Albuquerque city councilor looks to study, embrace car cruising with proposed ‘task force’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Could the long battle between Albuquerque city officials and car enthusiasts wanting to cruise on the historic downtown stretch of Central Avenue finally come to an end?

Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Peña is hoping to unite both sides with a new proposal to study “responsible ways” of cruising in the city with a “task force.”

Peña’s proposal introduced to city council would create a new “cruising task force” in Albuquerque made up of car enthusiasts, the business community, police and city officials.

The issue of cruising has long existed downtown. In years past, APD has said it has received complaints about loud engine revving, traffic back-ups and irresponsible stunts taking place in the streets.

Currently, barricades go up on the downtown blocks of Central Avenue on Sunday evenings to discourage the activity.

While councilor still has to vote on the proposed resolution, some members of the cruising community say they’re excited about a different approach.

“I think it’s a step forward,” said Lorenzo Ortero of the task force proposal. Otero is a lifelong Albuquerque resident and part of the cruising culture in the city.

In illustrating its deep cultural roots, Otero likens cruising and lowriders to the importance of red and green chile in New Mexico.

“It’s part of life, it’s part of the format,” said Otero. “Always has been, always will be.”

He also acknowledges the often negative stigma that comes with the activity, one he disagrees with.

“It’s a bunch of friends who come together and just have a good time,” said Otero.

Councilor Klarissa Peña, who’s co-sponsoring the “cruising task force” resolution with downtown city councilor Isaac Benton, says she hopes to embrace cruising.

“I think that it’s something that… working together to address some of the concerns, both ways, is important,” said Peña.

The task force proposal would create a panel of 10 volunteer members that would meet to address the issue of cruising and study who is most affected by it. The goal, according to the resolution, is to “encourage responsible cruising and discourage irresponsible cruising.”

The issue is close to Peña. She’s a cruiser herself and was actually born in the back of one.

“I’ve always cruised, I actually have a 1959 Cadillac that I was born in, that my dad actually found and we restored it, and it’s my pride and joy,” said Peña.

She acknowledges though that there have been troublemakers downtown. In 2015, cruisers were caught on camera revving engines and causing tire burnouts on Central, forcing APD to take a new approach toward the street on Sundays. In August 2016, a music video shoot drew car enthusiasts who were doing stunts in the street.

“Some of the concerns that I’ve heard from folks is when they rev up their engines,” said Peña.

This summer, APD continued placing barricades near Seventh and Central and other blocks to keep cars from cruising. The barricades have stopped all traffic.

Pena thinks that’s overkill.

“You know, 99 percent of the people out there are just trying to enjoy the day and show off their cars,” said Peña.

Current city ordinance only bans cruising after 8 p.m. A frequent cruiser and Albuquerque native Joey Sanchez Jr. says he, too, doesn’t agree with drivers pulling stunts in the middle of the street.

“That’s not safe for our kids out doing burnouts and stuff like that in the middle of the intersection, stopping traffic, we don’t want none of that,” said Sanchez Jr.

Cruisers hope a task force can finally get everyone talking about what they’re really about.

“We’re not out here bothering anybody,” said Sanchez Jr. “We’re car guys, we park and we talk car on the street we park at the Firestone and just talk about cars.”

City council is expected to vote on the possible formation of the volunteer cruising task force at their next meeting on November 6, 2017. If it’s approved, the goal is for the task force to produce recommendations on responsible cruising by April 2018.

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