Keller announces the closure of Coronado Park
In an announcement that came as a surprise to many, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said the city will be shutting down Coronado Park next month. The park has long been a camping site for the unhoused in Albuquerque.
Keller said the current status of the park has been going on since before he was mayor and the status-quo is no longer acceptable.
“We are putting the community in general on notice that we are going to make some changes,” Keller said.
The details of those changes are still undecided, but the city is open to new approaches. Some reasons for shutting the park down now according to Keller is the safety of those in the park and concerns about organized narcotics and thief rings and violence that has occurred at the park.
“That’s why we have to shut this down, it is simply not viable for what it is right now.” Keller said.
Albuquerque Police Department Area Commander Nick Wheeler said the department has responded to the park 651 times in 2021 and 312 calls to the park so far this year.
There have been 5 homicides, 16 stabbings, 20 assaults and batteries and four shootings at the park in the last two years.
Those within the park aren’t all involved in criminal activities according to Keller, some are prayed upon because they are in a vulnerable position.
The process of clearing out and shutting down the park is on a rough timeline.
As for the people currently at Coronado Park, city officials say everyone there has access to a bed. Family and Community Services Director Carol Pirece estimates that there are currently about 120 people residing in the park.
According to Pirece, there are 105 beds available at the Westside Emergency Shelter, which has a bus stop located right next to Coronado Park, and beds also available at numerous other shelters throughout the city.
“We are going to continue our intensive outreach and surveying of the people currently at Coronado Park. To really identify the best avenues and pathways for them.”
A number of those at the park currently have housing vouchers and Pirece said the city will work closely with them to address the barriers they’re encountering when trying to secure housing. A safe outdoor space is also on the table as well for those willing to commit to the rules and regulations of one.
Coronado Park Pierce said, is not an example of a safe outdoor space.
“A safe outdoor space has rules, it has agreements, it creates a safe community for those people willing to be in that space.”
As the city begins to move forward with their plan to clear out the park, Keller said they must know there will be many hurdles and unknowns ahead.
“There is no easy answer, there is not going to be a smooth process,” Keller said. “It is not going to something where every question is answered and every plan is throughout. We do not have the luxury of a perfect plan.”