Originally published as “Razing of Bethlehem Steel building begins, but preservationists to continue fight” by WBFO 88.7am, Buffalo’s NPR News Station, by Eileen Buckley, January 25, 2013.
Despite efforts by area preservationists over the last nine months, demolition of the former Bethlehem Steel Administration building in Lackawanna started Thursday. But members of Buffalo’s Young Preservationists say they are not giving up on trying to save the structure.
Preservationist Dana Saylor tells WBFO News although work is underway to tear down the structure, the group will continue to protest to save part of the building.
“Until that facade comes down, we’re not done. And even when that happens, we still are going to be following the money trail. We want to see what the demolition contractors made from this deal,” Saylor said.
Saylor admits preservationists have little legal recourse at this point unless improper demolition practices or asbestos disposals are witnessed.
Citizens working to save the building say Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski and Gateway Trade, which owns the building, has refused to listen to their concerns in stopping the wrecking ball.
“We have asked them to come to the table numerous times and there was never really a genuine attempt to do that,” said Saylor.
“[Szymanski] never asked for community input. He just went ahead and did it. Even when we handed him 600 local signatures from the petition, he still refused to come to the table,” she added.
Preservationists say the 1901 building is eligible for both state and national registers of historic places.
Original press release by Dana Saylor, Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group, posted by Mike Puma on Buffalo Rising, January 24, 2013, http://www.buffalorising.com/2013/01/bethlehem-steel-demolition-begun-citizens-gather-at-cathedral-of-industry-protest-failure-of-leaders.html.
The 1901 Beaux Arts-style Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company Administration Building (later known as the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building) is currently falling to the wrecking ball, despite the efforts of local citizens who have spoken out for its adaptive reuse. The Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (LIHG) has learned that Gateway Trade TURNED DOWN several offers of developers to take control of the property, after allowing them to tour the site. Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski refused to listen to the concerns of local citizens, from whom over 600 petition signatures were gathered.
He could have rescinded the City of Lackawanna’s demolition order at any time, but instead, he maintained his entrenched position though the structure poses no threat to public safety. The building is eligible for both the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and was recently nominated as a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. LIHG members and the public will gather at the site to document this needless destruction, carried out by Zoladz Contracting and others.
Since the city has no preservation ordinance, though, the fate of the building rests solely in the mayor’s hands. Recently, he declared in The Buffalo News, “it’s time we got more progressive. Bring down that building.” LIHG sees the mayor’s actions as anything but progressive, considering the lost potential this demolition signifies. It has been proven that preservation activities promote economic development, vitality, and sustainable urban growth. The young, educated people moving into Western New York and other historic areas have been shown to do so because of the wealth of history, unique architecture, low cost of living and heritage tourism this region offers.
“It is these attitudes that have caused Lackawanna to decline and make it all the more difficult for the city to ever rise up again,” says Danielle Huber, chair of the LIHG. “We should be building on our strengths, not wiping them out.” Dana Saylor, historian and member of Buffalo’s Young Preservationists agreed, saying, “Adaptive reuse was economically feasible and would have been an excellent way to tie in all the waterfront investment happening along Lake Erie. Now, the area will suffer from the loss of potential that preservation activities would have brought to this site. Interesting redeveloped places like the Hotel@Lafayette and Steel Stacks in Bethlehem, P.A. are a draw!”
The Campaign for Greater Buffalo advised and assisted LIHG along the way, with Executive Director Tim Tielman, who said “Without a preservation ordinance in place, Lackawanna will continue to demolish its historic landmarks under the short-sighted policies of its government. The City must move to become a Certified Local Government, and institute a preservation board so what is happening to Bethlehem Steel, and what happened to St. Barbara’s, will not befall other important places.”
Citizens are encouraged to contact the Mayor of Lackawanna’s office, and the building owners: Gateway Trade, get involved in future preservation activism, and consider a contribution to a local preservation organization of their choice. Members of the public, especially former employees of the company, are invited to witness the demolition this week, and speak out.