CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Daniel Connor feels lucky to be alive.
Connor, who lived in Dean Estates with his fiancée, rushed home from work Sunday upon learning from his neighbors that the building had flooded.
“I was given 15 minutes to pack everything that I needed in my life and was rushed out of the building as quickly as I was let in,” Connor recalled. “What do you do when you’re told to grab your life and go?”
The Cranston apartment building, which consisted of 24 units, has since been condemned.
“The building is structurally compromised,” Cranston Fire Chief James Warren said. “I know you don’t want to hear that, but it’s bad.”
Connor tells 12 News he had always feared this would happen.
“[My fiancée and I] would have conversations before bed,” Connor said. “‘What if a flood happens overnight and this whole building caves in? We’re dead.’ We went to bed every night worried that we wouldn’t wake up.”
Connor said this is the fifth time the building has flooded since he moved in back in January 2021.
“I don’t even know why I stayed,” he said, adding that he’s grateful their apartment was on the second floor. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Ed Cafasso, a spokesperson for Dean Estates, said it appears that a state-owned storm drain behind the building couldn’t handle the torrential rainfall.
12 News reached out to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) regarding the faulty storm drain.
RIDOT spokesperson Charles St. Martin noted that the building was constructed below ground level making it “susceptible to [the] flooding which has occurred several times since its construction.”
“We will replace the drains as quickly as we can – it took decades of neglect to get here, it will take decades to remedy this,” St. Martin said. “In the meantime, we prepare for every deluge by clearing our drains on state roads.”
The American Red Cross is assisting the displaced residents, including Connor and his fiancée.
Connor placed the blame on Dean Estates for allowing residents to continue living in the building even though it’s prone to catastrophic flooding.
“These people bought a firecracker and waited too long. It blew their fingers off,” he said. “That’s where we’re at.”
Justin Fishman, the owner’s representative, told residents Monday night that their September rent would be refunded, their security deposits would be returned and they will be allowed to break their leases.
“It’s not permanent and it’s not perfect,” Fishman said. “But it’s a start while you find your next home.”
Fishman said residents will also receive $500 Visa gift cards in the coming days to alleviate financial hardships caused by the flooding.
But Connor believes that’s not enough.
“I can’t even go grocery shopping with $500,” he said, adding that he wished Dean Estates would’ve just owned up to their mistake.
In the meantime, Cranston Mayor Ken Hopkins is preparing to issue an executive order preventing property owners from placing residents in basement-level apartments.
“It’s a really bad situation,” Hopkins explained. “I personally would have never rented that basement out to anybody.”
“Why would the management company rent out these basement apartments, especially knowing that they’ve had these problems in the past?” he questioned.
Kayla Fish contributed to this report.