AP NEWS

After Durham explosion, apartment dwellers left in the dark, with no end in sight

May 15, 2019

More than a month after a gas explosion in downtown Durham, some residents of the nearby West Village apartments are still living in darkness. The explosion on April 10 shattered their windows.

Since then, they’ve been boarded up with plywood, and repairs aren’t expected to be complete for months.

Chris McGrath is among the frustrated residents. His windows were blown out, and his overhead lights haven’t worked since the explosion either.

“Not having any natural light in the apartment all the time is a difficult way to live,” he said. “I’ll wake up in the middle of the night because I don’t know if it’s 3 a.m. or if it’s 10 a.m.”

At least a dozen other units at the West Village apartments are in the same situation. The Connor Group, which owns the building, expects repairs by mid-July.

McGrath said he’s had plenty of communication from his landlords but no action.

“I would say I’m pretty disappointed. They’ve sent multiple emails saying ‘Updates on the windows,’ and then the body of the email is ‘We have no updates on the windows.’ It almost seems like they’re trying to placate everyone and delay to the extent that they can and not being totally forthright with us,” he said.

The Connor Group declined to be interviewed, but in a statement, explained the timeline, saying the windows are from the 1800s and must be custom-made. They estimated the damage is between $2 million and $6 million.

“Our goal always is to put residents first, and we will continue to do so as we work to repair the damages to our community,” the company statement said.

McGrath is still seething.

“Months for windows seems a little extreme, so I’m not necessarily pleased with that,” he said.

Luke Longo, who lives in the building but did not see window damage, agreed.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous. They should’ve had it fixed by now already,” he said. “That’s the only source of natural light, so I can imagine those people are pretty depressed in there.”

Connor Group spokeswoman Amanda Brown said, “We sympathize with each and every resident who suffered damages to their apartments. We have offered transfers for any resident who does not want to wait for their windows to be repaired. We also advise anyone who has suffered a loss to reach out to PSNC and file a claim for their losses and damages, as well as their personal renter’s insurance companies.”

Residents say, despite the inconvenience, they haven’t been offered a reduction in their rent.