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  • The San Juan Daily Star

San Juan goes to court to claim municipal ownership of contested community park

Residents held a protest at the Ashford Avenue site on Monday demanding its return to use as a public park.

By The Star Staff

The Municipality of San Juan filed a legal action in Superior Court on Tuesday that seeks to claim ownership of the land located at the intersection of Ashford Avenue and Frederick Krug Street that neighborhood residents say is a community park that was sold illegally.

Residents held a protest at the property site on Monday demanding its return to use as a public park.

Mayor Miguel Romero Lugo said he sought a probe to determine the origin, use, registration, changes of domain and any other procedure related to the land that in 2019, under the previous municipal administration, was registered with the island Department of Transportation and Public Works. The probe also led to the discovery that many city property documents had been damaged because they were not properly protected.

“As we indicated previously, our greatest interest in the controversy that has arisen in relation to this land is to determine if there is indeed a possibility that the Municipality of San Juan was the owner,” Romero Lugo said in a statement. “I ordered a comprehensive administrative investigation of the files in the Municipality, the Property Registry, CRIM [Municipal Revenues Collection Center] and other dependencies that have documents, files or plans related to the property in question, in addition to presenting Draft Resolution Number 7 to the Municipal Assembly.”

As a result of the investigation, “we have all the elements to establish in Court that the land is our property,” the mayor said.

“Given this, we are asking the court to issue a Declaratory Judgment, as well as a Claim Action, a Declaratory Property Action and a Cancellation of Registry Entries to eliminate any doubt or confusion as to who the owner of the land is,” he added.

In the internal investigation process, the city also found out that a substantial number of documents and files related to municipal properties were not duly stored and protected, and as a result of the passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017, they got wet, developed mildew and were irreversibly damaged, so they were seized. The city had to create an inventory of the lost information. As a consequence, officials had to search sources outside the municipality, such as the General Archive of Puerto Rico and others.

“Sanjuaneros and sanjuaneras can be sure that in this administration we will fully comply with the duty to protect the properties, funds and all public interest of the Municipality,” the mayor said. “The improper handling of these documents after the passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017 put the protection of our heritage at risk, but this does not mean that we will not fulfill our responsibility.”

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