As Portland photographer and neighborhood advocate Jay York is often at pains to point out, there is no section of the city named West Bayside. The Bayside neighborhood is bounded by Congress Street to the south, I-295 to the north, Forest Avenue to the west and Franklin Street to the east. A decade ago, as the section of Portland’s East End between Bayside and Munjoy Hill began to yuppify with coffee shops, craft breweries, “artists lofts” and like, some residents and realtors dubbed the area East Bayside to distinguish it from the grittier, less developed neighborhood to its west. The East Bayside Neighborhood Organization was established in 2007.
But the pretentions of one part of town do not define the identity of others. And, as evidenced by this month’s dump, East Bayside still bears its share of blight.
The three-unit, triple-decker apartment building at the corner of Greenleaf and Fox streets has been boarded up for god-knows-how long — long enough for vandals to tag the green sheet of particle board barring the front entrance and the empty metal box on the side where electric meters once spun. According to a neighbor, the cops showed up to kick squatters out of the property last year, and it’s been relatively quiet since then.
This neighbor, a refugee who declined to give his name due to the precariousness of his living situation, occupies one of the 12 units in the two other buildings on this side of the block — a housing project, spanning 42-52 Greenleaf St., collectively known as the Greenleaf Apartments (the boarded-up building is unnumbered but must be 50-52). Judging by the names on the mailboxes, most of the renters at Greenleaf Apartments are from Africa and the Middle East.
The refugee said he pays $1,300 a month for his three-room apartment. “Three bedrooms?” I asked. No, he clarified: three rooms. Three “old” rooms, he said, where the heat doesn’t work very well and calls to the landlord go unanswered.
The dump’s owners, Richard Harris Jr. and Peggyann Harris, of Harris Properties, didn’t return my call either. Their preferred method of communicating with residents seems to be sheets of paper duct-taped to the windows of the entryway doors, like one that reads “ATTENTION TENANTS!!!!! Starting September 1st, 2017 Harris Properties, your landlord, will no longer accept CASH for rent payments. All rent must be paid via money order or check.”
Built nearly a century ago, the Greenleaf Apartments are as charmless and classless as their owners appear to be: boxy monoliths with cream-colored siding and ripped screens over the windows. For tax purposes, the city-assessed value of all three structures is just shy of $800,000, which seems wildly optimistic given their shabby condition.
Curiously, some windows in the upper floors of 50-52 Greenleaf still have the manufacturer’s stickers on them, as though they were newly installed, but there’s no other evidence that renovation work is in progress. There are no windows at all on the sunset-facing backside of the building — just a boarded-up doorway, a gray-weathered wooden fire escape and two gray DirecTV satellite dishes pointed, uselessly, toward the stars.
You’ve come a long way, East Bayside, but there’s still a long way to go.
— Chris Busby