Neighbors urge ABQ to buy church-owned park at auction

Santa Barbara Park, which sits in front of San Ignacio church in Martineztown is going up for auction. The property is owned by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and is leased by the city of Albuquerque. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Residents of the Santa Barbara and Martineztown area are pleading with the city of Albuquerque to do whatever it can to protect a park headed to the auction block.

As part of its bankruptcy, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is selling property, including Santa Barbara Park, near Edith and Rosemont NE.

Several people who live around the park wrote the Albuquerque City Council this week, urging the municipal government to buy the land or somehow intervene.

“Please do what you can to save for the public this pretty, quiet place in the midst of an historic, yet humble neighborhood. It is important,” Teresa Storch wrote in public comment submitted to the council.

The auction comes as the archdiocese – which has filed for bankruptcy – liquidates assets to fund future settlements related to sexual abuse claims against clergy members.

The city – which already leases the property as part of its park system – is interested in acquiring the land, a spokeswoman said.

It is not, however, an ordinary transaction.

“The City contacted the Archdiocese to purchase the park outright, but due to the church’s current legal situation, an auction is required,” Parks and Recreation Department spokeswoman Jessica Campbell said in an email to the Journal. “The City will be participating in the auction that begins September 20.”

Many who live in the Santa Barbara and Martineztown area are asking city officials to buy the park.

She said the money would come from the budget but declined to say how much the city is willing to pay for the property.

The city has used the park under an agreement with the archdiocese that goes back to the late 1960s, according to Campbell. About five years ago, the city made $550,000 in improvements at the site.

Its current lease extends to 2036. Should another bidder win the property, Campbell said, the city’s lease would transfer to the new owner.

Tom Macken, chancellor for the archdiocese, said through a spokeswoman that the property will be maintained as a park at least until the city’s lease is over.

“The winning bidder would get ownership immediately, but the lease still gives possession to the City until their lease is over,” the archdiocese said in an email.

Loretta Naranjo Lopez, president of the Santa Barbara Martineztown Neighborhood Association, said the park is a vital community asset – a much-needed “green space” that benefits residents’ health and has served as the neighborhood’s playground for generations. She said she is grateful the community is speaking out about its importance and hopes the city acquires the site.

“This is a historic neighborhood,” said Lopez, who lives about two blocks from the park on a street where both her mother and father were raised. “We should treasure these neighborhoods and not destroy them.”

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