Tagged: Demolition

March 7: “Judge denies bid to halt demolition of Bethlehem Steel building,” The Buffalo News

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.

March 12: “Owner of Bethlehem Steel Agreed to Sell Hours Before Demolition Began,” Views of Buffalo, by Mike Puma

Originally published as, “Owner of Bethlehem Steel Agreed to Sell Hours Before Demolition Began” on Views of Buffalo, blog by Mike Puma, March 12, 2013.

Concerned citizens, preservationists, and architecture buffs looked on in horror as wrecking equipment attacked the unique architectural features of the Bethlehem Steel Administration building Friday afternoon. A few quick blows to the ornate façade dashed all hope the building would be saved after months of hard work and countless hours by a group of dedicated people. Demolition was halted briefly after a temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued, but resumed after the judge lifted the TRO last Friday.

Initially the demo began at the rear of the building and it appeared as though the demolition crew would work their way to the front. However, when the TRO was lifted the wrecking equipment moved to the front of the building. The crews smashed the large pediments, ripped off the ornate copper trimmed dormers, and punched holes all over the façade.
Unfortunately, I’ve watched many demolitions in WNY and every building was strategically demolished, i.e. starting from front to back or left to right. No other demolition I’ve witnessed began as haphazardly as Bethlehem Steel. The attack on only the architectural features was completely deliberate.
David Torke of fixBuffalo and others were fighting until the last minute to save the iconic structure and talks were going well. He explains, “I met with [the owner] Steven Detweiler at his home Thursday evening, contacted our legal team and with the cooperation of Judge Dillon’s law clerk we scheduled a settlement conference in NYS Supreme Court for the following morning.” Judge Dillion was receptive to the cause and indicated that he would clear his calendar.
“All parties and their respective attorneys agreed to meet, which was the first time Steven Detweiler and Mayor Szymanski had been in the same room. Detweiler already had numerous conversations with local (supportive) attorney Bill Magavern and agreed to sell. On Friday morning I sat down with the mayor and his father-in-law, Norm LeBlanc the City’s attorney.  During the next 90 minutes they were becoming allies in our struggle to save the building.  However, Steven Detweiler changed the terms, he demanded that we make a $200K, non-refundable deposit and complete all renovations to the building by the end of 2013” said Torke.
“Our attorney, Richard Berger appealed to Detweiler’s business sense and described how long and involved historic reuse planning and renovations often take, but Detweiler’s new demands were non-negotiable. He indicated that his demolition contractor was instructed to clean-up the back of the building and informed us that he’d keep channels open to a potential settlement through the day.”
Just a few hours later, Detweiler’s demolition crew began destroying the administration building with no further contact from Detweiler. The building was not only important to the greater story of America, but should have been important to Lackawanna, because Lackawanna Steel built the city as a company town. It’s not often you get the chance to point to a building and say, “this is why our city exists, this is genesis for us” and now the Steven Detweiler has ensured the people of Lackawanna never can. “What happened three hours later after our meeting was criminal,” Torke continued, “it was cultural rape and people should never forget that Steven Detweiler did this.”

Feb 21 “Bethlehem Steel Demolition Halted Due to Illegally Issued Demo Permit” Views of Buffalo

Originally published by Mike Puma on Views of Buffalo and Buffalo Rising, “Bethlehem Steel Demolition Halted Due to Illegally Issued Demo Permit,” February 21, 2013.

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo successfully filed an Article 78 today, which placed a temporary restraining order on the demolition of the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building. This petition argues that the City of Lackawanna issued the demolition permit to Gateway Trade Center without performing environmental review as required by the NYS Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR).

As a result, the demolition permit issued was done so illegally and is therefore null and void. 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.
“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,” says Richard Berger, Esq., a local attorney representing The Campaign, “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 Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (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 judgment in the case but a verdict is expected soon.
LIHG has stated that they will cooperate with The Campaign for Greater Buffalo in any way needed.
For more information and to stay informed, check out the I’m Steel Standing website. Contact David Torke (fixBuffalo), founding LIHG Member: 716-602-5440 or davidtorke@gmail.com. For additional photos of the building check out David’s Flickr page by clicking here.

Feb 21 “Demo of Bethlehem Steel building halted” WIVB

Originally published by Channel 4, WIVB, “Demo of Bethlehem Steel building halted” on February 21, 2013.

Preservationists have successfully halted the demolition of the former Bethlehem Steel administration building.

Crews moved in to begin to tear down the building after a lawsuit between the City of Lackawanna and the building’s owner ended last year with a judge approving the demolition. Part of the building has already been taken down.

On Thursday, the Campaign for Greater Buffalo announced it has succeeded in getting a temporary restraining order pending a hearing next Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court.

Feb 21 “Court orders halt to demolition at Bethlehem Steel site” The Buffalo News

Originally published by The Buffalo News, “Court orders halt to demolition at Bethlehem Steel site,” February 21, 2013.

A group of preservationists has won a court order that temporarily stops the demolition at the site of the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building in Lackawanna, pending a hearing Wednesday in State Supreme Court.

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo and attorney Richard G. Berger on Thursday won a temporary restraining order from acting State Supreme Court Justice Thomas P. Franczyk that, for now, halts the demolition work that began last month on an addition to the long-vacant structure on Fuhrmann Boulevard.

The building originally was scheduled for demolition in May, when the city obtained a court order forcing owner Gateway Trade Center to tear down the Beaux Arts-style building, which dates to 1901.

A 90-day stay granted in Erie County Court to give Gateway time to explore alternatives for reusing the building expired in November, and the company in December hired Zoladz Construction to perform the demolition.

The contractor on Jan. 24 began tearing down a rear chemical laboratory that was added decades after the original building.

Tim Tielman of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo said his group is seeking a permanent injunction barring further demolition until an environmental review is performed.

Lackawanna City Attorney Norman A. LeBlanc Jr. said Thursday afternoon that he had not yet seen Franczyk’s order but added that no environmental review is required because a City Court judge ordered the demolition after the building was condemned.

Another group of activists, the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group, has sued Gateway, arguing that the company hid a structural engineering report filed in August that determined the building was structurally sound.

Feb 21: PRESS RELEASE – Demolition of Bethlehem Steel Administration Halted; Permit Illegally Issued without Proper Environmental Review

bs_profile* * * FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE * * *
February 21, 2013, 11:00 a.m.

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 davidtorke@gmail.com

Feb 13: “A ’13th hour effort’ to save the Bethlehem Steel building” by Kaitlyn Lionti for YNN

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.

Feb 14: “Judge reserves decision in building demolition,” The Buffalo News

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.

Feb 13: “Judge Reserves Decision On Bethlehem Demo” WGRZ

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.

February 13: “Area Citizens Engage Team of Professionals to Rehabilitate Bethlehem Steel Administration Building as they await Ruling from Lackawanna”

* * * FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE * * *

AREA CITIZENS ENGAGE TEAM OF PROFESSIONALS TO REHABILITATE BETHLEHEM STEEL ADMINISTRATION BUILDING AS THEY AWAIT RULING FROM LACKAWANNA

When: Wednesday February 13, 2012  – 12:30pm
Where: Lackawanna City Court – City Hall Steps
Contact Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group: Dana Saylor, (716) 218-8525

The Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (LIHG) has engaged the services of a team of well-respected preservation and planning professionals. The group, funded in part by a private donation, will assist in creating both feasibility and adaptive reuse studies for the 1901 Bethlehem Steel Administration Building. Declared structurally sound by an August engineering report, LIHG wants to show the public just what is possible at the site.

They will announce more details during a press conference at 12:30pm outside Lackawanna City Hall on Wednesday, February 13th. This will take place before the 1pm hearing where a City court judge will rule on the lawsuit brought by the group against Gateway Trade.

One of the team members is Barbara Campagna, formerly the Chief Architect at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a board member at the successful Richardson Olmsted Complex. She said, “We will create a plan for near and long-term development of this historic site by combining contemporary ideas and needs with a respect for our 20th century industrial story, providing cultural and economic benefits to the Lackawanna and Buffalo Niagara region residents and a destination for ever-increasing cultural heritage visitors. By preparing a comprehensive Feasibility & Adaptive Reuse Study, we will be using time tested planning tools to develop a responsible and sustainable approach towards the reinvention of the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building.

The building has everything we need to tell the story of our industrial heritage, connect it to our expanding and dynamic waterfront and demonstrate how preservation is one of the building blocks of economic revitalization in America and in Western New York.  The Richardson Olmsted Complex, the Martin House, Larkinville, the Central Terminal.  These were all places that had languished and deteriorated for decades but are now key to the remaking of Buffalo. Having spent the past 30 years involved in saving and rethinking the Richardson Olmsted Complex, I’m thrilled to have been asked to assist in the visioning of the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building.”

The LIHG will be pleased to share the group’s findings with the public, which will create jobs and facilitate economic development at this strategically important regional waterfront site.

Feb 9: “I’m Steel Standing in Court: Part I” by fixBuffalo

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.

Additional information:

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.

Feb 7: New Eng Report/Law Suit Press Conference [Photos]

Photos by Lisa Willis.

Feb 7 “Group files another suit against Bethlehem Steel owner” Katie Cummings, YNN

Originally published by YNN News, “Group files another suit against Bethlehem Steel owner” by Katie Cummings, February 7, 2013.

Demolition at Bethlehem Steel started in late January, but the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage group wants all demolition at the site to stop until an investigation can take place.

The group plans to file a lawsuit in Lackawanna City Court on Friday morning after it recently received a report on the structural integrity of the building.

“There were several other reports which were presented to the court which said the building is unsafe, it needs to get knocked down, and this report directly contradicts everything that was in there,” said Paul Fusco-Gessick, Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group attorney.

The group says the report was paid for the owner, Gateway Trade, and conducted by a Syracuse-based architectural firm. It states the walls are upright and the overall structure is not at imminent risk of collapse.

Some members of the group say the owner kept the report a secret because it would interfere with state funding.

“That ruined their chances of getting the Restore NY money and they didn’t want to publicize that, they didn’t want anyone else to know because the city wanted to be able to continue its case,” said Dana Saylor.

Preservationists want the building to be saved since they feel it’s a integral part of the area.

“My husband, who passed away just a month ago, worked there for 42 years and he went through this building to get his job and so I think it’s an icon for the city of Lackawanna, we should have this building,” said Romaine Lilli, Lackawanna Historical Society.

“We now have a time to step back and investigate and look at intelligent re-use of the building,” said David Torke.

YNN reached out to Gateway Trade, but calls were not returned. YNN also contacted city of Lackawanna officials but were told no one was available for comment.

Feb 7: “Lawsuit over demo of Bethlehem Steel” WIVB [Video]

Lawsuit over demo of Bethlehem Steel [Link to Video]

Originally published by WIVB.

The fight to save the old Bethlehem Steel administration building is not over, even though part of the building has already been torn down.

The Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group is suing the building’s current owners, claiming the Gateway Trade Group withheld an engineering report from the city that said the building is structurally sound and doesn’t need to be demolished.

Attorney Paul Fusco-Gessick said, “There were several other reports which were presented to the court which said the building was unsafe and needed to get knocked down. And this report directly contradicts everything that was in that.”

This lawsuit will officially be filed in City Court on Friday

Feb 7: “Activists sue to save Bethlehem Steel site” The Buffalo News

Originally published by The Buffalo News, “Activists sue to save Bethlehem Steel site,” by Mark Sommer, 2013 02 07.

Activists still fighting to save the embattled Bethlehem Steel Administration Building announced Thursday they are filing a lawsuit today against Gateway Trade Center, contending the company hid a structural engineering report filed in August that concluded the building was structurally sound.

The lawsuit, filed by the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group, urges Lackawanna City Court to immediately halt demolition that has begun on a rear chemical laboratory at the site off Route 5 near the Buffalo city line. The demolition ball has not touched the long-vacant 1901 Beaux Arts-style administration building – with its ornate facade – that preservationists have rallied to save.

“With this lawsuit, we’re hoping we can stop the bulldozers and take the time to do a proper investigation and a proper reuse study,” said David Torke, a member of the group.

The report by Klepper Hahn & Hyatt, based in Syracuse, concluded that the administration building was in better shape than previously thought. It stands in contrast to views expressed by Steven Bremer, Lackawanna’s code enforcement officer, and two prior studies in which engineers did not gain access to the building.

The preservationists obtained the report through a Freedom of Information Law request.

“We believe the overall building structure to be sound and not at imminent risk of collapse at this time. The collapsing ceilings and abundance of debris observed in the building gives a false illusion of the floors collapsing,” the report said.

It recommended the removal of dormers, parapets, chimneys and other areas in danger of collapse; selective demolition to better gauge the building’s health; and sealing all roof and window openings to keep the elements out.

Torke said the two prior studies had been the “ammunition” used by the City of Lackawanna to push for demolition. He also raised concerns that Parker Bay Engineering, which did the first report concluding the property needed to be torn down, shared office space with Empire Dismantlement, the demolition contractor first hired by Gateway before the Erie County Court-ordered demolition at the city’s request was temporarily stayed from May to November. Zoladz Construction Co. was subsequently hired to perform the demolition.

Klepper, Hahn & Hyatt was chosen by Gateway from a list provided by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which suggested a firm with experience in historic buildings. The agency was required to sign off because Gateway sought a state Restore New York grant, which required the engineering report and a reuse study that never materialized. The company indicated it hoped to use the funds for asbestos removal and possibly demolition.

“Gateway has not only been irresponsible in taking care of the building, but they are asking for state money to continue to shrug their responsibility,” preservationist Meagan Baco said.

Dana Saylor, another preservationist, said she hoped the lawsuit will compel Gateway to follow through on the Restore New York funding requirements and conduct the reuse study.

Feb 7: Uncovered Structural Engineering Report Declares Bethlehem Steel Administration Building Structurally Sound; Buffalo Rising

Originally published by Buffalo Rising, “Uncovered Structural Engineering Report Declares Bethlehem Steel Administration Building Structurally Sound” by Mike Puma, 2013 02 07.

The fight is far from over in Lackawanna to save the Bethlehem Steel Administration building. Although demolition at the rear of the building started two weeks ago, it has been halted for the last six days for unknown reasons. So far only the small chemistry lab, which was a later addition, has been demolished. The remainder of the structure remains standing.

New evidence has come to light that the building is in fact structurally sound despite the consistent information to the contrary by the owners of the building, Gateway Trade Center and the mayor of Lackawanna, Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski. Both have insisted that structural and engineering reports for the building have deemed it structurally unsound.

This independent report was withheld from the courts by the City of Lackawanna and the Gateway Trade Center owner, Steven Detwiler. The truth has been revealed thanks to the perseverance of members in the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (LIHG), Meagan Baco, David Torke, Lesley Horowitz, and Dana Saylor. Additionally, they received help from two attorneys who are new to Buffalo, Michael Raleigh and Paul Fusco-Gessick. The structural report was obtained by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) request.

The full structural report that was completed by Klepper, Hahn, & Hyatt on August 3, 2012 reveals a different story than the owners and the mayor have been peddling; the building is in fact, structurally sound. To read the full report, click here.

The report details the existing condition of the building and notes the limitations of the study, but ultimately concluded, “We believe the overall building structure to be sound and not at imminent risk of collapse at this time. The collapsing ceilings and abundance of debris observed in the building gives a false illusion of the floors collapsing.” It went on to say, “the steel beams have surface rust however we did not observe major scaling or failure of the major structural elements” and “we did not observe large areas of the floor or roof structure that appeared to be on the verge of collapse.”Once again, the full report can be read by clicking here.

While there were two other engineering reports completed that claim the building is not structurally sound, this report is the only one where the consultants were allowed inside the building for their review, giving them the most comprehensive look at the structure that anyone has had thus far.

With this new information in hand, the LIHG (plaintiff) has brought a lawsuit against the owner at Gateway Trade Center, Steven Detweiler (defendant) to halt all demolition until an investigation can take place.

Jan 24: First Day of Demolition by Brian Pickard [Video]

Jan 25: “It didn’t have to end this way-Demolition work begins at Bethlehem Steel Building” by Tom Yots, Preservation Buffalo Niagara

Originally published by Preservation Buffalo Niagara, ‘It didn’t have to end this way-Demolition work begins at Bethlehem Steel Building” by Executive Director, Tom Yots, January 25, 2013, in their e-newsletter.

It didn’t have to end this way. After months of debate and fervent activity the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building in Lackawanna is coming down. No, indeed, it did not have to end this way. Community activists Dana Saylor and David Torke brought this to the public’s attention in March of 2012 and Lackawanna’s own Danielle Huber with the help of the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group provided a vehicle for interested residents to become involved.

In spite of these efforts by the citizenry, the administration and the city council turned their backs on the pleas to allow the building to be saved. Preservation Buffalo Niagara(PBN) spoke on the Certified Local Government program at the community discussion panel that was held in June and brought one of our bike tours out to the site to demonstrate the interest of the public.

PBN also brought in the State Historic Preservation office, first to stop the misuse of Restore New York money set to demolish the building and then to meet with the city and community leaders regarding the Certified Local Government program that would allow Lackawanna to receive lucrative historic preservation grants in return for establishing a preservation ordinance and commission.

The community leaders and the SHPO’s Julian Adams came to that meeting at PBN’s office but the Lackawanna city administration and council were conspicuously absent. Local attorney Bill Magavern, whose family had been connected to Bethlehem Steel a couple of generations back, offered $100,000 of his own money toward the implementation of a plan to save the building.

Still, there was no response from the city or the owner. After conferring with Magavern, PBN contacted the office of the city court judge overseeing the issue as recently as last week to convey the message that Magavern’s offer still stood, and again there was no response from the city.

No, this did not have to end this way. Many people tried to make this work and the public did not object. Instead, there was an outpouring of how much this building meant to people. The comments ranging from words on the significance of its history to heartfelt tributes to its beauty of design and construction showed up regularly in the local media. Many said how many times they had driven by this building and were struck by its timeless beauty and how much it would be missed if it were gone.

Yet in the 30 years it remained vacant, neglected by the owner who had taken over after Bethlehem Steel left the site, no one came forward to advocate for its preservation until the threat was so very real. Here, perhaps, we all have failed by waiting for someone else—a private owner, the municipality, some not-for-profit— to step in and do something to keep it there.

But that did not happen and, instead, it fell victim to neglect and abandonment and, yes, victim to a culture that is not proactive enough to stop these destructive elements before it reaches this point.

Driving down route 5 will not be the same in the future since one of the sites that made people smile will be gone. And, no, it didn’t have to end this way, but it did.

Jan 25: “Razing of Bethlehem Steel building begins, but preservationists to continue fight” WBFO

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.

Jan 24: Demolition begins at Bethlehem Steel, The Buffalo News [Photos]

Jan 25 “An Outrage in Lackawanna” Buffalo Spree

Originally published by Buffalo Spree, “An Outrage in Lackawanna” by Elizabeth Licata, January 25, 2013.

Photo by Joe Cascio.

Photo by Joe Cascio.


As it looked in the summer of 2011.
In what universe does a magnificent structure like this get thrown into a landfill? Imagine if this building were located in the Elmwood Village area or in Parkside. Given the fact that lesser endangered structures throughout the city have been preserved and reused, I feel confident that the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building (aka North Office) never would have been allowed to reach such a deplorable impasse in 21st century Buffalo. Maybe I am naïve, but I am treating this as a tragically unfortunate throwback to a stupider time.

In any case, as I write this, the North Office is being demolished, starting at the rear of the building.

We wrote about the North Office and its central role in Buffalo’s early steel industry in September, 2011. Since at least that time, local preservation activists have been raising awareness of its plight with meetings, press conferences, petitions, and outreach to the owners and city officials, all apparently to no avail.

The astoundingly unenlightened mayor of Lackawanna, NY must think he’s living in the bulldozer-happy fifties and sixties. With absolutely no future plan for the empty site from owners Gateway Trade and zero outreach to possible developers—in fact, it now appears that developers were actively discouraged—Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski has ordered that Gateway demolish the North Office. Why he’s in such a hurry to get rid of a structure that isn’t posing any kind of threat is anybody’s guess.

I have visited the building several times, though I’ve never been inside. It does not seem to endanger public safety—its location alone makes that unlikely. It’s anybody’s guess as to why it urgently needs to be taken down.

The possible reuses for this structure include many nonprofit and commercial options—its incredible architecture details would be a fitting counterpoint to the scenic beauty that is finally unfolding along the outer harbor as walks and parks are gradually added to the formerly bleak expanse. It will take a while to make the outer harbor a suitable place for recreation and commerce, but the North Office could have played a major role. Given time, imagination, and resources, this building could have become …

We’ll never know.