Demolition of the historic Bethlehem Steel Administration Building was allowed to continue today after Appellate Judge Rose Sconiers denied a request for a temporary restraining order by the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture.
The group had claimed Gateway Trade Center, which owns the 1901 building, failed to comply with the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act.
DEMOLITION OF BETHLEHEM STEEL ADMINISTRATION BUILDING HALTED:
DEMO PERMIT WAS ISSUED ILLEGALLY WITHOUT PROPER ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW
The Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (LIHG) was pleased to learn that The Campaign for Buffalo – History, Architecture & Culture, Inc. today filed an Article 78 Proceeding in New York State Supreme Court, which placed a temporary restraining order on the demolition of the historic Bethlehem Steel Administration Building in Lackawanna, New York. Their petition maintains that the City of Lackawanna issued a demolition permit to the owner, GATEWAY TRADE CENTER, INC., on December 17, 2012, without performing environmental review as required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR). The suit contends that the demolition permit is therefore a nullity in that it was issued illegally. The Campaign is seeking a permanent injunction on the demolition of the building until full compliance with SEQR is demonstrated. A hearing is scheduled before Hon. James H. Dillon for Wednesday, February 27th at 9:30 a.m.
Richard Berger, Esq., a local attorney with experience in environmental and preservation law, representing The Campaign, stated, “SEQR mandates all agencies of government to prepare an ‘Environmental Impact Statement on any action they propose or approve which may have a significant effect on the environment.’ Even actions which do not require a full Impact Statement, still require careful environmental review and findings. It appears that none was carried out in this instance. We hope that our filing today will halt the demolition of the Administration Building and lead to its ultimate restoration and reuse.”
“The City and Gateway should make every attempt to honor workers who spent much of their lives at Bethlehem Steel. Instead, they’re doing all they can to destroy our heritage, and with it the potential that ‘Old North’ has to create jobs and bring people to the shore of Lake Erie. I for one am relieved that there is an engaged group of citizens continuing to fight for justice, and I am proud to stand with them,” said Romaine Lillis, Lackawanna resident and longtime member of the Lackawanna Historical Society.
There is an open lawsuit filed by LIHG, heard on February 13, 2013 in Lackawanna City Court, regarding the discovery of a previously withheld structural engineering report concluding that the building is structurally sound and of no immediate danger of collapse, as the City of Lackawanna contends. Hon. Judge Marrano reserved judgement in the case but a verdict is expected soon.
LIHG is prepared to cooperate with The Campaign for Greater Buffalo in any way needed.
The imsteelstanding.org website is the best place to stay informed.
Contact David Torke, founding LIHG Member: 716-602-5440 or email@example.com
Originally published by YNN, “A ’13th hour effort’ to save the Bethlehem Steel building” by Kaitlyn Lionti, February 13, 2013.
A 13th hour effort to save the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building is how the attorney representing the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group describes what brought them back to City Court on Wednesday.
The group filed a lawsuit Friday against the building’s owners, Gateway Trade Center. They’re asking the judge to vacate his previous order requiring the building be demolished.
“The decision of the city, originally, to seek demolition was done illegally,” said attorney Richard Berger. “New York State Law, the Environmental Equality Review Act, says that every such demolition case requires at least an environmental assessment. In this case, because it’s a building that’s eligible for the state and national registers of historic places, it’s absolutely required.”
But the attorney representing Gateway Trade says the demolition permits were issued long before Berger’s clients heard from the state about the building’s eligibility for the historic registers.
However, Berger says they have another key piece of new information – an engineering report commissioned by Gateway Trade.
“We found out that the, a hidden report that had never been made available before to us, show that the building is structurally sound, and doesn’t need to be demolished,” Berger said.
Gateway Trade’s attorney says the company never meant to keep the report hidden, and says the building might be structurally sound, but it would have to be taken apart to tell.
The judge will render a decision after reviewing documents submitted Wednesday. He says even if he grants the Heritage Group’s request, he can’t stop Gateway Trade from demolishing the building.
But the group says it’s hoping to work with Gateway Trade and the city to find a way to re-use it.
“All that we need is the will. We’ve got the way. We’ve got a team of professionals standing by to work on this project and there’s funding available that’ll cover the cost of that, so there’s no reason this should not move forward in a positive way,” said Dana Saylor, Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group.
The group says it’s waiting to hear from Gateway Trade about the proposal.
Originally published by The Buffalo News, “Judge reserves decision in building demolition,” February 14, 2013.
Preservationists remained cautiously optimistic Wednesday, after Lackawanna City Judge Frederic Marrano reserved decision on a lawsuit that would vacate a previously issued order allowing the demolition of the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building.
Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group, which filed the lawsuit Friday, reiterated its hope to meet with the building’s owner, Gateway Trade Center.
It also announced that a reuse team of real estate, planning and preservation specialists headed by Barbara Campagna, former chief architect for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has been assembled to assist the company if it decides to take advantage of a $500,000 Restore New York grant.
“We remain committed to sitting down with Steven Detwiler at his earliest convenience to help Gateway reposition the building to take advantage of progress being made along the waterfront,” said preservationist David Torke.
Originally published as “Judge Reserves Decision On Bethlehem Demo” WGRZ Channel 2, February 13, 2o13.
A judge has reserved decision on the latest bid by preservationists to save the former Lackawanna Steel Administration Building from demolition.
An attorney representing the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group appeared before City Court Judge Frederic J. Marrano on Wednesday, to argue there was new information to consider, which had been inaccessible when the same court previously ruled that the demolition of the more than century old landmark, could proceed.
Attorney Richard Berger cited a previously unreleased engineering study, which he claims shows that, despite contentions by the City of Lackawanna that the building was in danger of collapse, it is actually structurally sound.
If that is the case, according to Berger, then the judge should keep the wreckers ball at bay, because the building–which qualifies for historic status, would require a lot more than just a simple demolition permit to raze.
“Under New York State law and the Environmental Quality Review Act, this would require at least an environmental assessment,” said Berger. “In this case, because it’s a building that’s eligible for both state and national registers of historic places it’s absolutely required.”
Berger also says if the structure is not deemed to be in danger of falling down, then it could open the door for hundreds of thousands of preservation dollars from the state to help its owners –Gateway Development– renovate it for an adaptive re-use, if they should so desire.
While demolition had already begun at site, all that’s been taken down thus far has been an outbuilding that once housed a chemistry lab. The actual Beaux Arts administration building, according to Berger, hasn’t been damaged, and is still very much worth saving.
Originally published by fixBuffalo.blogspot.com, “I’m Steel Standing in Court: Part I” written by David Torke, Feb 9, 2013.
The National Register eligible Bethlehem Steel Administration building in Lackawanna, NY has been under direct threat of demolition since May 2012. Over the course of the summer there were numerous attempts made to broker a deal with the building’s owner, however, those efforts ended unsuccessfully. The City of Lackawanna stayed its course and continued to argue for the building’s demolition. In late January, crews from Zoladz Construction began demolition, starting with the chemistry lab located in the back of the building.
Since then, the area’s preservation groups remained silent as if the building’s fate had been sealed. Preservation Buffalo Niagara issued a statement shortly after demolition began last month. “It didn’t have to end this way,” according to PBN’s Executive Director Tom Yots.
As the demolition began, a small group of activists which included Meagan Baco, Lesley Horowitz, Dana Saylor and myself focused on the next steps in saving this historically significant industrial icon.
Our research uncovered a previously withheld structural engineering report conducted last August by Klepper Hahn & Hyatt. This report was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and confirmed what we’d already suspected through our own photographic documentation: that the building is structurally sound.
The KHH report’s findings directly contradict Lackawanna Code Enforcement Officer Steven Bremer’s own observations and conclusions about the building’s condition.
It is unsafe to come in…the whole building is going to implode. – Steven Bremer Lackawanna Code Enforcement Officer, May 2012
We believe the overall building structure to be sound and not at risk of imminent collapse. – Klepper Hahn & Hyatt, August 2012
Within hours of reading the KHH report our group reviewed the case with attorney Richard Berger who advised us that there were grounds for a lawsuit. We proceeded to contact two additional attorneys Michael Raleigh and Paul Fusco-Gessick who were also brought in to work on the case. On Thursday, February 7th we held a press conference announcing our findings and our readiness to file the lawsuit against the building’s owner.
On Friday, February 8th a lawsuit was filed in Lackawanna City Court by attorney Richard Berger. The plaintiff is the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group, which was formed last year to raise awareness about the industrial history of Lackawanna NY and the building’s history. The group had previously protested the demolition action and in June held a public hearing on the future of the building with professional preservationists and Lackawanna Common Council President Henry Pirowski as panelists.
Hon. Fredderic Marrano has granted a hearing on the matter which is scheduled for February 13 at 1pm in Lackawanna City Court.
Meanwhile, the Court is allowing the demolition to proceed. This image from February 7, 2013 shows the extent of the current demolition activity. The chemistry lab building is mostly demolished. Here’s the May 2012 record image.
In a related matter Lackawanna resident and activist John Nowak has been protesting the building’s threatened demolition with a hunger strike. He’s been camped out in front of the building since mid December. Members of this group remain tremendously supportive of his efforts and would like to encourage you to come down and speak to him and lend your support in any way you can.
For the latest developments and background information about the lawsuit, the building and the building’s significance please join the FaceBook Group Save the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building and visit I’m Steel Standing the official website for this group’s work.
Mike Puma covered the press conference for Buffalo Rising here and Mark Sommer from the Buffalo News, here.
Here’s the full text of the Memorandum of Law filed with Lackawanna City Court and Order to Show Cause that was signed by Judge Marrano on Friday.
Since breaking the demolition story in May 2012, this blog has covered the story continuously. Many of the links are aggregated here: Bethlehem Steel Public Hearing.