Background

In May of 2012, it was discovered that a historic building in the city of Lackawanna, NY was slated for demolition.  This building is the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building.

The building is significant to Lackawanna and its surrounding region for many reasons, including:

  1. The architecture is magnificent. It was designed in 1901 by Lancing Holden. It is a Beaux Arts beauty with a detailed copper roof, detailed pediments, terra cotta pilasters, and unique Corinthian dormers.
  2. Its history is what put Lackawanna on the map, as it was initially part of a neighboring town, West Seneca.  The steel company is of the most powerful symbols in the United State’s industrial manufacturing history.  It became the leading supplier of steel in the construction industry as it was responsible for developing parts for the use of skyscrapers during their inception.  In addition, the steel company was a major supplier to the Navy and Army during the World Wards.  It also made parts for nuclear reactors for the Federal Government and by the 1950s, it began manufacturing 23 million tons of steel per year.  The steel company employed a significant amount of people in Western New York and turned Lackawanna into a boom town.
  3. The location is essential.  The building is adjacent to the city of Buffalo and is conveniently located on the waterfront just steps away from the city line.  As the city of Buffalo continues its waterfront revitalization projects, this building will absolutely have the potential to become an attraction or a focal point for Western New York.

Why is the Mayor doing everything he can to demolish his own city’s heritage?

The Mayor of Lackawanna, Geoffrey Szymanki, has has been quoted saying, ”I am tired of hearing about our glorious past. I think preservation societies are only trying to preserve what once was, as opposed to moving our region in a positive direction.” In effect he has seen to it that the building owners demolish the building, claiming that it is ready to implode any minute; however, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) did a walk through/ analysis of the structure and has deemed it structurally sound.  The Mayor needs to understand the economic benefits of historic preservation.  Preserving this building would create jobs, increase property values, conserve resources, support small business, and attract visitors, all of which Lackawanna would benefit from.

Bethlehem Steel Demolition Timeline

2009
April 2009 – City of Lackawanna applied to RestoreNY money, $1.95million

April 21, 2009 – Gateway Trade to former Lackawanna Mayor Polanski
About Restore money, “demolition will allow us to built a state of the art warehouse or manufacturing facility.”

October 2009 – Empire State Development gives $500,000 but only for asbestos removal and to make a re-use study

2010
January 21, 2010 – $500,000 approved by Empire State Development for asbestos removal and re-use study
2012
April 25, 2012 – Emergency Demoltion by City of Lackwanna (Brember/Greyer) to Gateway Trade

May 7, 2012 – No re-use study completed by Gateway Trade, Gateway tells ESD it will use funds for asbestos removal and demolition

May 2012 – Empire State Development and Station Historic Preservation Office says cannot demo with Restore Money
May 18, 2012 – Empire Dismantling, Asbestos Project Posting “Controlled Demolition”
August 23, 2012 – Erie County Court stay of demolition for 90 days

November 27, 2012 – Erie County court stay of demolition lifted

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