ALBUQUERQUE – The Historic Neighborhood Alliance and the Martineztown Working Group have filed a Civil Rights Act complaint against the City of Albuquerque, condemning its current zoning laws for being discriminatory and perpetuating the erosion of the culturally-rich and historic Martineztown neighborhood. The community, which has roots that predate the Mexican-American War, is fighting to preserve its unique historic character despite the lack of zoning protections that the City has instituted for more affluent and less diverse neighborhoods.
“It’s unfortunate that the City is allowing one of Albuquerque’s oldest and most culturally rich neighborhoods to be destroyed in exchange for industrial facilities,” said Diana Dorn-Jones, founding member of the Historic Neighborhood Alliance. “The residents of Martineztown are fighting to have a voice in the zoning process because it can save this culturally-rich neighborhood.”
Under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is tasked with making sure recipients of its federal funds, such as Albuquerque, do not discriminate on the basis of race. The mostly minority neighborhood of Martineztown has faced threats of encroachment from industry for decades, and residents are asking HUD to launch an investigation into the inequities of the City’s zoning code.
“Although a neighborhood like Martineztown adds to Albuquerque’s character and history, we have been treated like a colony that the City can use as an industrial dumping ground,” said Robert Nelson, a member of the Historic Neighborhood Alliance. “The City chose to perpetuate the same inappropriate and inequitable zoning. We bring this complaint to hold the City accountable for its mistreatment of Martineztown that has gone on for far too long.”
Since the 1950s, the City has zoned this neighborhood of historic homes as industrial and failed to adopt the same protections given to other culturally-rich parts of the City. Residents say the inequitable zoning laws have resulted in the deterioration of countless unique places as well as the erosion of Martineztown’s social fabric. While much of the neighborhood has retained characteristics of a traditional historic town, residents are calling on the City to fix this decades-long problem in its most recent restructuring of the City’s zoning code.
“Martineztown deserves the same protections that neighboring communities can count on to preserve their historical heritage,” said Morgan Wyenn, staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Environmental Justice Project. “Sadly, bad zoning practices in many cities around the country consolidate industrial activities in close proximity of communities of color.”
Residents are calling on Albuquerque’s new mayor take the lead in addressing zoning disparities that have been long-ignored by City government and expressed support for Mayor Keller’s efforts to make Albuquerque more inclusive of all its communities.
The Historic Neighborhood Alliance is a group of local residents working together to preserve Albuquerque’s diverse culture and protect our most vulnerable neighbors and neighborhoods.
The Martineztown Working Group is made up of residents of the Martineztown Santa Barbara Neighborhood and members of the institutions of Santa Barbara Martineztown Neighborhood Association, San Ignacio, Second Presbyterian and St. Paul Lutheran Churches wanting to organize to work for justice for the neighborhood.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.