Friday, November 7, 2003
Old Town Residents Up in Arms
By Lloyd Jojola
Journal Staff Writer
A new Old Town "exhibit" has some people going ballistic.
The controversy was cleared for liftoff a few weeks ago when the National Atomic Museum set up a nearly 70-foot Redstone missile along Mountain Road NW, across the street from the Albuquerque Museum.
"Not only did the Redstone hold the distinction of being the first operational U.S. ballistic missile, it also played a pivotal role in the birth of America's space program," states a museum fact sheet.
Critics believe its role now is to demolish Old Town's image.
"It's ugly. It doesn't fit with the neighborhood," resident Eric Rajala said. "You have adobes, and the Old Town Plaza, and this missile sticking out above. It's just hideous."
Becky Kenny, director of museum public relations and marketing, said visitors missed the outdoor exhibits, which were on display at the museum's old location on base.
"We wanted to have one of those there to note what type of museum we were," she said.
All the necessary permits were obtained to move and erect the missile, and neighborhoods were notified about the display, she said. "We did not hear from any of the (neighborhood) associations until the project actually started," she said.
Resident Jennifer Hix said when museum officials made a project presentation to the Plaza Vieja/Old Town Neighborhood Association it was done "in a way that emphasized only the missile's use as a rocket in the U.S. space program with no mention of the word 'missile' nor its origins as a carrier of 6,000-pound warheads."
Hix has fired off a letter to Gov. Bill Richardson asking for help to "remove this deplorable object from our city's horizon."
Some critics claim the object was deemed "art" in order to bypass a public hearing on whether it could be put there.
"We certainly didn't list it as an 'art piece,'" Kenny said. "We listed it as an exhibit."
"If it is art," said Perry Wilkes of the Downtown Neighborhoods Association, "we should paint it purple with green stripes or something and celebrate the change of weapons of terrible destruction, weapons of terror, to art pieces. Let's do something appropriate for the site."