism has increased. We’ve had people smoking fentanyl in our bathrooms,” Baker said.
The increased vandalism and drug use in the area are affecting business.
“You ask, does it hurt our revenue? Well, definitely,” she added.
The problems with the park and the areas surrounding it are known.
“At some point, you just have to say you’re going to do something and that’s what we’re doing,” Mayor Tim Keller said at a press conference at Coronado Park on July 26, the day he announced the park was going to close.
“We must get started doing it, and that’s what August is going to be all about,” Keller said.
Keller said the park would begin to be cleared in August.
“It is still open and it’s worse now,” said Baker.
Baker says since the announcement was made, more people experiencing homelessness have moved back into an area of the park they once were not camping in.
“Now that they know the park’s closing, they’re taking residency in the dog park,” she said.
Target 7 wanted to get some clear answers. After a press conference yesterday about the recent violence against Muslim men, we confronted Keller about the park.
“Just given what we’ve been dealing with on Sunday, I don’t have nothing new. So stay tuned. You know, obviously, I have certainly been dealing with this for the last few days, so I do not have the latest on that. But I do know that everyone is working on a plan,” he said when asked for an update.
Baker says that with an answer like that, she is skeptical if the park will close this month, or at all.
“I just feel like he is pushing it down further, hoping it’ll silence the masses and we’ll quit asking for it,” Baker said.”
The link to the Target 7 News Report is here:
GOVERNOR LUJAN GRISHAM INNTERESTED IN THE STATE PURCHASING CORONADO PARK FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS
On August 4 an event was held for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham where she spoke as she campaigns for reelection. It was held at a private home in the far Noth East heights and attracted a large, standing room crowd, of enthusiastic supporters wanting to hear her speak. The Governor spoke for approximately 45 minutes, and she exhibited an exceptional grasp of the issues including efforts to diversify the economy, economic develop and job creation, crime reduction efforts, rebuilding our mental health system, reducing taxes, protecting a woman’s right to choose and pointing out that much has been accomplished even while dealing with crisis after crisis after crisis such as the pandemic, the wildfires and flooding.
During her comments, the Governor took time to discuss crime in Albuquerque and how she is committed to programs to reduce the city’s out of control violent crime rates. While discussing the City’s crime, Governor Lujan Grisham in particular brought up the closure of Coronado Park. In what can only be considered a surprise announcement, the Governor said that her administration wants to purchase Coronado Park. Her plan is to build a facility or complex on the land for service providers to the homeless which would include private providers and state and city providers so that there will be one centralized location for services being provided. The Governor’s idea merits serious discussion. The reaction from the audience was positive. The Governor did not disclose exactly how far along the purchase plans are or if it was just an idea or if the city has been approached.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that no visible progress has been made closing Coronado Park and that things are only getting worse in the area. After all, Keller said that no decision had been made about the park’s specific closure date and just said “sometime in August”. Keller also admitted that the immediate closure of the park will be “messy” and that dispersing park residents could create other problems. This is what happens when you have no plans in place before making announcement and when you presume something will happen when you give an order.
Mayor Tim Keller has admitted that it is he who had the biggest hand in creating “the most dangerous place in the state of New Mexico” and creating the cesspool of crime known as Coronado Park. It was nauseating to see Mayor Keller being very dismissive of the Channel 7 reporter. Keller virtually walked away from him acting annoyed at being questioned and deflecting blame for not knowing what was going on with the closure of the park. Keller proclaimed he was dealing with another city crisis and the serial killings of the 4 Muslim men. Keller said this on camera as he was walking away:
“Just given what we’ve been dealing with on Sunday, I don’t have nothing new. So stay tuned. … I have certainly been dealing with for the last few days, so I do not have the latest on that. But I do know that everyone is working on a plan.”
Keller needs to be reminded what he said a few months ago before he decided to close the park:
“It is not lost on me that we created Coronado Park because Wells Park said, ‘We don’t want these folks in our neighborhood,’ and we agree with them. And that’s why they were all grouped to one area.”
Grouping the homeless, as Keller said, in a city park should never have been considered as an option to deal with the homeless crisis given all the resources the city is spending to help the homeless. This so called “grouping” coming from a mayor who for his entire first term made dealing with the homeless crisis a corner stone of his administration. A Mayor whose administration spent $40 million in 2022 and will spend $60 million in 2023 to provide assistance to the homeless. A Mayor who saw to it that the city purchased the 529,000 square-foot Lovelace Hospital facility on Gibson for $15 million to have it converted into a Gateway Shelter and who made the westside shelter a 24-7 facility.
Keller has essentially “pivoted” from a crisis he has created known as Coronado Park to another crisis he will have to deal with when it comes to closing the park without any plan dealing those that are being displaced. Simply put, Coronado Park is an embarrassment with the city violating its own ordinances and nuisance laws by allowing overnight camping and criminal conduct in the park thus creating a public nuisance both under state law and city ordinance.
Coronado Park is the symbol of Keller’s failure as Mayor to deal with the homeless crisis. Perhaps Mayor Keller should pick up the phone and call the Governor and attempt to sell Coronado Park to the state in order to bail himself out of a crisis he has created.
It’s clear we have a Governor that actually knows what to do to deal with and solve a crisis as opposed to a mayor that creates a crisis and tries to solve it without a plan of action thereby making it even worse.