Neighbors question ‘Safe Outdoor Space’ location

[anvplayer video=”5116218″ station=”998122″]

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A post on the Nextdoor app prompted a record turnout at a northeast Albuquerque neighborhood association meeting Thursday night. It named a potential location for the recently passed “safe outdoor space” as North Domingo Baca Park.  

“This is the biggest turnout I’ve ever seen in a meeting,” said Amie Norman, who lives in the northeast heights. “There are probably 150 people that all have something to say, opinions one way or another. I am definitely not for it. I don’t know what the solution is but this isn’t it.”

Albuquerque City Councilor Brook Bassan had no problem reading the room. She was there with APD’s northeast commander for a scheduled neighborhood association meeting about an uptick in crime in northeast Albuquerque businesses. However, dozens of concerned neighbors had questions for Bassan about the possibility of a homeless camp moving into the nearby lot.

“Hello everybody I know you’re all angry at me,” Bassan started. “Let me explain.”

She says this is a case of miscommunication.

“It’s not going to happen two in every single district, it’s not going to happen overnight and I can guarantee you it was never going to happen near residential properties, at businesses in Albuquerque that are nearby here and certainly not south of North Domingo Baca Park. It was never, ever, ever a proposal,” Bassan iterated.

Councilors showed a map of potential locations based on zoning at a meeting earlier this month, including the lot in question near the park, but nothing is set in stone.

“‘The zoning here would technically allow that,” Bassan said. “Technically allow that. The City of Albuquerque would be able to choose which properties if we decided to do it.”

The meeting at least provided a glimpse into some neighbors’ thoughts and other local leaders’ thoughts, like those of Bernalillo County Commissioner Walt Benson, on the possibility.

“We’re enabling and incentivizing homelessness and crime,” Benson said. “The real winners to these sanctioned encampments are drug dealers and human traffickers. I’m absolutely opposed to it. Setting up a permanent tent where they can just do drugs all day long that’s not the solution.”

The city hopes to start with one camp and go from there. Representatives from the Family and Community Services Department, which is funding these spaces, announced recently that they have two interested church congregations.