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Barelas Land Grab

Barelas Land Grab

Will the Barelas Coffee House have to change its name to Silver-Platinum Downtown Coffee House?

Neighborhood to the North Annexes Historic Barelas


Nature abhors a vacuum, and that apparently applies to neighborhood associations in Albuquerque.

In what one city councilor calls a “crazy” case, the historic Barelas neighborhood south of Downtown recently saw its boundaries usurped by an upstart association to the north.

The old Barelas Neighborhood Association let its designation lapse as an officially recognized association under the city’s Neighborhood Recognition Ordinance. And when Barelas had no officially recognized neighborhood association, the Silver-Platinum Downtown Neighborhood Association, which was formed in 2015, moved to fill the void. It absorbed the Barelas neighborhood.

So, technically, Barelas residents now live in the Silver-Platinum Neighborhood. Understandably, Barelas residents are upset. They have called the annexation a hostile takeover, and they’re vowing to take back their neighborhood.

City Councilor Isaac Benton, whose district includes Barelas, said the absorption of Barelas into the SPDNA was “crazy” and that he wants the city to reverse the decision. City officials say the annexation was legal.

The man who heads the Silver-Platinum association, Ron Casias, said the takeover is a good thing for Barelas because its residents and businesses weren’t being effectively represented by the old BNA. His association will breathe life into the neighborhood, he said.

“The Barelas association had been defunct, and the community really hadn’t had representation for years,” Casias said. “Business and residents contacted us and said they wanted representation. We crossed our Ts and dotted our Is. We want to do this, not to have power but to change people’s lives.”

Robert Vigil, vice president of a newly formed and reconstituted – but not officially recognized – Barelas Neighborhood Association, sees it differently.

“I would call it an attempted takeover. It is totally wrong, totally immoral, and totally not acceptable,” Vigil said. “This is a little trick that is going on. I think Mr. Casias should be ashamed of himself. I would say we are probably the second oldest neighborhood in the city. This is kind of like a hostile takeover. He does not represent us, and he will not represent us.”

But while Barelas residents might not recognize the takeover, the city’s Office of Neighborhood Coordination does. That office officially decertified the old BNA in September 2015, and this past May it approved the expansion of the SPDNA to include the entire Barelas neighborhood.

And while Vigil decries the takeover as immoral, he concedes that it was partially the fault of Barelas leaders.

In order to keep its official designation with the city, a neighborhood association must file a page-and-a-half report every year listing its officers, number of dues-paying members, its bylaws and other details of its organization. But the old BNA didn’t file that report, at least not in 2015, and so the city yanked its official designation.

“There was a lapse, maybe we fell asleep as a neighborhood and didn’t realize there was someone waiting to take advantage,” Vigil said. “Regardless, it’s still not right.”

Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.




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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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  • Patricia
    September 21, 2016, 2:18 pm

    Neighborhood associations are often kept afloat by the same half dozen people year after year, an email changes, the Annual Report Notification falls thru the cracks, and the NA loses its official standing. This happened in Victory Hills a few years back. While it is the duty of the BNA’s board to keep up with the paperwork, one would think a good neighbor would provide a reminder rather than a takeover.

  • DChester
    September 21, 2016, 7:35 pm

    Are you sure the leader of the "new" association isn’t Thomas B. Catron?

  • Stephen Eiland
    September 22, 2016, 12:25 am

    This is crap! What "representation" has the SPNA given Barelas? I do not know of a single person that asked them here, nor want outsiders from a transient neighborhood to usurp our community.

    • David Dabney@Stephen Eiland
      September 22, 2016, 8:33 am

      After the Barelas NA was reconstituted, why is Silver-Platinum still pressing its case? Why not just say, "OK, not problem. We’re going back to the old boundaries?" It feels like a weird power game. Both paternalistic and greedy.

  • Sofia
    September 22, 2016, 1:12 pm

    Has anyone analyzed the SPNs marketing website? Where is their financial transparency and federal non-profit status? Their border map having not evolved into Barelas indicates their land-grab concept is still in limbo.
    Crossing neighborhood boundaries without the process of collaboration and coordination by all those affected is arrogant, unethical and unfriendly to the point of misrepresentation of their alleged core intent of community alliance.
    This forced merger by trickery is for the sake of profit. It has nothing to do with goodwill or empowerment for the Barelas or Silver neighborhood residents.


    • Sofia@Sofia
      September 22, 2016, 2:23 pm

      I’d like to add another 2 cents. No, make it a nickle.
      SPN needs to publish their actual accomplishments that benefits Silver and Barleas rather than echoing and taking credit for city leaders actions which has already been done or is in the process.
      That would be more pertinent to their cause than blustering and bragging of a merger with claims of profitable business and historical acquisitions within their ‘new’ borders.
      SPN has misrepresented themselves on too many fronts to be ignored and unchallenged as to the legality’s pertaining to Merger and Acquisition Laws since the [merger] is profitable with acquisitions as published.
      (The Barelas Coffee House is among the historical landmarks within the SBDNA borders.)

  • Jacqui
    September 24, 2016, 9:25 pm

    Barelas – without this beautiful community we would not have what makes New Mexico truly outstanding. The city keeps taking away so much of what is wonderful in Albuquerque history and destroys it without asking anyone of the people that have ties that go back 300 years or so. Making outrageous changes to our town so we can be more forward like the rest of the country. People come to New Mexico because we are Barleas, Martineztown and Old town not The corporate chain Cheesecake Factory. Teach everyone that Barelas was the first Hispanic settlement not "silver-platinum". How about holding real town meeting like the rest of the US does (that you so happily want to plow down our heritage to be like) and let the true New Mexicans speak and decide. Also what we have here in NM and Barelas does not need to be destroyed it needs to be cultivated and passed on to the next generation. Someone needs to contact the Barelas Assocication and correct the map and make sure everyone is up to date with everything Barelas!

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