4 Investigates: Shortcut through hell

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Mesa Arriba is a classic Albuquerque neighborhood from one of the city’s biggest expansion periods in the late 1950s and ‘60s. Its streets just off Candelaria Rd. and Eubank Blvd. display older houses that are still well kept. Homeowners are both older and younger families. Eddie Gallegos has lived in his Aztec Road home for 20 years.

“It’s like a family right here. We got little kids; we got elderly people. I love this house,” he says, standing in his front yard.

He’s at wit’s end, however, when it comes to the alley next to his house.

“It’s awful to live with. It really is. It’s a concern every time we come out of the house. We never know what we’re gonna find,” he says.

Neighbors report seeing people masturbating, doing drugs, using the alley as a restroom, setting fires and more. But because the alley is part drainage easement, part public right-of-way, it’s been impossible to stem the tide of trouble that finds its way down the path into the neighborhood.

According to a staffer for Councilor Trudy Jones, the city managed to put an iron gate at both ends of the alley about seven years ago. But because the city didn’t jump through its own hoops before blocking foot traffic, it took the gate down after neighbors a few blocks away complained about losing access to the shortcut – which shaves a few dozen feet off a walk out to Eubank Blvd. NE. Councilor Jones is aware of the ongoing issues but would not speak with 4 Investigates on the record.

Gallegos and neighbors are happy to pay for a gate themselves, but because of the walkway’s unique status, the city won’t let them.

“We’ve had several break-ins of vehicles. A house…a couple of houses down, their house has been broken into twice. Our neighbor’s vehicle has been broken into three times,” Gallegos explains. “All day, every day. Weekends, weeknights; it’s nonstop.”

A spokesman for Albuquerque’s Planning Department says that, short of City Council action, the only other solution is to have the property legally remapped. Application fees and an expensive survey would likely push that cost into the thousands of dollars – something that made neighbors balk.

“They might just tell us no; that there’s nothing they can do and they’re not changing anything. And then it’s money down the drain,” says a woman KOB agreed to not identify because of safety worries.

Neighbors have begun calling police, with records showing seven calls in the past few months. But they’re reluctant to tax the city’s resources.

“You live in Albuquerque, you know what the crime situation is, you know what the homeless situation is. It’s bad. I get that,” says Gallegos.

“I love Albuquerque. I truly do. My roots are planted here,” says the other neighbor. “I don’t think it’s that the city doesn’t care, I think this is such a small piece of what’s going on that it just falls on deaf ears.”

Police do show up, neighbors say, but often the relatively low-priority call means troublemakers are gone by the time officers arrive.

After 20 years, Gallegos is nearing the end of his rope.

“You know, my wife and I are considering moving because of this alley,” he says. “And the only reason why is because of this alley.”