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‘One Albuquerque’ sculpture’s street placement raises concerns

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People walk by the “One Albuquerque ” sculpture that sits in 3rd street between Civic Plaza and the Albuquerque Convention Center. Wednesday, Aug. 07, 2019. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The city has described its massive new “One Albuquerque” sculpture as a physical representation of a spirit “that calls our community together to solve some of our biggest challenges and unleash our city’s potential.”

But one local disability advocate is calling it a hazard.

The artwork currently sits on Third Street in a setup that runs afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Terri O’Hare told the City Council on Monday night, citing particular concern for pedestrians who are blind. The sculpture is  in the roadway between Civic Plaza and the Albuquerque Convention Center.

O’Hare, a former member of the city’s Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Council, said Monday she had notified the city’s ADA coordinator of the issues to no avail.

“I want you to know … this thing needs to be moved,” she said during the council’s public comment period. “It’s a liability.”

O’Hare told the Journal in an interview that visually impaired pedestrians could potentially walk into the sculpture, noting its positioning in a crosswalk and close to the tactile paving – bumpy surfacing – used to warn visually impaired walkers they are entering the street. The stacked-word logo also has some letters that hang over the base in what O’Hare called dangerous “protrusions.” The city put movie theater-style roping next to the sculpture as a barrier, but O’Hare said it is insufficient. A cane could go right underneath the ropes, she said.

“It’s a very odd thing to have where it is; it’s unexpected,” she said of the sculpture.

A city spokeswoman said the city’s Municipal Development director has contacted O’Hare to discuss her concerns.

“Although art installations like sculptures are not required to meet ADA standards, we are committed to building an inclusive city, so fixes are underway,” Jessie Damazyn said in an email.

Unveiled a month ago, the three-dimensional version of Mayor Tim Keller’s “One Albuquerque” mantra will soon be moved. Damazyn said it is headed “in the coming weeks” for the southeast corner of Civic Plaza. Despite concerns that its 17,800-pound weight would prohibit placement on Civic Plaza – which has an underground parking garage – Damazyn said a structural assessment found it could be placed at the corner of Tijeras and Third.

O’Hare said she has not yet met with the city or seen a specific plan for the relocation but that any setup should include at least a short, ground-level barrier that a cane-user could detect.

The city will also move the sculpture around to special events such as Balloon Fiesta and the New Mexico State Fair. The city will have to use a crane for any relocations.

The city spent $53,000 on the piece, including $39,000 from lodgers’ tax revenue designated for marketing and a $14,000 gift from the National Senior Games organizing committee.

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