Kudos to Chris Busby for the August 2009 issue article, “The Dark Side of Parkside.” Finally someone out there tells it like it really is!

Having lived in Portland all my life, I have never witnessed such decay in this city. I lived in Parkside once, and it was a great neighborhood. Now I would rather live in Detroit.

Chris Busby tells it like it is rather than ignoring a volatile situation like the Portland Press Herald does. This explains why the Portland Press Herald is going by the wayside, avoiding stories about the darkside. How many of you have been sitting in an office waiting room, like the dentist’s, and have seen these magazines of Portland showing a utopian lifestyle? What a croc!

Bring back Buford Pusser! Portland should head the top of the waiting list! Keep up the good work, Chris B.

— Mark Korda, Portland

Sensational! (in a bad way)

I am writing to express my disappointment in the sensationalizing of the Parkside neighborhood in Mr. Busby’s article. As a four-year resident of the neighborhood, I have witnessed many of the incidents he mentions. However, to call it one of the most unlivable areas in the country is a bit too much.

I have never personally been the victim of any attack or robbery and have never been afraid for my safety here, anymore than I would be in the rest of the city. When I read that I lived on “the infamous intersection of Grant and Mellen streets,” with its hordes of roaming hookers and crackheads, it made me laugh out loud.  To read the author’s article would make you think Parkside was straight out of HBO’s The Wire.

One of the things I love about my neighborhood is the variety of people who live here, from college students, to immigrants, to the neighborhood weirdos. There are problems in Parkside just as there are in many other areas of Portland and Maine. However, to paint Parkside with such a broad-sweeping brush does a disservice to the neighborhood.

I will never carry a knife here, let alone a semi-automatic shotgun. We live in a city and with that comes positives and negatives. My condolences go out to the people of this neighborhood who have been hurt, but speaking purely from my own perspective, I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Busby’s piece.

— Matthew Fox Rosler, Portland

The lighter side of Parkside

When I saw the cover of the August edition, I was worried that my neighborhood was going to get, as I call it, the “Channel 13 treatment.” Within reading the first paragraph, all my fears were confirmed, and then some.  You describe “blocks that must rank among the most unlivable in the country.” A little perspective, perhaps?

In an article that contains some interesting discussion of Parkside’s historical and current issues, you chose to paint with the most sensationalistic brush possible. You cherry pick the most headline-grabbing incidents (e.g. the beheading), even if they have absolutely no connection to the everyday problems of the neighborhood.  You open the article with quotes from a 29-year-old man who won’t leave home without a weapon. After learning about “Ken,” I immediately felt less safe.  He is the one I should be afraid of.

I’ve lived on Grant Street for four years, and I can attest that it does suffer from many of the problems mentioned. Drug abuse (though I would argue that prescription pills are a bigger problem here than crack) and alcoholism, and the violence that they beget, are serious issues in my neighborhood, as they are in thousands of other places across the country. What you left out, however, are the things that make Parkside far more livable than most of those other places.

When I walk down Grant Street, I see children playing safely and independently, even into the evening hours. We have immigrant communities from many corners of the world who mix relatively peacefully with the “locals.”
I only need to go one block down the hill to find a beautiful public park and one of the best public middle schools in the state. If I walk a few blocks up the hill,
I find a thriving arts scene. These are the kind of outlets that unlivable neighborhoods do not have. No one growing up in Parkside should have the mentality (that exists in true slums) that they will never be able to escapethe neighborhood.

In the future, I would ask that you avoid this kind of reporting. It is deceptive and serves no purpose but to have people read your paper. What Parkside needs is for more people to choose to come and live here, buy a home here, plant their roots here. This article only perpetuates the fearful stereotypes that leave local residents feeling even more marginalized.

— Dom Lambek, Portland

It could be worse — like Lewiston

Is this a serious article?  You lost me in the first paragraph when you stated that the Parkside neighborhood “has blocks that must rank among the most unlivable in the country.” I lived in that neighborhood for two years and have many friends that continue to live there, including at the corner of Mellen and Grant, and never did I feel unsafe. To be honest, I’m more scared of the guy you interviewed who walks around with a knife and a baton and has a loaded shotgun in his house.

Clearly this area of Portland ranks as one of the highest crime areas and there are a lot of scumbags that live and hang out there, but in the grand scheme of the country this is small potatoes. There aren’t young men and boys getting gunned down everyday. We don’t have burned-out row houses and crack dens on every corner. Our city is not gutted by drugs and violence. Spend time in Lewiston and I’m sure you’ll find worse neighborhoods. There are entire parts of St. Louis the size of Portland that have much worse drug and violence problems. Some perspective in your reporting would be appropriate.

This type of article just plays on the fears of many people in Maine who have never seen the rest of the country. Reporting on increased violence this summer in that neighborhood is one thing, but to portray it as some kind of demilitarized zone is absurd.

— Charlie Koch, Portland

Parkside mystery solved

I truly enjoyed reading your excellent, well researched and finely written article on the mysterious neighborhood of Parkside. I travel through this area often, read news about what goes on there, have friends living on Grant street, and I am fascinated. Now I have a much clearer picture and appreciation of the character there.

Thanks, keep the good stuff coming.

— Greg Schulz, Gray

It’s this bad all over

Thank you for your recent cover article on the Parkside neighborhood. I know you interviewed myriad people in the neighborhood, and the article presents a lot of interesting, varied viewpoints of Parkside, both current and historic.  However, I need to take exception to the opening paragraph:

“Portland may be one of the most ‘livable cities’ in America, as Forbes recently rated it, but its downtown Parkside neighborhood has blocks that must rank among the most unlivable in the country.”

For the record, I think you’d have to really stretch the truth to make this statement stick. You can ask the folks who live here. I’m sure there are neighborhoods in Los Angeles, or Chicago, or New York, to mention just a few American cities, that far surpass Parkside in unlivability.

In addition, I’d like to reiterate something I mentioned in my interview with you. The crimes in Parkside are not unique in their degree of frequency or violence when compared to other downtown neighborhoods in Portland. Crime is happening on this level all over the city’s peninsula. Why not turn the article into a series, each one focusing on a different neighborhood’s problems? Once the series is complete, look at the problem as a whole and maybe some brainstorming about solutions can happen on a city-wide level. Now that would be a great thing.

— Michelle Souliere, Portland

The writer is editor of the Strange Maine Gazette

Let ’em flow

Thank you to Elizabeth Peavey for her essay, “Tears of a Clown,” in the August issue. It beautifully expressed what I’ve recently felt, having lost my ill mother last fall: you never know where and when something out of the blue will remind you of the woman who raised you. The feeling never goes away, but it does dampen with time. And then comes perspective, a writer’s gift, which allows humor, sometimes, to reappear. Until it does, no need for dry eyes.

— Nancy Heiser, Brunswick

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